When You Need a Consultant (and When You Don’t)
Deciding whether to hire an outside technology consultant is a lot like contemplating the adoption of a new software program: It’s not always the right move. Your company’s money and IT function are on the line, and making the wrong decision can have significant repercussions.
Before hiring a consultant, it’s necessary to fully understand the root of any problem in order to figure out how it can best be alleviated. Luckily, there are a handful of clear situations where partnering with a consultant is proven to lead to success. Let’s dig into those, along with the situations where you might be better off alone.
1. Your Company Lacks Expertise in a Technical Domain
We’ve all been there at one point: there’s a project that needs starting, a task that needs completing, or a question that needs answering, but no employee has the required expertise. It’s a natural time to partner with an outside technology consultant. For example, we once had a company approach us because they began migrating to Azure but realized they lacked the necessary in-house expertise. One of our senior consultants was able to quickly provide the governance, framework, and training that the client needed to become self-sufficient. This transfer of knowledge turned out to be crucial for a company that, in their own words, leaped before they looked.
You don’t need a consultant if: You already have the right expertise under your roof. You’ve got subject matter experts who have the necessary knowledge for planning and completing initiatives. You also have individuals who can lead teams with their expertise and have the time to dedicate to training.
2. Your Teams Have Lost Focus
Every technology initiative relies on a number of best practices. When losing focus of those key activities, even the most knowledgeable technologists can end up failing. To illustrate this point, consider the Agile software development process. It’s essential to maintain a focus on the why of Agile at all times. When that focus is lost, the benefits of Agile are eliminated with it. Any process can fall in danger of becoming routine where even talented individuals end up just going through the motions. A consultant is often what it takes to get teams out of a rut and refocused on the best practices that get the job done right.
You don’t need a consultant if: Your company has its processes on the rails. Best practices are implemented and teams are running like a well-oiled machine. You’re meeting deadlines and objectives, so there’s no reason to bring in an outside person to help refocus your employees.
3. You’re Missing Interdepartmental Opportunities
Even when your IT department is fully staffed and running smoothly, there may still be opportunities to uncover in other areas in your business. For example, does your technology team have enough bandwidth to serve the marketing department that might greatly benefit from an app to help sales? It’s often difficult to pull developers off their regular projects and tasks, especially when they’re assigned to a strategic initiative, to work on an app for another department. Outside consultants can provide technology support to these areas and uncover additional opportunities for growth in the company while still working under the guidance of IT.
You don’t need a consultant if: You have enough talent and time to serve the entire organization. Regularly, opportunities are uncovered in other departments and they’re being capitalized. You might have a cyclical and predictable flow of work that includes down periods where new opportunities can be explored without hindering regular technology work.
4. Your Big Idea Needs Support
Whether you’ve hatched a million-dollar idea or want to transform your company’s technology function by implementing a new initiative, you’re going to need the right level of support. We’ve seen companies think of a great idea for a new piece of software only to be unsure how to take that product from the theoretical to the practical. Likewise, we’ve seen organizations decide to upgrade their legacy systems but then get stuck in determining the right steps to make it happen. In cases like these, consultants provide the support and direction to properly incubate the game-changing idea at hand.
You don’t need a consultant if: Your big idea has a clear way forward. You know the right questions to ask along the way and are prepared for the inevitable curveballs that might be thrown at you. You know it won’t be easy, and have a realistic expectation of the time, money, and talent required.
5. Keeping Pace with the Growth of Your Company
As a company grows larger, it becomes in danger of encountering several pitfalls. Silos may form, separating people or stopping various sources of data from working together smoothly. The organization’s vision could get lost or become watered down as it trickles through a large number of employees. It can become difficult for one person to manage the entire technology function of a large organization, so they need the right support from a peer in the form of a consultant.
You don’t need a consultant if: You’re a smaller organization. If you know what you’re doing and have the right number of people to achieve your goals in the next 6-12 months, then building your foundation is critical. Concentrate on what you do best in order to ensure you have a healthy company for future growth.
When Will You Need a Technology Consultant?
A consultant is not a magic pill that can instantly solve any issue your business is experiencing. Seeking the outside opinion of a trusted expert is rarely a bad idea, but there are times where it’s just not necessary. For the other instances when help from a third-party is the key to your technology initiatives, partnering with a consultant is the way to go.