Why bother with an IT consultant or use an IT consultancy firm?
Simple – regardless of size, virtually every business depends on its ITC, software and hardware. Being reliant on a computer system means having the ‘know-how’ at your fingertips. In the UK, there’s no licence or professional body which confers professional consultant status, which means that anyone could, in theory, adorn themselves with the title ‘consultant’. A consultant is an individual who provides professional advice and support in a particular field, on a fee basis. How, then, should one choose the right IT consultancy support?
A consultant is generally hired because he or she has specialist knowledge and skills which the hiring business does not possess. However, there are a myriad of IT support businesses; it is a given that most business will hire an IT consultant at some point, either on a one-off or on-going basis. Below are a few pointers to use when hiring your IT consultancy. For example, EC-MSP, IT support specialists in London, would fit well into this list. As well as the IT support experts at Network London.
Consider these 6 points when hiring an IT consultancy
When hiring an IT consultancy, the first step is to draw up a contract which sets out what the business wants from the IT firm. Items that could be high on this list may be: the parts of the ITC software and hardware to be incorporated in the agreement, acceptable downtime and required uptime, costs and fees, response times, and whether the IT support simply rectifies an issue when it arises or rather, that they prevent those issue in the first place. These are just a few points which the hiring business should stipulate in the contract, or service level agreement. The next step is to slowly shop around for the ideal IT support.
Every expert uses a certain lingo when talking to peers in his or her field; this is natural. However, when hiring an IT consultancy, what’s most important is that the IT support communicates in plain English – an English that all staff at the company can understand. To put this into context, medical professionals from non-English speaking countries undertake an exam which assesses their English and communication skills. One criterion on this exam is the practitioner’s ability to translate technical jargon into layman’s terms. The same is true when hiring IT support; the language needs to be accessible.
Something else to consider is the IT consultancy’s experience. After the initial question of how many years the IT consultancy has been in in business, the next question should be, “In what particular software and hardware is their greatest experience?” What’s most needed is an IT support whose knowledge and experience dovetails with the hiring client’s actual assets. One component of looking into experience is the need for testimonials from previous clients. There is also value in requesting the IT consultancy to arrange for the hiring business to speak to current clients of the IT consultancy; being able to ask an existing client how they feel about the service is invaluable.
You need an IT support business which is fanatical about security. Ask whether they have security accreditation, such as ISO/IEC 27001 certification, which is the recognised standard for information security. Compare the various consultancies you’ve interviewed and look for those which have recognised industry standards in security. Another thing to seek is a back-up plan from the consultant; ask them what they would do to back-up the systems and build into the SLA regular back-ups, with recommendations for fixes when necessary. Part of the same discussion would be a disaster recovery plan, which every good IT consultancy would provide.
A sensible question to ask is whether the IT support offers an ‘initial audit’. In realistic terms, it is not necessarily so straightforward for someone to quote a business when they’re unaware of the company’s ITC assets, physical / geographical layout of the network, and types of software used. An initial audit is no different from a landscape garden or a builder visiting a site and measuring up in order to give their client a quote. Whilst there is a small cost to the IT support in doing this, there is in fact a far greater cost to them in not performing this initial audit. Ask!
In performing an initial quote to establish what type of work is involved, the IT consultancy would identify to what degree remote assistance is possible. It’s often not cost effective for the IT support to physically visit the client for every issue that arises, and remote assistance may suffice. If this is possible, then it would no doubt be reflected in the pricing, to the benefit of the hiring client.
Types of service
There are two types of IT support consultancy services: a flat monthly fee and a per-call-out fee. A monthly fee, often referred to as managed service, would be the same cost regardless of the number of visits or the nature of the visit. The other option, a support service, would possibly be more suitable for a smaller business or one with less ITC reliance.
It goes without saying that an IT consultancy has expert professional knowledge for which a client pays – it is a standard business transaction. However, it should be a basic stipulation in the contract that there be some degree of knowledge transfer. This doesn’t mean having a staff member shadow the IT staff or demanding they hand over knowledge at your doorstep, so to speak. If the hiring company has an in-house IT department, they need to be able to learn from the consultant, and if there’s no on-site IT then staff members need to improve their skills and abilities by learning from the IT consultancy. Training sessions are absolutely an activity you should build into an SLA.
Key points and take-aways
Though it may not need saying, the fundamental qualities to seek in an IT consultancy are: cost, value for money, experience, security, area of specialisation, nature of support, type of communication channels, and guarantees of uptime.