If you’re like most companies, you don’t have an unlimited IT budget. That means you need to make the most of every IT dollar—and reap as much benefit as you can from your IT consultants.
In our 20 years of IT consulting experience, we’ve learned a few shortcuts that can help you save both time and money when working with your consulting firms. Here are six tips for finding the right company for your project and making the most out of your IT consultant:
Before You Contact Your IT Consultant
1. Outline your high-level objectives or outcomes.
You already know what you want to accomplish, but it’s worthwhile to spend a few minutes outlining your objectives and vision. This will provide important context, and it will allow you and your IT consultant to more quickly refine the project requirements. Also, think about how your technical project aligns with business objectives and outcomes. Not only will this help you explain your needs to the consultant, it will help you justify and validate the initiative for business and senior management.
2. Map out your strengths and weakness.
Perhaps your company has robust processes but lacks consistent communication. Maybe you have an architect who’s strong technically, but somewhat undisciplined. Articulating these strengths and weaknesses to yourself will give you a better idea of what you need in your consultant. You might want a company with mature methodologies, project management, or multi-disciplined resources, for example, to complement your strengths and fill in your weaknesses.
3. Identify a manager stakeholder.
As we’ve written before, it’s important to identify clear project leaders and initiative manager stakeholders. These individuals are crucial to keeping the initiative on track and providing accountability. Projects that have a clear framework for accountability have a much better chance at adoption and success.
In Your First Meeting
4. Ask your consultants about their skills and capabilities.
Ideally, you want an IT consultant that can complement your strengths and weaknesses—and this can vary on a project-by-project basis, even with a trusted partner. During your discussion, be sure to also ask the consultants for a quick risk assessment and their approach for mitigating that risk. All of this information will ultimately help you determine if you’ve found the right consultant for your project.
5. Consider your preferred financial terms.
Consulting service engagements are either billed on a fixed bid or time and materials (T&M) basis. Fixed bids will offer your more financial security—since the IT consultants will carry the risk—but the project outcomes must be much more clearly defined, and the change control processes will be more tightly regulated. If consultants see a higher risk with your project, they’ll build more risk absorption dollars into the fixed bid amount, so you might end up paying more.
On the other hand, if you’re secure with the level of risk for your project and you want to minimize costs, go with T&M. This will offer you greater flexibility, easier change control, and more freedom to adapt to changing circumstances. Just make sure you monitor the project closely and encourage frequent communications between team members.
6. Set the outcome of the meeting.
At the conclusion of your meeting, be clear about what deliverables you expect—whether that’s a set of budgetary numbers, a project outline, a proposal, or an SOW. Also, give them a specific timeframe for delivering that content, even if you don’t have a pressing deadline driving your next steps. If the IT consultants require more information from you to complete the deliverables, try to have that information ready for them before the meeting or soon after.
Together, these tips should help you set the stage for a successful engagement—and help you not only find the best IT consulting services firm and reduce your costs, but also allow you to mitigate the overall risk and increase the predictability of your IT project.