Why bother with an IT consultant?
Simply because they are likely to know more about IT than you do, and they should help you develop your IT in line with your business objectives.
If you get a good IT consultant - like a good accountant or marketing advisor, they can really help you as a business.
Who can be an IT consultant?
The reality is that anyone can call themselves an "IT Consultant". The key to finding out if they are worth listening to is to ask them about their credentials.
What should I look for in an IT consultant?
The two key things to look for are qualifications and experience - the latter is probably more important than the former, as IT moves on quickly, but ideally you will have a good mixture of both.
On the qualifications side, these include a degree in a relevant subject (i.e. computer related), and then membership of a relevant professional body - for example the British Computer Society (BCS). The BCS has a number of different levels of membership, but all require entry exams and anyone who is a member will also need to uphold the code of ethics.
You could also look into the individuals credentials in specific areas. A number of major IT companies now have there own accreditation programme. If, for example, you wanted some advice on a Microsoft Server, then you would look for someone who is a Microsoft Certified Professional.
What about experience?
All the qualifications and accreditations are great, but you also want someone who has recent real-world experience on consulting for clients. Ask to see references or testimonials from clients, as what projects similar to yours the consultants has work on. Ask them what benefits they bought to the businesses they worked with. This will help you get a clear picture of the kind of work they have done, and also how they can help you.
Sometimes companies offer "free consultancy". This is often at the start of a relationship but as a sales tool. They will come in, look at the system and then tell you all the things that you need to do (and, inevitably, how much they will charge you for fixing it!). This should really be called a "free quote"!
Independent consultants who charge a fee will be working alongside yourselves and will often be more objective.
Andrew Seaton is an IT Consultant based in Sheffield working for Resolve IT Solutions LTD. He is a Chartered IT Professional (CITP), a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) and has an Honours Degree in Computing Networks. In addition to this, he has worked on many IT projects, and regularly advises a variety of clients on the best IT systems for their needs.
He can be contacted on 0845 8990099 or by the contact us form.