Most companies today don’t have an unlimited IT budget—that means they need to make the most of every IT dollar and reap as much benefit as they can from their IT consultants.
In our long history 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 IT consulting firm for your project and getting the most from the partnership.
First, before you reach out to an IT consultant…
1. Outline your IT objectives or outcomes.
You already know what you want to accomplish, but it’s always worthwhile to spend a few minutes outlining those objectives and vision. This helps provide important context, and it will allow you and your IT consultant to more quickly refine your project requirements. It’s also important to think about how your project aligns with business objectives and outcomes. This helps you explain your needs to the IT consultant and validate the initiative for business and senior management.
2. Identify a key stakeholder.
It’s important to identify clear project leaders and manager stakeholders. These individuals are crucial to keeping the initiative on track and providing accountability. Projects that have a clear framework for accountability and are clearly articulated and supported by management have a much better chance at adoption and success.
3. List your strengths and weakness.
Every company has clear areas of strengths and weaknesses. For example, it’s possible your company has weak processes but strong and consistent communication. Maybe there’s an IT architect expert on staff who’s strong technically but might be a bit undisciplined. Listing out these strengths and weaknesses will give you a better idea of what you need from your IT consultant.
Then, during your first meeting…
4. Ask your IT consultants about their skills and capabilities.
Ideally, you want an IT consulting firm that can complement the strengths and weaknesses you identified earlier—keeping in mind that this can vary on a project-by-project basis. During this discussion, be sure to also ask the consultants for a quick project risk assessment and how they would mitigate those risks.
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 offer your more financial security, since the IT consultants carry the risk. But the project outcomes must be much more clearly defined, and the change control processes need to be more tightly regulated. If IT 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 flip side, if you’re secure with the level of risk for your project and you want to minimize costs, go with T&M. This option offers you greater flexibility, easier change control, and more freedom to adapt to changing circumstances.
6. Set the outcome of the meeting.
Be clear about deliverables and your expectations, whether that’s a set of budgetary numbers, a project outline, a proposal, or an SOW. Also, give the consultants 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.
These six tips should help you set the stage for a successful IT consulting 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.