Wanted: High-Tech Help

Once you've made the commitment to upgrade or or overhaul don't go it alone. Here's how to pick the right consultant for the job.

arrangements and fee arrangements. Most consultants will provide ongoing support for 10%-15% of the cost of the project.

ONGOING SUPPORT
“One of our greatest fears was that the consultant would do the job and then disown the project,” says Pinkerton. But not with BCS. The two firms have worked out a deal where BCS consultants will be available to Lakeside employees for at least six months after the project is completed.

Staying in touch with your consultant will probably reap more benefits than just working out the bugs in your new technology. Maintaining a relationship helps to ensure that the consultant knows what is going on in your business. They may be able to suggest new upgrades, applications or products that can economically replace something they initially integrated for you.

Engaging a consultant does not have to be painful. A bit of common sense plus adequate research and constant communication should guarantee a positive experience.

The TECH Commandments
1. Listening is a virtue. A consultant should listen to your needs and objectives before offering advice. Their. primary task is to translate your needs into workable solutions.
2. Check for references. Ask about the consultant’s relationship with vendors and other clients. Contact standard background checking organizations like Dun and Bradstreet, the Better Business Bureau, chambers of commerce and industry trade associations.
3. Be wary of technical jargon. Consultants who don’t explain things in terms you can understand may not have your best interests at heart.
4. Inquire about the consultant’s objectivity. Have them specify any special allegiances or financial incentives tied to specific products.
5. Know exactly who is going to do the work. Whether it’s a contractor or a staff person, it’s important to talk to (and investigate) whoever is slated to do the job.
6. Remember, you have a role to play too. Contribute ideas and take the time to understand what the consultant is implementing.
7. Be aware of other costs associated with a technology upgrade. Ongoing training, maintenance and lost productivity during implementation cost money.
8. An hourly or daily rate doesn’t tell the whole story. The consultant should show you where your return will be and why you should invest in a particular solution. They should be realistic and candid about what technologies cost.
9. Beware of gung-ho consultants. Unless this new technology at least doubles a measurable aspect of your productivity, it’s generally not worth the risk or the money. It is prudent to wait for at least one major revision of the hardware or software from both a cost and functionality standpoint.
10. All information technology has some sort of life cycle. Have your consultant build in an on-site training and warranty agreement for malfunctions or mishaps.
Source: Independent Computer Consultants Association St. Louis; www.ica.org

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