How to Choose an IT Consultant: Criteria and Tips

views 1955date 16-05-24 Read Time: 10 min

The use of IT consultants has become a common practice for many modern companies when it is necessary to launch a new project, implement new information technologies or modernize IT infrastructure. Professional consulting support helps to easily manage complex tasks, optimize the cost and time of project implementation, and obtain a guaranteed high-quality result. Businesses understand the value of IT consulting services, but many companies face difficulties in finding and selecting an IT consultant. We have been providing IT consulting services for many years, we know the ins and outs of the process and we share our experience in our blog. In this material you will find tips on how to choose the right IT consultant so that you do not regret your choice and achieve the desired results.

Choosing an IT Consultant – Step-by-Step Recommendations

1 – Clearly articulate your goals

Before selecting an IT consultant, analyze your goals and answer basic questions:

  • What area of consulting do you need? Help can be needed in various areas – mobile development, IT project implementation, startup launch, technology implementation, etc. The choice of the consultant’s competencies depends on this.
  • What problems do you want to solve and what result do you want to achieve? Consciously answering these questions will help you find mutual understanding with the consultant, correctly communicate your needs and uncover your pain points.
  • How much consultation do you expect? You may need a one-time consultation with a single specialist, or you may need the long-term support of an entire consulting team.
  • What is the time frame? Determine the time frame of the project implementation in advance, as it depends on the intensity of the interaction with the consultant, the activity and duration of the meetings, the total duration of the cooperation.
  • What budget are you ready to allocate for IT consulting services? It depends on the form of cooperation and the composition of the consulting team (number of consultants, their qualifications, scope of work).

Understanding your goals will help you select the right consultant with the right specialization, build the right collaboration process, and ensure that the results meet your expectations.

2 – Conduct a study of the IT consulting market

You can search for IT consultants in many ways: online, on freelance platforms, in social networks, in professional communities, through referrals from colleagues and business partners, at industry events, and at networking events. Review the opportunities you find, analyzing reviews, case studies, and pricing. Create a list of consultants who appear to meet your goals and are in a price range you are comfortable with – and move on to more detailed analysis and selection.

3 – Valuing experience and expertise

The experience and qualifications of an IT consultant can be assessed by his/her presentation as a specialist and portfolio of realized projects. The presence of relevant certificates, positive reviews, recommendations of colleagues or acquaintances will be an advantage. Ideally, if it is a well-known specialist or a team with a good reputation in IT. Criteria for evaluating the competence of an IT consultant:

  • Relevant specialization. Make sure your potential consultant is highly qualified in the area you need. If your tasks are very broad, it is better to apply to consulting firms where several different specialists work together. And if you want to focus on a single technical problem, you can choose a consultant with a narrow specialization who has a deep understanding of your problem.
  • Mandatory practical experience. It is very important that the specialist is not only a good theorist, but also a practitioner – that is, he or she not only consults, but also has experience in implementing projects of the given direction. Only practice can provide useful knowledge on which real expertise is based. Look at the real cases that the consultant has implemented, either alone or in a team – this will be the best proof of his experience and qualifications.

After evaluating these criteria, the list of candidates may be reduced to a few options – send them requests for initial introductory consultation, schedule an interview and talk to the specialists in person, this will help you make the right and informed choice.

4 – Conduct an interview

Face-to-face communication with an IT consultant or a manager of a consulting firm will answer many questions and allow you to draw important conclusions. To make the communication effective and efficient, it is worthwhile to include in the interview the specialists of your team who are relevant to the future project. What to consider during the interview:

  • The consultant should have strong communication skills. He or she should be able to express his or her thoughts clearly, understand the questions posed correctly and provide structured answers, and explain concisely technical issues in which you are not an expert. Ethical, flexible, and results-oriented behavior will be a positive sign.
  • Fluent communication and rapport. Since you will be communicating a lot with the consultant, he or she should be “your person” with whom you can easily find a common language and solve current problems with ease. Here it is worth listening to your intuition and inner feelings – whether it will be comfortable to interact with the specialist, whether you are ready to communicate with him with a certain regularity.
  • A clear plan of action. After the first meeting, the consultant should provide a clear order of further actions – where to start, how to proceed with the project. For example, it may be to complete a brief preliminary audit, formulate a strategy, agree on the cost of consulting services. In other words, the first meeting should produce results and an understanding of the way forward – then there will be no chaos in further cooperation.

