The Small Business Guide To Hiring An IT Project Manager.
In order to compete in today’s marketplace, businesses require IT systems which appropriately serve their productivity needs. More often than not, it is necessary to accomplish this in the most cost effective manner which is where an IT consultant can be beneficial to the organization.
Why Do You Need To Hire an IT Consultant for project Management?
Hiring an IT consultant helps you to tap into on-demand expertise. This provides your business with in-depth experience which assists with implementing IT in the most cost effective way possible. It also ensures that you implement the best technologies, which meet the individual needs of your business.
What complex projects can an IT Consultant assist with?
Server Upgrades and Migrations:
Your server infrastructure is the most critical part of your business network since it supports the applications that contribute to productivity and profitability. For this reason, server upgrades and server migration is something that most businesses prefer not to implement on their own. Server upgrades can provide you with access to the latest technologies while improving security. An IT consultant with in-depth experience can help you manage a seamless transition from older server infrastructures to a newer and more secure system.
Structured Cabling Upgrades:
A well-structured cabling architecture is the foundation to an intelligently designed business network and is a critical investment on which other network components are dependent upon.
If the infrastructure is poorly designed, this can easily compromise business productivity and continuity. A knowledgeable IT consultant can help you to avoid roadblocks and errors, which can result in lost revenues while helping you to design a cabling system, which is responsive to ongoing business changes and adaptive to new technologies.
Network Security Installation:
Network security is a high priority for most businesses that are seeking to protect sensitive data. Network security concerns have significantly increased as more businesses implement networks to streamline workflows and facilitate better communications among employees and departments.
This is where an IT consultant can be very helpful in pinpointing security issues to design a network security strategy, which effectively addresses data loss concerns. An IT consultant can also recommend appropriate hardware such as firewalls in addition to facilitating network stress testing.
Cloud migration can be a substantial effort, which requires a time investment and careful planning before a business realizes the time-to-value. It is important to identify the intended scope of the project by targeting systems, which are candidates for migration.
An accomplished IT consultant can help your business establish the framework for transition which consists of multiple phases. First, an IT consultant can identify current assets and the extent to which they are used. This is usually followed by identification of dependencies and topologies which can typically be distributed across multiple machines and hardware. Then the IT consultant will examine platforms and licenses in addition to security and compliance requirements and Service Level Agreements (SLA).
Following identification and discovery of your current infrastructure, an IT consultant can assist your business with a cloud fit and feature analysis and the resources, which must be allocated to support a successful migration. The IT consultant can then help you with the final phase which is establishing a plan for migration of applications, platforms, and data before ensuring that the systems are successfully migrated without any loss of functionality.
See webopedia page for the definition of cloud migration.
Virtualization is a methodology used to divide technology resources into a multiple execution environment. Server virtualization can make workload tasks, backup, storage and disaster recovery easier and much more manageable while reducing the costs associated with managing large amounts of data and deploying business applications.
Virtualization can be complex since you are consolidating individual systems (server consolidation) which centralize administrative tasks while reducing server sprawl and eliminating unused resources. An IT consultant can help to reduce the complexities of server consolidation while helping your businesses save potentially thousands of dollars in IT hardware and energy costs.
Moving your business offices to a new location can wreak havoc with your IT infrastructure, data security, applications migration, and other IT concerns if it is not approached correctly. A competent IT consultant can help you make the right technology decisions and assist with organizing an effective plan, which accurately addresses your business needs. The end result is a smooth transition to your new business environment with little disruption in business productivity and continuity.
These are a few of the reasons why it is important to hire an IT consultant. An experienced IT consultant can help your business improve overall productivity, uncover opportunities which may otherwise be overlooked, reduce IT complexities, and ensure a cost-effective transition. Depending upon the IT consultant you work with, they may also offer business project management and change project management services in addition to assisting with technical project management.
Tips for Recruiting an IT Consultant
Prior to recruiting an IT consultant, your business should have a handle on IT goals and objectives for now and in the future. Identifying business needs in advance will help you to find a suitable IT consultant that can help you meet specific goals and objectives.
