A business is only as good as the technology that runs it. Sure, it’s fine to have an earthy mom-and-pop shop. But even small businesses need up-to-date technology to compete with their counterparts in the twenty-first century.
Thus, IT consulting services are worth their weight in gold. Without an IT consulting service, you’re not only guessing that your tech works efficiently, but you’re also making your business vulnerable to dangerous cyber attacks.
Hiring a consultant takes time and focus. Here are 13 questions you should ask before hiring a consultant.
1. What Certifications and Training Do Your IT Consulting Services Have?
You’d never hire a contractor to work on your home or business before you knew they were licensed and insured. In the same way, you should ask IT consulting services if they have proper certification.
IT consulting services that keep their certification up to date have high service standards. They also follow best workplace practices, which means their own IT technicians work efficiently and ultimately enjoy their work. Happy employees mean good service for everyone.
Here are some common IT certifications a quality IT consulting service will have:
- CompTIA A+
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- CompTIA Security+
- Microsoft Fundamentals
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Practitioner
- CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+)
- CompTIA Network+
- GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF)
- Google Cloud Digital Leader
- Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
Ask the IT service if they are vendor certified to work with your particular software or hardware systems. Ask also about their staff education and training. What degrees and training do the techs have that will work with your business?
As you’re asking about certification, also ask about the type and size of businesses the IT consulting service works with. There are advantages for large businesses if the company has worked with a business similar to your business size.
2. Are You Part-Time or Full-Time IT Consulting?
While you may save money by hiring a part-time consulting firm, a full-time IT consultant will have more staff and resources to devote to a company’s challenges. Research the company to see if they have a membership to professional organizations such as the Institute for Management Consultants.
You can also look for people that use this IT consulting company. Ask the company if they have referrals or a raving fan list. Businesses are quick to say if an IT consulting firm does good work or, on the other hand, provides awful service.
3. What Industries Do You Work With?
Not all businesses have the same needs. Ask the IT consulting service what types of industries they serve.
Some IT consultants refer to themselves as generalists. This means they have a general knowledge of the IT world and will give you general answers to your problems. If you want to see vast business improvements, look for a company that works with companies just like yours.
Non-profit organizations, for example, have vastly different tech needs than a bank or a retail store. The right consultant will understand the challenges you, your employees, and your customers face if they understand your business.
Ask About Unique Solutions
Ask the IT consulting service how they will meet your unique needs within your business sector. Even though you may have a company similar to others, you will still have unique needs.
A good IT consulting company will take the time to learn your company’s current tech setup. They will evaluate the effectiveness of the setup for your business.
You need an IT consultant that understands your business and treats you as a unique customer with unique needs and unique solutions.
4. How Do You Respond to Emergencies?
Usually, tech problems happen on weekends, holidays, or in the middle of the night. Ask your potential IT consultant how they handle emergencies.
Unexpected outages cost time, money, and sometimes even customers. One IBM study estimates that unplanned application outages at large companies cost up to $400,000 an hour.
You want a company that cares for day-to-day operations, but also a company that responds quickly to emergencies. Ask the consulting team how they respond to emergencies. How quickly can they assemble a team that will have your system running again?
Also, ask the company about their experience with the problems your company faces daily. These are your daily emergencies, the small fires that a good IT consulting service can put out and eliminate. The company should be able to analyze and propose better solutions for your company’s small fires.
If you already have an internal IT staff, ask about communication. How will the consultant communicate with the current IT staff? You should designate a place in the building where the two parties can work together.
Ask about how the IT consulting firm will communicate. Will they communicate with you, the IT staff, or both? Do they delegate, and how do they handle duties when the IT staff is not in the office?
Establish clear communication from the start between the IT consulting service and the IT staff.
5. Can You Provide References?
Hiring a consultant looks no different than hiring anyone for your company. Ask the consultant for references just like you’d ask any employee.
Next, consult the references. Ask the references about their satisfaction level and their overall experience. What did they like best about the company, and would they recommend the IT consulting firm to others?
Then, check online reviews. Many companies will give honest reviews about the IT service they’ve received.
You should also check out the IT company’s testimonial page. There should be testimonials that state the specific service that impressed customers.
Consider your own personal comfort as well. You want an IT consulting service that fits with your company culture. Look specifically for a friendly company from the start.
Finally, look for a company that explains technical jargon clearly. Few business owners understand technical language. So find a company that can explain what they’re doing in common terms before they tackle your IT problems.
