IT Consultancy: Does my Business Really Need This?

Posted on Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Without a doubt, most of us have come up against a problem or two that indicated the need for an expert. When we’re dealing with the IT infrastructure for our business, however, this becomes an even more delicate issue, as often that is not part of our core competency.

While technology has the potential to make everything we do easier and smarter, when it fails or if something goes awry, there has to be a person, department or policies in place to deal with the situation in a timely manner.

It’s not just about repairs and troubleshooting. Having an IT consultancy on board can be quite handy when simply determining what technology is going to be right for our business needs. Often it takes an expert who can cut through the chaff to help us finally decide how best to proceed.

Adopting an IT workflow

With so many workflows and IT tools on the market, where do you start? Do you need a full unified communications system, or can you exist with something a little more localized? Will your systems need to scale as you grow, or are you just looking to manage internal processes and boost efficiency? Finding out what IT can do for you is a large part of the journey, and hiring an IT consultant or a consultancy to oversee and advise is just smart business.

The ideal IT consultancy

Your perfect IT consultancy will take the time to get to know you. Before they even begin the process of recommending software, hardware or systems, they need to know how you do business, how your customers interact with you, and where you expect to be in ten years. Without this key information in hand, there is no possible way they will be able to help you realize your goal.

The ideal IT consultancy will be:

  • Knowledgeable about business: understands ROI, marketing and other concerns
  • Has experience in the type and size of your business
  • Able to break down your business needs into technological requirements
  • Assess vendor capabilities to find the one that is best suited to your needs
  • Not be tied to one specific vendor, or have an unusually biased relationship with a vendor
  • Have a good portfolio of work to show, as well as credentials, affiliations and references
  • Qualified in project management so you don’t have to rely on the service provider

Ultimately, it’s the consultancy that ticks all those boxes as well as being able to deliver a high level of technical know-how that is going to serve you best.

Why hire an IT consultancy?

For companies who do not have the real estate or resources to hire a full time IT department, hiring an IT consultant might just be the smartest choice. Without having to support a team of high paid technicians, you will be able to channel your cash flow into other things, such as growing your business.

By having an on-demand IT consultant as opposed to one (or more) on-staff, you can call them in on an as-needed basis, and stop worrying about whether you are keeping them busy enough to warrant their high salaries.

You might want to see if you can answer a few pertinent questions before you begin your journey:

  1. Is my data secure? Chances are, each member of your workforce is each running their own computer workstation. The more computers on your network, the greater potential for security breaches. Also, as your company grows you will have a greater need to store more information, some of which may be vital, and some which may require a high level of security. An IT consultant can help you by managing and monitoring where and how the information is saved, so even in the event of a system-wide failure, your data will be safe.
  2. Are my computer systems reliable? If your employees spend more time fixing computer issues or finding workarounds when things stop working, you might need an IT consultant. Every once in a while, a program or app may stop working, but if it isn’t fixed in a timely manner, this can snowball into major issues. Without technical expertise, you may be headed for more trouble sooner than you think. Your IT consultant can solve problems quickly and protect your bottom line, ensuring no downtime and helping to maintain productivity.
  3. What platform or system is right for my company? Do we install a server, or move everything to the cloud? iPhone or Android? What’s the best workflow to boost collaboration, productivity and accountability? A good IT consultancy can help you quickly define your goals and identify the technology that is going to fulfil your needs.
  4. What happens if disaster strikes? Your company’s data is the lifeblood of your success, and in this day and age, anything can happen. Computer viruses, hacking, ransomware, flooding, earthquakes, fire or other catastrophic events could destroy everything in one fell swoop. With a good IT protocol in place, backups will be available to help you restore and get back to business in no time. Your IT consultant can help define this infrastructure so that you are always protected, no matter what.
  5. Will my business be growing in the future, and can my technology grow with it? This is one of the most important aspects of your IT framework – whether it can scale with you as you grow. The ideal IT consultant will design a system that is virtually future-proof, or if not, give you a clear idea of what its capacity is as you head into the next phase of growth.
  6. Do I have tech-savvy staff on hand that can help manage my IT? The ability to multi-task is a precious commodity. It can also save you a great deal of money where IT is concerned. While your current staff may not have the expertise to advise, deploy or manage some of the bigger IT tasks, it is possible that there are a handful of employees who could take on certain duties, such as regular backups, updates or server monitoring. A self-managed IT solution might be appropriate in this case. Your IT consultant may be able to suggest a system that is easily self-managed, so that you will only have to call them in for the big stuff.
  7. Do I have too much on my plate already? If this statement rings true for you, then you might need an IT consultant sooner than you think. Once you have a system in place, proper implementation and maintenance needs consistency. If you don’t feel that you have the personal or in-house IT chops to manage this properly, you might consider hiring a IT consultancy to provide managed services. Managed services come at a rate that is much reduced when compared to a full-time IT staff.