Once you have accomplished the above steps, you can begin by asking other businesses you trust for IT consultant recommendations. Additionally, you can start research on your own by compiling a set of questions to ask each prospective IT consultant and then recording them on a spreadsheet for comparison. Some of the questions may be as follows:
- How many clients do you have and what problems have you helped them to overcome?
- What are your specific areas of expertise?
- What platforms do you have experience with?
- What certifications do you hold?
- Are you capable of both managing a project and performing the work?
- Do you have specific IT vendor affiliations?
- What criteria do you use to make design decisions?
- How much do you know about our company?
- Can you provide samples of documented work?
- How much experience do you have with specific projects we need to accomplish?
- Do you have professional liability insurance?
- What do you expect from our company in order to achieve specific goals?
- Can you refer us to a similar project you have been involved with?
- What do you charge and how is this defined?
Additionally, you should take note of how well the consultant listens to your needs.
Pay careful attention to their personality to determine whether or not they have the potential to work well with your staff.
Find out if they have any conflicts of interest, which may interfere with the project.
Finally, take an internal inventory of yourself to determine if you genuinely trust the consultant and believe in their experience and expertise.
Independent or outsourced service sector?
You have the option to browse through yellow pages or the internet and employ an independent consultant, or you could employ an IT consultant through an IT Support Company, this being one of the more recent examples I have worked with – http://www.ouritdept.co.uk
The second option is usually the safest one, as you have an organization to fall back on if the service you receive isn’t to your satisfaction. In addition, IT consultants that work in IT outsourcing have the option to leverage a pool of knowledge should there be anything they are unsure of, not that this should ever be the case!
Independent consultants are usually more flexible and they don’t usually cost as much, but ultimately they are a one man band.
How Can an IT Consultant Assist Your In-House IT Manager?
Although it may seem like a double edged sword to employ both an IT consultant and in-house IT manager, when you select the right IT consultant they can work with your in-house IT manager to advise them on how to manage IT undertakings in the most efficient way.
For example, if virtualization is one of the IT goals for your business, an IT consultant who works alongside your in-house IT manager can assist with best practices for managing a consolidated server environment which operates on centralized administration. Although the in-house IT manager may have experience and expertise in many different areas, server consolidation and virtualization is a fairly new concept. Typically hiring an IT consultant in this capacity may initially cost more however, it will save money in the long term by helping your business to become more self-sufficient.
In fact, with the many new technologies which are being released, an in-house IT expert can leverage the expertise of an external IT consultant. This is sometimes a requirement since the in-house IT manager may not be trained yet in using the newest technologies.
What Process Does an IT Consultant Follow When Taking on a Complex IT Project?
Depending upon the IT consultant you choose, the project management process will vary according to the IT consultant’s expertise and the specific goals for your business. However, a typical project management initial process might include the following:
During this initial phase, an IT consultant thoroughly assesses current business processes and IT infrastructure. The consultant may also spend time observing business functions and discussing IT initiatives with the IT manager and/or senior management.
Identify Critical Project Elements and Processes:
Following the assessment phase, an IT consultant may help you to identify aspects which are critical to the success of the project such as cost, schedule, quality, measurement, and product performance. Once these elements are identified, an IT consultant is instrumental in determining what processes will produce the best results.
Develop the System of Process and Results Measures:
Once the project elements and required processes are identified, an IT consultant may help you develop process measurements which monitor the critical areas of the project that are important to producing the desired results. As the project progresses the system that is being used to measure project performance should include strategies for change. The results measurements should track how well the project has met the objectives of the company.
Form an Agreement:
Since project control can be costly, it is essential for your business and the IT consultant to agree on specific limits. If these limits are crossed during the course of the project, both entities should agree that a problem has developed and both should work together to provide a solution.
Incorporate Company Goals:
An experienced IT consultant should take the company goals and vision into account when designing the measurement system. Where the senior management oversees the identification of project profitability and return on investment, the IT consultant helps to design the project control at the operational level.
Project Control Summary:
Once the operational aspects of the project are under way, an IT consultant can analyze the impact of any new changes in the process measures, take action should be taken to bridge the gap between actual performance and the planned performance, help to schedule and communicate any necessary changes, and maintain open communications with senior management.
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David has worked in the IT services sector for over a decade. He continues to work as an independent IT consultant alongside his journalistic duties!