What to Look for When Hiring an IT Consultant

How do you find the right IT consultant for your business and specific technology needs? IT executives share their tips and advice. We also suggest five questions you should ask all prospective candidates.

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7. Look for good communication skills -- and the ability to work well with people. How articulate is the consultant? Can he speak clearly -- and successfully convey information -- to both your IT team and management? "An IT consultant must be business-savvy and possess good communication skills," says Bruno Scap, the president of Galeas Consulting, a firm specializing in technology management. "He should understand the technology and be able to articulate it in business terms that management can understand," he continues. "The purpose of technology is to solve business problems, and a competent IT consultant must be equally comfortable in both technical and business settings."

In addition, "seek someone who is both technically sound and able to interact with others while working collectively and collaboratively." The last thing you want is to hire a consultant with an attitude problem, who doesn't work well with others.

8. Find out how they measure results. Before hiring an IT consultant, make sure he is comfortable using a measurement system. "There are numerous methodologies out there that can be used to measure readiness, improvement and overall progress, such as Six Sigma, ITIL and CMM," notes Ray Zadjmool, principal consultant, Tevora, a management consulting firm specializing in information assurance, governance and compliance services and solutions. "While you may have your own preference, aligning to any methodology shows that a consultant takes his work seriously."

5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an IT Consultant

1. What is your experience with my type and size of business? (See Tip No. 1)

2. Are you familiar and comfortable working with my current hardware? "Yes, I know the axiom that a server is a server, but that is not always the case," says JR Rodrigues, the CEO of NetCablesPlus, which supplies networking cables and other supplies to IT consultants and systems integrators. "Each manufacturer always puts in its own 'enhancements' as differentiators and that can result in different steps to perform the same function. I would prefer to not pay for any learning curve (not only in consulting time, but in errors that might be made at first)."

3. Are you familiar and experienced working with my current software? ("See reasoning outlined in the tips -- and then multiply by ten!" says Rodrigues)

4. What are your certifications? "This will provide insight into what they like to do and probably do most of," he says. "If all of your equipment is Dell and Oracle-based and the consultant is certified in IBM and SQL Server only, it should raise questions."

5. How do you typically work with clients? Before hiring an IT consultant, it's important to know how they work. (You can verify or confirm what they say by calling or emailing references.)

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners.

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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