IT consultants are the guys who can improve your business processes, set up a new project, recommend the optimal tech stack and much more. The benefits are quite clear. But when should you hire them? And how do you choose the best ones?
The role of an information technology consultant is crucial for many businesses, whether they’re looking to set up a new project, enable digitalization, or reorganize existing business processes. According to Statista, the IT consulting industry in the US increased by 30% between 2011-2019, and in 2021 its market size reached $525.28 billion.
When hiring a qualified IT consultant or technology consulting firm, you should clearly understand their key duties and responsibilities, the basics of the hiring process, and performance evaluation strategies. You also need to be aware of the typical scenarios where hiring an IT consultant is a must.
Read on to find out about the benefits that IT consultants can offer to your project and find out how to choose reliable experts.
What is an IT consultant?
Basically, an IT consultant is a person who has a strong understanding of information technologies and provides knowledge and experience to help companies solve their technology and business problems. According to Gartner,
“IT consulting services are advisory services that help clients assess different technology strategies and, in doing so, align their technology strategies with their business or process strategies.”
IT consultants assist businesses in identifying possible vulnerabilities and areas for improvement. They can review your business needs and provide advice on what can be automated and/or improved and how to do it in the best possible way. IT consultants can also be seen as intermediaries between business and technology developers.
An information technology consultant may possess knowledge of a variety of technologies, yet usually they specialize in narrow fields — for example, cloud services, blockchain development, cybersecurity or compliance.
What do IT consultants actually do?
In essence, IT consultants identify pain points in your business and provide effective solutions to these problems. Their work includes gathering requirements and business data, business process mapping, cooperation with the development team, expert technical assistance, and staff training.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the key functions and responsibilities of IT consultants.
- They evaluate your business. Information technology consulting starts with the analysis of your business workflows. IT consultants evaluate your business objectives and review existing business processes.
- They analyze inefficiencies and offer improvements. The responsibility of an IT consultant is to find inefficiencies in your current processes and suggest improvements. They identify the processes that require automation, point out legacy solutions that should be replaced, and determine what’s working and what needs to be changed. For instance, they can offer a solution that will help reduce the workload of your employees.
- They improve your IT budget and help your business grow. Typically, IT consultants and tech consulting firms work towards improving your IT efficiency in the most cost-effective way possible. As specialists, they pinpoint the best ways to capitalize on opportunities to grow your business and boost efficiency (for example, though implementing a new system that would automate your existing workflows and enable you to focus more on your core business goals).
- They will research your competitors. It’s competition that drives any business forward. That is why the responsibilities of information technology consultants include analyzing your industry competitors, their solutions, strategies and so on. As a result they can recommend you the best practices and tried-and-true approaches. Moreover, if you are planning to launch a specific solution on the market, IT consultants will help you make sure that it’s unique and differs from anything offered by the competitors, thus helping you remain one step ahead.
- They evaluate risks. An IT consultant’s roles and responsibilities include performing crucial risk assessments. They document identified vulnerabilities and offer risk mitigation strategies. The majority of IT consultants also specialize in the field of cyber security, which means they are capable of performing vulnerability checks and helping you maintain data security.
What types of consultants are out there?
Several key types of consultants can be found in the IT industry, including strategy and management consultants, operations consultants, and technology consultants.
Strategy and management consultants focus primarily on helping you scale your business, identify new opportunities, and earn more revenue. It is best to approach these specialists when you need to reorganize your business model to boost efficiency, expand into new markets, or increase the capabilities of your business.
Operations consultants are business consultants who mainly specialize in improving day-to-day workflows. So, if your daily business processes are slow and prone to errors, it is best to hire business consultants to optimize and streamline your workflows.
Technology consultants are the ones who can assist you with the analysis of your software and existing toolset, recommend the most optimal technologies and more. It is best to hire technology consultants when you want to upgrade your technology infrastructure or plan to implement a new solution from scratch. In cases like these, they can help you to choose the right tech stack, design system architecture, and implement tools that would benefit your business workflows.
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To hire or not to hire? Key benefits of using IT consultants
When deciding on whether or not you require assistance from technology consultant companies, you should start with a critical analysis of your business performance.
- Are your business workflows slow or inefficient?
- Do you want to optimize existing processes?
- Do your employees lack relevant expertise in business process/technology optimization?
If you answered ‘yes’ to at least one of these questions, it is wise to consider hiring IT consultants.
It’s also good to take a look at some of the biggest benefits of employing business and technology consultants. This should help you make the final decision.
Using an IT consulting company will allow you to reduce costs on benefits, workspace and other expenses associated with hiring a full-time employee. Moreover, you can hire IT consultants to deal with a specific issue and terminate the contract when their job is completed, which means that you won’t need to carry on paying a wage.