After all, you want to know what you’re paying for.
6. Can You Show Me a Standard Contract?
Ask consulting services for standard contracts. A quality IT consulting service should have a standard contract they use for most businesses. Review it carefully, and ask questions.
Here are a few basic questions to ask:
- What do you guarantee?
- What services does the contract cover?
- Which services will you charge extra for?
- Do you charge after-hour rates?
- Do you respond to weekend emergencies?
- What insurance liability coverages to businesses and equipment do you have?
- What is the resolution if the company cannot meet the details of the contract?
These answers will help you determine if this IT consulting service will work best for you.
7. How Can You Protect My Network?
Ask specifically about cyber security. A cyber attack will shut down your company for hours, days, and possibly weeks. Experienced IT consulting services should outline how they can protect your networks and data. They should outline this from a user and network view.
Increasingly, more employees are working remotely. Your IT consulting form should provide processes that will protect and encrypt data. Such security will prevent outsiders from accessing private information.
Make sure your IT consulting firm uses two-factor authentication. Such protection will prevent data breaches.
8. How Can You Boost My Network’s Performance?
IT consulting services should do more than protect your network. They should also boost their performance.
Do you find your programs lagging? Do your files upload slowly? A good IT consulting firm will diagnose and solve these issues.
Ask your future IT consulting service about their response time. How fast can they help you if something breaks? What is their average response time to a call?
Their answers will aptly indicate their experience and the quality of their service.
9. How Do You Relate to the End Users?
An end user is an individual who uses an actual product. IT consultants should be able to explain how they can relate to the end user of your product.
The end user may be your customer. It may also be you or your employees, depending on the purpose of technology in your business.
A quality IT service company will be able to relate well to an end user, whether they’re an employee in a cubicle or a customer on the other side of the computer. This understanding helps the IT consultant to provide the best service possible.
A quality IT consultant will also spend time educating users. They will teach your employees how to navigate their new system and how to engage in best practices with the new system and applications.
10. What Do You Charge?
IT service charges range greatly. Ask upfront what the IT consulting service will cost. Then measure the cost compared to the service you’re receiving.
Ultimately, you need to look at the IT consulting service as an investment. If the consulting service can customize its service based on your company’s needs, then they’re worth the expense.
Cheaper services aren’t always better. A less-expensive service may come with a cookie-cutter approach that doesn’t always solve your tech problems in the long run.
Ask the IT consultant how they can guarantee high-quality work and reliable service. Then consider their answers compared with the cost of the service.
11. Do You Work With Third-Party Vendors?
Ask specifically about third-party vendors. Some companies will use smaller business services to give their clients excellent service.
Hire a company that’s willing to work with any external vendors your company does business with. You need to make sure your IT services are spread throughout your entire company, including those third-party vendors.
Ask the IT company if they provide IT vendor management. You will need such a service if your company has problems with a specific interface or application. A great IT service company will sync your vendors and their services with your new IT setup.
12. How Do You Roll Out Updates?
Ask potential IT service companies about their onboarding process and updates. Onboarding should be a seamless process. It requires coordination from the new IT consultant with you and your former IT consultant.
Each of these parties should work together to transfer applications, data, and other information accurately and efficiently.
Ask about updates as well. Current updates can cause problems if your IT consultant doesn’t analyze the updates and look for glitches. Quality IT service companies will have patches to update glitches that would otherwise cause problems company-wide.
Finally, ask your potential IT consulting services how they test their updates. Will they give your company ample warning? Note that testing should never take place right away on a Monday morning when your employees are logging in for work.
13. How Accessible Is Your Company?
Finally, ask about the accessibility of your potential IT consultant. When your tech goes haywire, you need to know who you can call and who will respond immediately.
Ask who is assigned to your account. Who is the specific individual you will call when you have a problem? If that person doesn’t respond, then who do you call?
Ask about annual meetings with the IT consulting company. A quality company will plan on meeting with you to discuss budgets and plans once a year.
Search, Ask, and Decide
Choosing IT consulting services takes time, energy, and focus. With these questions in mind, you’ll be able to quickly narrow down your choices.
Above all, choose a company that appears to work well for their customers. They should respond quickly to emergencies and have unique solutions for your company’s unique tech problems.
Are you looking for a new IT consulting service? If so, contact us. Our experts are ready to analyze your problems and propose effective solutions.
Give us a call today.