IT is a great help in making sure your company is efficient. It helps you make tasks easier, while also making sure that you are in the position to take advantage of new opportunities while serving your customers in the best way possible. Strategic IT investments should help make your business more competitive and agile.
It is no longer enough to see IT just as a support department. It is also a strategic and revenue-generating arm of your business. And while most companies have their own IT departments to make sure that things go well, the reality is that:
1. Your IT department is overworked. With all aspects of business needing IT, there are simply too many things for the IT guys to do and not much time to finish them all.
2. Your IT department will continue to have new projects to work with. Implementing a big data project? Or perhaps, upgrading an existing Customer Relationship Management software? Migrating to the cloud? Or launching a new office location? All of these add to the already existing work your IT department has on its to-do list. And that means it would have to push some less important things on its plate for completion at some later date. But the thing is, when it comes to IT, no single issue is not important. While the company might be able to continue operating if Bob’s PC conks out, Bob surely won’t be happy to learn that IT can’t take a look at his computer until next week.
3. Your IT department may lack the skills. We’re pretty sure that your IT guys were hired for their technical skills. But technology is always dynamic and evolving and they will need to update what they know. Sometimes, that is not an easy thing to do. As you now understand, they have their plates full with their current duties, so you can’t expect them to learn a new technology when it is not really related to their work. A network engineer would probably fumble through some aspects of big data, and a PC repair technician wouldn’t know the first thing about your CRM. There is always some new IT capabilities that would need to be implemented.
On top of these realities, small businesses and small offices might not even have an in-house IT department. What they have is a guy. Somebody they can call when the Wi-Fi network stops working, or when there is a PC that needs to be fixed.
And this is how IT consultants help your business.
For businesses without their own IT manager or IT department
For those small businesses that do not have IT management in-house, IT consultants can act as your CIO. They can help you identify needs that may help your small business survive and become more competitive. They can introduce small businesses to new technology, and even present them with different service providers and help them decide on which is the best one.
For instance, ABC Co. is a small retailer that wants to update its Web site so that it could start selling online. But nobody on the staff knows even basic HTML and other things necessary to have an e-commerce site going. So the owner of ABC Co. knew that they needed to hire an outside Web developer for the job.
But then he realized that he didn’t know just how e-Commerce sites work and what to look for in a Web developer. So instead, he hires an IT consultant first. The IT consultant worked with ABC Co. to find out what they wanted out of the new online store, saw how they sell on the floor and took a look at their inventory, and basically every aspect of ABC Co.’s operations.
Then he came up with all the needed functionality for the new site and how orders are going to be received, processed and fulfilled. The IT consultant then discusses these with the owner to see if this is the direction he wanted. And once that everything is clear, the IT consultant researched and presented different Web developers who could deliver all of the functionalities for the new online store. All the owner needed to understand was how much he would be paying these Web developers and when the new site would be ready. Everything else is handled and managed by the IT consultant.
Augment your current IT team
While you do have an IT department, the IT consultants can help ensure that everything is up to speed. You get an expert who knows how your different systems work, and knows when something is not working. The IT consultant can also help you integrate your systems so that you get more out of the software and programs that you already have.
Companies might have been treating their IT in silos. They have a VoIP system, they have a CRM, and their HR has its own employee performance system. An IT consultant can help you realize that these systems should not be independent of one another. You can integrate all your different systems so that you get more information and derive more functionality from each one. For instance, you can connect your VoIP and e-mail systems to your CRM so that customer records are instantly updated when you pick up the phone to call them or when you e-mail them. What’s more, voice messages are instantly added to customer records.
IT consultants also have the expertise and the skills that your IT team may lack, helping you get things done right the first time. But more than the expertise in IT, IT consultants are also business savvy. That means that they can help connect your IT assets and see how it can help you attain your business goals.
To the purely IT-focused person, a Web site should be available, and it should look great. There should be no broken links and order forms should be easy to fill out and submit. What the completed order forms should go to the distribution and fulfillment department. That’s it. But to the business-oriented IT consultant, they see a Web site as all that, and then some. The Web site should also deliver great content so that your customers would know what to order and which of your products are the best fit for their needs. It should not be frustrating to use, and everything should be where they expect it to be. Plus, it should help you with your branding efforts.
Lastly, the IT consultant should also be able to help you see that your IT projects meet their targets and milestones. Project management is a required skill for IT consultants as they would be ensuring that the project is right on schedule and stays within budget.
So what do you need to look for in an IT consultant?
- Business savvy. The IT consultant needs to be able to think more than just the technical aspects of IT, but also how IT can help your business.
- The ability to translate business needs into technical requirements.
- Vendor assessment capabilities. The IT consultant should be familiar with different service providers and what they could do. And which ones are fit to a particular IT project and which ones are not.
- Project management skills.