While these are by no means the only issues you might consider when deciding whether an IT consultancy is right for you, this list represents the top few. The take away is that if you have any question about whether your technology is serving you or your vision of the future, take the time to engage with an IT consultancy to see what is possible. Chances are, the money you invest today will translate to cash flow saved and peace of mind – not to mention increased productivity and a heightened company morale you couldn’t buy with any amount of money.

Reasons to Hire an IT consultancy vs. in-house dedicated specialist

Though there are advantages to having an in-house IT tech, there are plenty of reasons to consider hiring out on a consultative basis.

The in-house solution

If you have thirty or more computer workstations, or if you use complex applications that require regular updating, debugging and other maintenance, then you might need a full-time, in-house IT tech. However, for companies who don’t have a requirement for this sort of attention, it may be difficult to justify a full-time salary to do part-time work. The trouble is, it is often difficult to find an IT tech who is willing to work part-time, and you run the risk of losing them as soon as something better comes along. The cost you will incur with downtime, not to mention the added expense of retraining somebody new, compromises the efficiency of your workflow and can be a threat to your data security.

Hiring an external IT consultant

The advantages to hiring an outside IT consultant are not purely financial, though this should be of primary interest to any small business looking to save some money without cutting corners. An external consultant will be on site only when you need them, and provides the reliability of a full-time employee without the regular salary. Many IT consultancies offer monthly plans for ongoing maintenance, and depending on the scope of your needs, this may be the right choice for you. If your needs are limited to periodic updates, disaster recovery or on-demand technical services to solve complex problems as they arise, you could opt for a pay-as-you-go type of arrangement.

Hiring an IT consultancy to provide managed services may be something to consider. Essential tasks such as backups and server monitoring will be seen to without anybody personally on-site, and problems are often mitigated before they become issues. The upshot of this is true peace of mind, letting you get on with what you do best without a second thought to your technology infrastructure.

Benefits of hiring an IT consultancy

Some food for thought, if you’re still trying to decide whether hiring a consultant is the direction you want to take:

  1. IT consultants are up on all the latest technology, the good and the bad. Chances are they are the best qualified to recommend what will work best for you and your needs, dissuade you from systems that you will quickly outgrow, or ones that are too difficult or complex for you to manage. They can also help you stay ahead of the game by keeping you apprised of innovations that your competitors may be leveraging.
  2. Your consultant will always be there for you. Unlike your employees, your consultancy doesn’t take sick days. When you need them, they are there. Even if your ‘regular’ tech is away, there will be a knowledgeable substitute who is well-versed on your infrastructure and is ready to step in at any time.
  3. Your needs take priority. While your in-house staff may be good at what they do, often there are other tasks which take precedence. When your IT consultant is on site, they are there to focus on the job at hand, and chances are they will get it done quickly and efficiently so you can get back to work.
  4. Cash flow. Since your IT consultancy is not on payroll, you can generally negotiate a net time to pay, often from fifteen to thirty days. Many companies prefer to pay right away and that is always fine – but the ability to place invoices in the system can be very advantageous.
  5. You will never be forgotten. In business, the follow-up is an all-important aspect of customer service. When working with an IT consultancy, you will always have a follow up conversation, visit or survey to determine how the job went and if your expectations are being met. Especially in situations where the consultancy has built your IT infrastructure and is in it for the long haul, they will want to know how things are working for you. Expect that call, and be prepared to tell it like it is. After all, you’re paying for it!
In conclusion, and food for thought

While you may be tempted to go directly to a service provider without first engaging a consultant, this could be a mistake. Keep in mind that the consultant always advocates for your best interests, and is not beholden to any one service provider. This bipartisan sensibility could save you money and the aggravation of investing in something you don’t really need.

Your IT strategy could well be as important to your success as the product or service you sell. With new technology coming on board every single day, it takes a dedicated and tech-savvy expert to cut through all the noise. Your network systems, your communications, accounting systems, file storage and the apps that your customers use to access and manage what you offer are all-important. Your IT consultancy is in the business of making sure these systems stay on line so that they can be accessed by your workforce and your customer base – and that, in a nutshell, is the name of the game.

If you are looking for a knowledgeable, reputable IT consultancy in the Greater London area, Mustard IT can take you where you want to go. All of our services are tailored to your needs, whether you require a full implementation or ongoing managed services. With same-day response and some of the fastest times to resolution in the business, it’s easy to see why Mustard IT is London’s favourite outsourced IT provider. Call today to find out how we can help take your business into the future.