IT Consultants = Must Have; Internal Staff = Nice to Have

Too Much Tech, No Room for DinnerWhen IT concerns become overwhelming, many managers assume hiring an on-staff IT expert is the solution. Unfortunately, this impulse represents an outdated mode of IT management. Given that IT is now crucial to every company’s bottom line – and that nearly every employee, product, and service requires IT support – it’s difficult for many small businesses to find information technology employees who are knowledgeable enough to masterfully handle all aspects of a company’s technological portfolio.

The good news is that IT employees are no longer the “must-have” ingredient in IT management. It is no longer necessary to hire full-time tech staff in order to flourish. However, it is absolutely necessary to hire IT consultants, who naturally have the soft skills, broad vision, and industry insight to propel a company’s technological growth.

As IT consultants and CIOs can attest, IT’s role in business is changing from one of fairly isolated technical expertise (needed to manage onsite servers, hardware, etc.) to one of negotiating contracts, watching over projects, connecting with end users, and managing vendor relationships. The soft skills needed for these duties were rarely included in yesterday’s information technology education, since the shift away from on-site hardware has occurred within the last three to five years. Furthermore, few businesses are training IT staff for this new relationship between business and IT. Only 53 percent of IT departments offer training in non-technical subjects, according to Robert Half Technology. That means most internal IT employees have never received training in crucial management and negotiation skills, such as listening, business writing, and teaching.

However, these and other business skills are within the domain of information technology consulting firms. In order to stay in business, IT consultants must be able to prove their ROI to clients. And because SMBs may outsource everything from vendor contract negotiation to employee training, IT consultants must also be well-rounded in a variety of “soft skills,” including:

  • Working well on a team.
  • An appreciation for internal politics and the ability to sail through them.
  • Sharing knowledge and teaching in a respectful way.
  • Vendor management.
  • Comfort when working in “gray areas.” (Traditional IT is quite black and white, while contemporary IT naturally includes areas of uncertainty.)
  • Small talk, schmoozing and deal-making.
  • A strong understanding of how designs, products, and processes will impact the end user (employees, customers, etc.).

Because information technology consulting firms cater to a spectrum of industries, IT consultants polish their soft skills daily as they move from one field to another. Without these and other skills, IT consultants would go out of business.

Therefore, when it becomes clear that your company needs more IT support, it is wise to turn to an IT consultant first. Information technology consulting firms can provide the soft-skill savvy combined with a technological finesse that today’s business leaders require.

[ Photo by: David Friedel, on Flickr, via CC License ]

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