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How to choose the right IT Consultant for your business

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Does your small business need an IT Consultant?

As a small business, you might think that your business does not need that much technology for you to seek the services of an IT consultant.

Most twenty first century businesses rely on some form of technology or the other to run efficiently and be cost efficient.

IT in your business can help you provide better customer services, reach more potential customers, streamline operations and cut costs.

Why use an IT consultant?

Well, the same way you need your accountant to file your taxes or your lawyer to draft agreements, you use an IT consultant for their expertise in an area where you’re not a specialist.

Technology changes rapidly and a specialist is best placed to help you make the right choices for your business. An experienced IT professional can show you the costs and benefits of using IT in your business and help you make an informed choice.

A good consultant is a trusted advisor – that allows you to access a greater level of expertise than you can afford to have in-house. One who is able to help you untangle the multitude of offerings and determine the most cost effective solutions for your business.

IT consultants can be engaged for a project, to provide extra support during a busy time or as a retained advisor and support to the business. To get the best out of your IT consultant, you have to be clear on your requirements and set expectations from the beginning.

How to choose the right IT Consultant for your business

So you’ve decided you need an IT consultant for your small business. How do you go about choosing one when anyone with a cursory knowledge of IT can claim to be a consultant.

Before you start looking for a consultant, get clear on what your needs are. Do you need IT support for an online business, or you want to set up your processes and automate with cloud services or perhaps you need occasional computer trouble shooting.

Once you have a list of requirements, you can then go out to look for consultants that meet those needs.
When you have identified a few candidates, here are some things to look out for:

1. Expertise: Do they have the right expertise for your requirements. This can include formal education, on-the-job training, professional certifications, and any other applicable and verifiable background information.
2. Experience: You want someone who has some work experience under their belt. Preferably with a business similar to yours. While all businesses are different, insights gained from working in similar businesses can be very valuable.
3. References: Ask for references and check them out. Even a new consultant starting out should have had some work experience in a related area. A consultant who can’t provide references is not a good idea.
4. Communication: How quickly were you able to reach them. How long did it take for them to return your email or phone call? An IT consultant is providing support for your business and they should be very responsive. Make sure you agree expected response times before you sign on the dotted line.
5. Fees: Be clear what the fee structure is. The consultant should have a clear description of what you get for what you pay. An IT consultant will typically charge you for their time and expertise on a retainer basis or per project. Third party services, subscriptions and other purchases would be charged separately based on agreed quotes.
6. Personality: There is no formula for this but a relationship between a client and a consultant is trust-based. Hire someone that you feel comfortable with. You will be discussing your business candidly with this person.

The right consultant can create tremendous value for your business. Happy hunting!

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