What are your reasons for hiring a consultant? According to Entrepreneur, the top reasons companies bring in an outside consultant are because they:
• Lack specific expertise
• Need help identifying problems
• Are short-staffed
• Need to promote change
• Need an objective point of view
• Need new knowledge
• Want someone to do dirty work
• Want someone to innovate
• Need help with a business launch
• Need new contacts
All of those reasons require the consultant to know their stuff, be able to work with your team and understand your business. Here’s how to make sure the consultant you hire can get the job done.
Make Sure Your Consultant Knows Their Stuff
Whatever their other skills, an IT consultant who lacks technical knowledge won’t be able to complete tasks on their own or gain the respect that lets them motivate your technology team. So, hiring an external IT consultant always starts by evaluating their technical background.
These days, a strong tech background doesn’t necessarily mean having a college degree–tech skills can come through hobby experience, a boot camp or a nano degree program. It doesn’t matter where the tech knowledge comes from, as long as the consultant’s resume includes the specific technical skills you need–including specific hardware and software products and versions since you don’t want to be paying the consultant to learn on the job. Certifications can help verify their expertise, but make sure the credential comes from a legitimate source and is current.
If you aren’t committed to a specific technology and vendor product, make sure you understand the consultant’s relationship with any vendors. You need to trust that the technology they recommend will benefit your business, not simply earn them a commission.
No matter how good they look on paper, make sure they can back up the buzzwords on their resume with proof of genuine expertise. Expertise can be demonstrated by executing a pre-hire interview with your internal team, a portfolio of online work (including contributions to open source projects) or confirmation of their abilities from in-depth conversations with their references.
Make Sure Your Consultant Knows Your Business
In addition to having the right technical knowledge, an effective IT consultant needs to have the right business knowledge. While technology is the same wherever it’s deployed, every business domain has specific constraints that dictate how the technology can be used and impact its effectiveness. While not strictly necessary for solving technical problems, it’s helpful if the consultant has experience working with other businesses in your industries.
It’s also helpful if that industry experience was in a company of comparable size. The IT issues, business challenges and appropriate solutions to either set of issues aren’t the same in a mom-and-pop business and a Fortune 500 firm. Developing a solution appropriate to the environment requires understanding how the business size affects its capability to adopt and support a proposed solution.
Make Sure Your Consultant Can Work With Your Team
No one does a job alone; even if you’re hiring the consultant as an individual contributor, they’ll need to be able to work with your team. But it’s more likely you’re hiring them for their special expertise and using that expertise to train or lead your team.
Whatever the scenario, the consultant needs to have good communication skills. Depending on your workplace, communication may take place in person, via email or PowerPoint presentations, so both speaking and writing skills are important. They need the ability to use their communication skills to work with your IT team, your business contacts and both business and IT management. Consultants need the ability to defend their point of view, but also need to be able to recognize when others have a better idea.
In addition to communication skills, the consultant needs to be able to blend with your team. This means their work style needs to mesh with the way your team works, including synchronizing their work schedule with the team’s schedule.
Make Sure the Consultant Can Solve Your Problems
When you hire an external IT consultant, you probably have an idea of specific problems you want them to solve. A truly effective consultant, however, can innovate and go beyond the bounds of your statement of the problem to identify and solve the problems you haven’t recognized yet. You want a consultant who has the confidence to tell you when you’re wrong, point out what you’re missing and steer you in the right direction, even if it’s opposite from where you thought you were heading.
Make Sure the Consultant Has A Good Business Reputation
Make sure the company the consultant works for has a solid reputation for completing work satisfactorily and engaging in good business practices. Check out the consultant’s reputation as well; speak with references and conduct a background investigation to confirm that the consultant has no criminal record and a reputation for integrity.
Whenever you add someone to your team, whether an employee or an external consultant, there’s always the worry of whether they’ll work out. By evaluating technical, business and interpersonal skills, you’re likely to find the consultant who’ll effectively fit into your team and help your business achieve its goals.
Looking For An Experienced IT Consultant?
Our team at CTC Technologies has experience in IT consulting for mid-market and enterprise companies in the following areas: networking, WLAN, security, data storage & protection, SD-WAN, and more. Our team of engineers also has extensive experience in architecting solutions from major vendors like Cisco, Silver Peak, Microsoft, and VMWare, just to name a few.
If your company has IT knowledge, resource, or talent gaps, reach out to us at (734) 408-0200 or contact us online today.