9 Significant Roles Of An IT Consultant
IT consultants are hired by organizations to come in and evaluate their IT infrastructure (including systems and software) and to provide strategic advice. Because of how much companies depend on their IT to run their day-to-day operations and to achieve their short-term and long-term business goals, many are turning to IT consultants or consulting firms for professional assistance. By working with an IT consultant, you can identify what your current IT needs are and develop an IT strategy that will allow you to improve your IT infrastructure and make better use of your IT budget moving forward.
What Is An It Consultant?
An IT consultant is someone who works as an independent contractor or as part of a consulting firm. They have in-depth technical knowledge about IT in general, including how to develop, use, and integrate different IT systems as well as how to identify technical problems, performance issues, and potential security vulnerabilities. Because no business has the same IT infrastructure, an IT consultant will learn about an organization’s customer requirements and business objectives so that they can provide more effective strategic advice on implementing and using technology to achieve your company’s goals.
As part of their job, IT consultants will design systems and networks that provide your company with the right architecture and functionality, help manage your IT initiatives, work closely with your in-house technical staff, support the implementation of new technology, help you create a comprehensive IT strategy, train employees to use your existing IT systems as well as to use new technologies, and provide assistance when it comes to technical issues.
Why Businesses Need Their Services
There are two major reasons why companies turn to IT consulting firms for all of their IT needs. The main reason is that very few organizations have the resources needed to hire a permanent in-house IT staff. Hiring a team of IT professionals would cost a lot of money. Your company would have to offer high salaries and exceptional benefits to hire a quality team of IT professionals, and invest more time and money to actually find, train, and onboard them. Outsourcing to an IT consulting service is simply far more cost-effective, both in the short-term and the long run.
Secondly, even if you want to depend on your in-house technical staff, it can be difficult for them to provide an objective point of view of your IT infrastructure — especially if they helped set it up. IT consultants will provide you with independent and objective advice and recommendations that can be invaluable.
Specialized Consulting Services
It’s not uncommon for growing businesses to run into difficulties concerning their business processes and operations due to challenges with their IT systems. You may realize that your IT capabilities are not helping you meet your business objectives, but you might not realize why. Is it because you need to invest in new IT solutions? Is it because your current systems aren’t being employed correctly? Or are there existing systems that need to be updated, upgraded, replaced, or replaced? An IT consultant can provide critical advice on how to overcome your operational difficulties through IT integration. Typically, an IT consultant will take these steps when providing consulting services to your organization:
1. Consult With The Client’s Staff And Management
The first thing a consultant will do is speak with management. Management will be able to provide an overview of the company’s strategy and objectives, as well as what kind of IT systems are in place, what kind of IT strategy (if any) the company has, what IT needs they have, and what they need their IT to accomplish.
The consultant will then speak to your staff to determine if your existing IT solutions are easy for them to use and actually help them in the completion of their tasks and responsibilities. A good IT consultant will ask about any issues and challenges that your staff has with your IT systems and whether they have any opinions or thoughts as to what could help make their jobs easier. Your employees are the ones using your applications and they often have a better idea how effective those applications are than management.
2. Analyze Client’s Data
Using a variety of metrics, a consultant will analyze your company data to identify how effective your existing software applications are at improving business processes and helping you meet your business objectives. Many companies pay licensing fees for software that they may not need or that isn’t very effective. A consultant will look for applications and systems that are underperforming and determine whether they can be replaced by better versions or eliminated altogether. This streamlining can help improve your business processes and potentially reduce what you’re spending on your existing IT, as well as freeing up resources you can put towards new technology.
3. Determine the Client’s System Requirements
In order for an IT consultant to identify potential IT solutions that can benefit your organization, they will need to determine the client’s system requirements. The scope of the project that the consultant delivers will be based on these requirements.
