This is the year your company wants to focus on IT consulting. Whether you’ve decided that an onsite IT team/individual would suit you best or that you’d rather work remotely with offsite services, you should still put in the same amount of energy into hiring the right IT staff. What kind of questions should you ask to narrow your candidates?
Ahead, we’ll delve deeper into why asking each of these questions is so important when considering your IT consulting options. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll feel more confident than ever in your IT consultant hiring decision!
While yes, you can always go to the website of the IT consultant and check some of their reviews, that’s not enough. Testimonials and reviews alike can be faked, and it does happen. If your IT team is offsite and thousands of miles away, you need to confirm their veracity. Otherwise, you could get conned out of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of dollars.
Asking for references is one of the best ways to ascertain that the IT consultant you’re considering is a verified operation. You want five to 10 references, but if the IT team offers more, don’t turn them down.
These references should primarily be clients, but some partners–past or present–of the consultant are fine as well. Make sure you have both a phone number and an email address to get in touch with the references. Then, go one by one and reach out to each of them. Ask about their experience working with the IT consultant.
Considering that the references you’re speaking to were all provided by the IT team themselves, don’t be surprised if you hear overwhelmingly positive sentiments about the consultants. Remember, this isn’t entirely about reviews, but rather, just proving that you’re considering a real IT consultancy team.
What does your company do? Are you a generalized industry or a hyper-specific niche? Either way, before you hire an IT consultant, you want to ensure they have experience in your industry.
Obviously, it will be easier to find an appropriate IT team if your industry is a more widespread or common one, but that doesn’t mean you’re left out if you’re in a niche. You just have to tighten your search and expect it to take longer.
All industries have different technology needs. Some companies are ultra-reliant on tech while others use it less so. Depending on the industry as well are different security risks. Your IT consultants must be able to anticipate and prepare for these risks, ultimately preventing them from occurring. Even if the security risk ever does come to light, you’d want an IT team that can act quickly to ameliorate the issue before serious damage occurs.
Don’t wait until you’ve already signed a contract and it’s too late to back out to discover that your IT consultants aren’t well-versed in your industry. At that point, you’re paying for wasted services. You’d have to hire another IT team to fill in the gaps. That’s twice the money you’re spending than necessary.
What if the IT consultants do have some experience in your industry, but not much? That’s a hard decision that only you can make. If you work with this IT team, there exists a possibility that their inexperience could impede the level of service you’re expecting. You might decide to widen your search for an IT team that has an even more solid background in your industry.
If there’s only one question you could ask a potential IT consultant, it should be this one!
Doing some cursory research on the IT consultant’s website is a start, but you must do more. After all, they may present a bulleted list of services on their site, but probably not every last thing they offer.
Imagine this situation. Your company has decided to move to virtualization this year to save some money on server operation costs. You’re sure the move will be a relatively simple one because you have a competent IT consultancy team. Then you get in touch with your IT pros only to find out they don’t do virtualization.
You’re now stuck in the same scenario as we described in the section above. You’d have to hire another IT team to fill in the gaps, increasing your IT spending by twofold. Quarter by quarter, this wasteful spending would rear its ugly head.
When on the phone or meeting with an IT consultant in person, don’t end the conversation without having a full understanding of the scope of their services. Once the meeting wraps up, you and your company should decide what to do with the information you’ve now gleaned.
When looking at the IT consultant’s list of services and deciding whether to hire the team, don’t think only of the services you need now. Switch your mindset to scalability as well. Should your team decide to expand or evolve, such as with virtualization or another tech service, could your IT consultants rise to the occasion? If so, then you might want to hire them, but if not, it’s best to reconsider.
For offsite IT consultancy especially, communication is paramount. Since you don’t see your IT team and they don’t see you, without frequent phone calls, emails, or video calls, it’s hard for your company to get a gauge on the level of service you’re receiving.
During the exploratory phase of the IT consultant search, ask them how often they stay in touch with their clients and what their preferred communication methods are. Perhaps you get progress reports in the form of an email every day, twice a week, or even once a week. Maybe you have a phone or video call with the IT consultant midweek to discuss the last seven-day period.
How much communication is well-suited to your company comes down to personal preference. Some companies might prefer daily communication while others might find that’s too excessive and ask for weekly updates.
The same preference is also applicable to the method of communication. Emails might suit you if you want to scan the information and quickly forward it to other members of your company. Others might better like being able to have a conversation with their IT consultants so they can ask questions if they have them.
Our last question to ask when hiring an IT consultant is also very important. It’s sort of a two-pronged question.
First, you want to quiz them about their pricing plans. We’ve discussed this on the blog before, but pricing for IT services varies depending on the consultant. Some IT teams charge a flat rate, where you’re paying X amount per hour or per day regardless of whether you receive more services or fewer. This pricing model is sometimes referred to as the “all you can eat” model.
A tiered pricing model nets you different levels of service according to how much you can pay. For instance, if you only spend a small fee on IT consultancy each month, then you’re probably getting bare-bones support. A mid-tier plan increases the services and the cost. For the most comprehensive protection, that would be top-tier IT services with equally high pricing.
Some IT consultants charge using an ad-hoc model, where you pay only when you require their services but not otherwise. You’re more likely to see this with offsite IT than onsite IT. Other pricing models include charging by device or by user.
Once you’re clearer on the pricing plan the IT consultant uses, be sure to ask them about their contract as well. With managed IT services, your contract may be structured to last six months, a year, three years, or even five years. Some contract lengths are negotiable, but you won’t know that if you don’t ask.
You always, always want to be clear on the contract length before finalizing a deal with an IT consultant. If you’re not pleased with their quality of work but you’re locked into a three-year deal, that turns into a huge sore spot for your company.
Hiring an IT consultant is a big decision. As you compare candidates, asking the questions we covered in this article will paint a clearer picture of what each IT pro does and how efficiently and expediently. Best of luck with your new hire!
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