There are many reasons why IT Consulting Firms in Virginia are brought into projects, but the main ones are lack of expertise or resources, being so close to the problem that you can’t see the solution.
Perhaps you have lost your objective opinion, or are trapped in analysis paralysis, you need help to choose the best one & so on. For whatever reason, you have decided to bring in an Information Technology Consultant or Software Consultant to help you. How do you choose the right one for your business and your project?
What Do They Do?
Good IT Consulting Firms in Virginia will help you better understand the problem or opportunity before you. They will listen to you closely and ask a lot of questions. Answering the questions brings clarity, and clarity leads to solutions.
Where to Find Them?
There are thousands of qualified IT Consulting Firms in Virginia. Don’t just look superficially, information services are rarely constrained by geography, assess the IT solutions, evaluate the best trusted IT consulting firms.
How to Talk to Them?
Talk to several IT Consulting Firms in Virginia and do their IT Assessments. Then cross out those off of the list that you don’t like, aren’t comfortable with, who don’t clearly communicate or answer your questions, or just rub you the wrong way.
How to Qualify Them?
Start by giving the consultant a brief, high-level description of the domain of the problem, opportunity, or application. Outline your ambitions, opportunities, risks, and fears. Most consultants are bright, honest people who will readily tell you if they can or cannot help you within a few minutes of conversation.
Look at their background and track record. Google them and read their profiles, experience, testimonials, and endorsements. Talk to some of their past clients. Make sure you are confident in their abilities, that you like them, and that you are excited about working with them. If you don’t look forward to working with them, choose someone else.
Trust, but Verify
Do a “feasibility analysis” with your shiny new consultant – limit the time/cost up front, and specifically convey your expectations. This will produce a preliminary design and establish the working dynamic between the consultant and the team. Agree on structures, payout, team dynamics, authority, system access, and anything else that will make it easy and enjoyable to work together. But keep this first engagement short, and limited in scope.
IT Assessments & Evaluation
If at any point you become uncomfortable with the IT Consulting Firm’s performance, communicate your concerns immediately. A mutual effort to reach common ground is vital to getting the project back on track and in the comfort zone. If no consensus is possible, fire them early and quickly. It’s a difficult decision to make with time and money already invested, but sticking with a consultant who isn’t working out could bring down the entire project.
Do not make a long-term up-front commitment. Be extremely leery of consulting firms that offer to do ‘free’ analysis and proposals, because the backside of this is generally a long-term contract commitment.
Know exactly who you will be working with, what they can really do, and if you like them before making any longer-term commitments.
Prepare a high-level overview of your business needs for yourself. Include any special considerations, such as legacy systems must work in conjunction with the new systems, specific customer interoperation and/or data interchange formats, In-house tools and systems must remain undisturbed and/or be supported by the new systems. And most importantly, convey exactly what you expect the IT Consulting Firm to provide. Expectations govern the consulting relationship; make yours known up front.
Start Small, Grow Big
Start with a small project. Define the outcomes in advance, and agree on how the results will be presented. Consider the first small step as a pilot project, pay close attention to how the they operate in their interaction with your team, the level and quality of communication, and how suitable the results are for the agreed upon outcome.
Build Upon Success – Or Bail Out Early
Once the pilot project is successfully completed, you and your IT consulting firm should have enough information to plan the next steps. If the pilot project is not completed successfully, or the working relationship is not working, do not hesitate to pull the plug on working with that IT or Software Consulting Firm in the future.
Set the Rules Together
Agree in advance on how they will work with your team, what materials and personnel will be made available, what authorities, what response times and communication channels are reasonable, who will be assigned as liaison for them. Establish criteria for when they must be on-site, and provide adequate workspace for both on and off-site work. Don’t be surprised if they do not spend a lot of time on-site; it is quite common for a few days of observation to be followed by several days of research, analysis, design, planning, and proposal preparation. You should expect to see them at the beginning and end of a project, but not so much in the middle.
You Get What You Pay For
Expect to pay for the IT consulting firm’s time. Some larger firms will offer “free evaluations”, but beware. These are likely to be superficial, boilerplate proposals based on the needs and systems of other businesses, not yours.
Make sure to meet the team that will be working on your project, even if it is just virtually. Some consulting firms are notorious for sending in the principals and stars to do the front-end work. Once a contract is signed, the firm hands off the rest of the project to interns, B-team developers, and new consultants fresh out of college – while still billing at the top-dog rates. Even when this is not the case, it helps communication immensely to meet the team before the serious work starts.
Ask and Clarify Everything
Once the proposal is in your hands, do not hesitate to ask questions, seek clarification, and request justifications and explanations for the reasoning behind each point in the proposal. You must both understand exactly what is proposed, why it is recommended, how it will work, how it will inter-operate with existing systems, and how it will change your business once it is in place. Planning for the latter is critical: the ultimate success of the project comes from achieving the desired change, not just from delivering software systems.