4. Make Recommendations
Once the IT consultant has determined your company’s needs by speaking with management and staff as well as by evaluating your existing IT infrastructure, they will make independent and objective recommendations for new hardware, software, and systems that will best meet your business objectives and IT needs while remaining within your IT budget.
Types of Recommendations
The types of recommendations an IT consultant provides will vary from one client to the next. No two businesses are going to have the exact same existing IT infrastructures, capabilities, business objectives, and needs. The consultant may recommend that you replace your IT system or simply upgrade it. Whatever their recommendation is, they will provide a detailed explanation why you should follow their recommendation, what it actually entails, how it will benefit your company and address your needs, and what the costs will be.
Solutions Development and Implementation
IT consultants generally have extensive experience and can provide you with highly-informed IT solutions customized to your organization’s needs. While performing a thorough evaluation of your IT systems is a big part of an IT consultant’s job — as is making recommendations to improve said systems — there are a number of other services that they can provide. This includes the following:
5. Assist in Changing Management Practices
The implementation of new technology often requires a change in management practices. An IT consultant won’t just implement a new IT solution and be on their way — they’ll make sure that everyone at your organization is familiar with new management practices. This is especially important if they’ve helped you develop a new IT strategy that outlines how future IT needs should be addressed and that includes a roadmap for investing in new technologies. Everyone should understand how the process of evaluating new technologies to invest in works and who is tasked with having the final say.
6. Purchase Systems
Certain IT solutions are made available by a variety of different providers. IT consultants can help you choose between different providers, whether by determining which offering has the features or capabilities you need or by finding the solution that’s available at the best price. IT consultants have a good grasp of how much different IT solutions should cost and may even be able to help you obtain a good deal on new systems due to their connections within the industry.
7. Provide Technical Assistance
Once new systems have been purchased, an IT consultant can help provide the technical assistance necessary to implement these new systems and to integrate them into the existing IT infrastructure. An IT consultant has the skills and know-how to design, install, and test out new systems. They will also provide continuous assistance when technical issues are revealed or develop through use.
8. Train Users in the Implementation
Your employees will need to learn how to use any new technology that’s been implemented. For example, if you’ve installed a new software application, not only will they need to learn how to use the features and functionality of that app, they will also have to learn how to use that app in conjunction with the other systems that they use to perform their jobs. IT consultants can help provide your staff with the necessary training to get the most out of your new systems.
9. Project Management and Overview
The most successful projects require a leader with significant IT experience and skills to drive the project forward with their authority, influence, and vision. However, most of your employees are likely focused on your day-to-day operations. Businesses will often outsource their IT project management to an IT consulting firm for this very reason. IT consultants can also review your current IT project management processes and capabilities, provide an overview of current processes and controls, provide recommendations to improve existing processes and controls, support the implementation of new processes and tools, and more.
When You Don’t Have the Need for an Internal CIO, an Outside Consultant May Be Best
Generally speaking, most small to mid-sized businesses don’t have internal IT departments or CIOs. If you don’t have a CIO and you don’t have a need for one, consider working with an IT consulting firm. There are a few things you’ll want to look for when choosing an IT consultant. Experience and expertise are very important. The more experience a consultant has, the better. It means that they are familiar with how businesses work and what kinds of challenges they face.
Expertise ensures that they are knowledgeable about all kinds of systems and stay up-to-date on trending technologies. You’ll also want to look into the reputation of the consultant you choose — someone that understands the importance of communication and that can explain the more technical details to you in language that you can understand. Finally, consider the costs of their services, especially if you’re working with a limited IT budget. Just remember, even if hiring an IT consulting firm seems expensive (especially if you need an overhaul of your existing IT infrastructure and lack an IT strategy), it may still be more affordable than hiring an in-house IT department.
Additionally, the costs of hiring a consultant often end up being offset by the amount of money you’ll save eliminating inefficiencies within your organization’s IT infrastructure and investing in IT solutions that help grow your business.
Planning to hire an IT consultant but don’t know where to begin? Speak with our experts today!