There are many potential benefits to hiring an IT consultant. For one thing, a professional IT management company will not only provide support for when things break, but they can also provide technological recommendations that will foster company growth. Making IT improvements, such as adding a company intranet, can boost growth by removing current obstacles to productivity. Other IT developments can boost the very core of your business. For instance, with the right kind of IT consultant, you can expect that they will provide documentation and detail on the alignment of business processes with current technology – plus recommendations on the value of changes that often reveal cost-effective ways to improve company performance.
Due to the fact that not all IT consultants can focus on fixing what is broken while addressing the future needs of the organization, not all business leaders are happy with their IT managed services. Like vendors in any other field, IT management firms vary widely. Some provide superior IT managed services, while others only frustrate their clients. Moreover, because IT is such a pervasive aspect of doing business these days, hiring an IT consultant can be a real risk. Below are a few tips on what to look for and what to avoid when choosing an IT management company for your business.
What to Look For in an IT Management Company
The process of choosing an IT consultant will be fairly familiar to any business owner. First, gather recommendations from friends, colleagues and peers. The next step is to interview each IT consultant. Finally, based on all of your research, you’ll select the best IT management company for your needs. Costs, demeanor and any number of other variables will factor into your final decision.
It can be difficult to know which questions to ask in the interview process. Here are a few essential queries that should help you separate the wheat from the chaff:
How quickly do they respond to your emails and phone calls?
Ask yourself this question for each IT management company you’re considering. Communication patterns that are established during the prospect stage are usually continued later in business relationships.
Do they have sufficient business processes in place so that any of their staff can step in and support you, or do you need to make sure you will work with the same IT consultant every time you need help?
If the IT consultant does not have the right tools, infrastructure and expertise for the entire staff to support you if needed, then you need to make sure you’ll have a consistent person supporting you. Having a consistent consultant for your IT managed services is especially important for continuity; otherwise you may end up wasting time trying to catch up the new guy or gal on how your company works.
Are they familiar with the software, systems and services your business requires?
An IT consultant who has experience with similar IT managed services will provide superior assistance to your firm.
How well do you understand each other?
You will be working intimately with your IT consultant. Make sure you can communicate well with them and that they don’t use too much technical jargon.
Are they good at managing vendors?
Can they remove you from other vendor technical discussions?
What happens if our assigned IT consultant is unavailable?
Your IT management company should have backup plans for emergencies. Pay close attention to how each company responds to this question. An ideal IT consultant understands that company downtime can be extremely damaging; make sure your IT partner will hop to your aid quickly. An apathetic answer to this question shows that a certain IT consultant may be more interested in making money than in helping your business succeed.
Do they offer a Service Level Agreement?
There are items that break and are relatively easy to deal with. Then there are problems that often involve more than one person, such as dealing with a vendor or a business process challenge. Can the IT consulting company support this type of effort? Do they provide you with change management support? Do they even want change? Keeping everything the same is not always the best path, especially if the business needs new functionality that an upgrade to a software package provides. Are they available to consult on business technology related items? Can you trust that they are not recommending something simply because it is on sale or their supplier has a special bonus program?
Choosing an IT Management Company: Risks and Warning Signs
Let us provide free consultancy!
This line may sound like a deal. After all, who doesn’t want a free system checkup? Too often, however, this is little more than a way to figure out what an IT consultant can sell you down the road. An IT consultant who is paid on an hourly or contractual basis is usually more objective than those offering “free consultancies.”
Just as a strong job candidate will have carefully researched his or her prospective company, an effective IT consultant should dedicate time to understanding your business. IT managed services can give your company a leg up on the competition – assuming your IT consultant is actually thinking about such “internal” matters.
Lack of follow-up.
If an IT management company isn’t willing to follow up on the prospect of winning your business, they aren’t worth your time.