5 – Analyze the IT consultant’s proposal

If the consultant meets all the criteria of experience, expertise and mutual communication, you should ask for and analyze his proposal – a document detailing the terms of cooperation and the project implementation strategy. It takes some time to prepare a proposal, because a professional consultant does not offer standard solutions, but approaches each order individually. First of all, he analyzes the client’s business and goals, formulates options for solving the problem – and on this basis he prepares a concise and informative proposal, in which he clearly sets out the terms of cooperation:

  • Specific ways of solving the problem – what technologies, methods and tools will be used to solve the client’s problems;
  • Description of the consulting strategy – scope of work, preliminary plan and format of consultations, number and directions of sessions;
  • Stages and duration of cooperation – what stages the consulting consists of, what is included in the services of each stage, how long the interaction with the consultant will last;
  • Expected results – what you should achieve at the end of each stage and at the end of the project;
  • Composition of the consulting team – a list of specialists who will provide consulting services in different areas;
  • Price proposal – precise and transparent calculation of the IT consulting price with the number of working hours of each specialist;
  • Terms of cooperation – contract duration, termination conditions, guarantees, payment methods, etc.

Only after analyzing and agreeing on the terms of cooperation, costs and consulting strategy, it is possible to make a conclusion about the choice of IT consultant and proceed to the stage of signing the contract.

Common IT Consulting Mistakes

Organizing cooperation with an IT consultant is a responsible business that requires time and effort, especially if it is the first experience for a company. Haste and lack of understanding of the specifics of the process can lead to unpleasant consequences when consultations take place but there are no results. And the blame can fall on both the inexperienced consultant and the client. What are the most common mistakes made when organizing IT consulting services?

  • Ambiguity of goals. Effective IT consulting is not empty talk, but concrete practical actions – from strategic to tactical – that allow the client to solve the set tasks within the available budget and within the specified timeframe. Therefore, at the beginning of cooperation the consultant should receive clear information – what we have today, what we need to achieve, in what terms and within what budget.
  • Insufficient expertise of the consultant. A specialist can be a professional in one case, but not have deep knowledge – in another. Carefully consider the qualifications and experience of a specialist in your direction, so that he offered the right solution to your problems and led to the goals of the optimal way without unnecessary expenditure of time.
  • Lack of a clear consulting plan. The principle of “we’ll figure it out on the way” does not work in IT. It is necessary to agree with the consultant on the chosen strategy of project implementation before the beginning of cooperation, to define every detail and to clearly see the scope of work to be performed.
  • Cooperation without a contract. The contract regulates all aspects of interaction between the consultant and the client – terms, scope of work, deadlines, prices and payment terms. Without this document, you are unprotected and have no guarantee of quality services. If the consultant offers to work with you without a written contract, it is a reason to doubt his professionalism.
  • Misunderstanding the principles of pricing. The customer should be able to clearly see how the cost of IT consulting is calculated – what is included in the price, under what conditions additional costs may arise. Non-transparency of prices can lead to unreasonable payments, budget overruns, misunderstandings between the client and the consultant during the work.
  • Failure to follow the consultant’s recommendations. The IT consultant develops a plan and gives instructions for solving the client’s tasks, but cannot be responsible for the implementation of the recommendations by the client. It is not enough just to order IT consulting, it is also necessary to organize the quality performance of work with appropriate planning and control. This can be done by the company’s own IT department or by external specialists.
  • Inactive feedback. Throughout the collaboration, the consultant may request additional information about the project and its progress. Lack of awareness can lead to incorrect decisions if certain circumstances are not taken into account. Therefore, for the best result, it is necessary to be in contact with the consultant, provide information on each request promptly, notify about force majeure and changes in current circumstances.

IT company or freelancer – where to order IT consulting?

Consulting services can be provided by IT companies as well as by individual specialists. However, the most effective and efficient approach is to turn to a practicing IT team for several objective reasons:

  • The team consists of specialists with different profiles, each of whom provides professional advice. At the same time, the specialists closely interact and coordinate their work.
  • Consultations are provided by specialists who constantly work on projects, know all the subtleties and innovations, follow trends and have practical experience in solving complex technical problems.
  • Unlike freelance consultants, the IT company always works officially under a contract, so you are protected from any risks.
  • The company can provide case studies and testimonials, has an open portfolio, and a reputation in its niche – all of which clearly demonstrates the professional capabilities of the team.
  • In parallel, the consulting company can provide outsourcing services – to take over part of the technical implementation of the project if the client does not have the appropriate resources.

These are the principles on which KitApp Studio works: we provide comprehensive IT consulting services in various areas of project development, launch and organization of IT infrastructure. You can contact us with questions of any complexity – from one-time technical consultations to complex consulting support of projects.