More time to focus on your core functions
IT consultants can help you save a great deal of time on process optimization and improvement. Instead of trying to tackle these issues, you and your employees can focus on strategic goals and business development.
Access to a wider breadth of knowledge
Employing information technology consultants from outside your organization allows you to gain access to wider expertise in a relevant field. You can find specialists with a portfolio relevant to your business domain, which means they will be well placed to provide you with recommendations on how best to implement changes, and also how to set up the development process, what mistakes to avoid, and so on — thus ensuring the optimum ROI.
The goal of IT consultants is to boost the efficiency of your businesses. They’re the people who clearly understand what changes, resources and technology you will need in order to accomplish this goal. They can push forward digital transformation within your organization, help you improve management processes, and implement best practices, all of which will contribute to increased productivity.
Competitive edge over others
Information technology consultants are experts who always keep an eye on technology trends and advances. They are aware of emerging technologies and know how to use up-to-date software to its full potential. This knowledge, along with a finely tuned understanding of market needs, will help you remain competitive. The services of IT consultants are especially beneficial for startups, helping them remain competitive and implement effective solutions without needing to invest millions.
Take a look at this BMW case where our experts helped support BMW’s business processes and improve customer experience
Using an IT consultant vs hiring an employee
Generally, most companies face a choice between hiring a full-time employee as a consultant or involving third-party consultants. Both options have their pros and cons. For example, hiring a third-party consulting firm will allow you to save on administrative costs associated with hiring an employee while providing you with access to a diversity of ideas from different experiences.
Meanwhile, when hiring a full-time employee you can not only ensure industry experience but also cross-train the employee for other parts of the business.
There are some other important differences between the two options. Take a look at the comparison infographic below to make the right choice.
Hiring a freelancer vs IT consulting company
If you made up your mind to involve external information technology consultants, you next need to decide whether you should hire a freelancer or a software development/consulting company. Let’s evaluate the pros and cons of each option.
Hiring freelancers may prove cost-effective, especially when it comes to small projects. At the same time, though, freelancers are less suitable for long-term cooperation and may quit the project without finishing it.
In addition, it is more complicated to check the quality of a freelancer’s work than that of a company delivering consulting services. This is because a company will usually have clearly established processes and KPIs.
Cooperation with an IT consulting company provides you with a pool of qualified experts who have diverse expertise and can help you boost performance in a short time. These guys usually have experience in a variety of technologies and can assist you with multiple tasks, from technology implementation to process improvement.
In short, if you have a small project and require expertise in a single field, it is a good idea to hire a freelancer.
But if you happen to have a larger project, need broader expertise, or require long-term cooperation with clear KPIs, it is better to hire a company offering consulting services.
What kind of organization needs IT business consultants?
Hiring third-party service providers is always a tough choice for businesses that want to deal with everything on their own. Clearly, there’s no obvious need to involve external specialists if everything is working well.
However, there are certain cases when hiring additional experts is preferable. Generally, these include:
- Startups needing assistance with project planning and software development to get a strong start
- Businesses that begin a new campaign or change their perspective and want to benefit from the skills and expertise of information technology consultants
- Organizations that are not meeting their financial and business goals
- Companies establishing a new department and needing assistance with setting up new processes, implementing new software etc.
- Businesses that have chosen a specific niche and need advice on different tools and technologies, such as web accessibility consulting or blockchain consulting.
- Businesses that are focused on growth and digital transformation and want to benefit from a diverse skill set to complete their goals
When should you hire IT consultants for your project?
Hiring an information technology consultant isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, yet there are certain cases when it is recommended that you do employ external experts. We list them below.
You don’t have in-house specialists with the skills necessary for your project
By engaging IT consultants or tech consulting firms you can gain access to the knowledge and skills required for your project. Obviously, you can hire in-house consultants, but you may not have enough tasks to keep them busy all year round. External consultants can serve as temporary yet highly skilled employees who can help you fill the gaps in required competencies and proficiencies.
You need an outside viewpoint
If your business is struggling to boost efficiency and increase ROI, and your previous attempts to achieve your goals failed, it’s a sign that you need an outside view. Third-party consulting companies usually work with many different organizations, which means that they may have worked with problems similar to those facing your business. They can also provide a fresh perspective based on their expertise and past experience.
You need to ensure the security of your project
This point is specifically relevant for startups and companies that are working on challenging projects. In this case, it’s especially important for you to prioritize the security of your project and build the necessary infrastructure. It’s a time when you can hire tech consulting firms which can do all the work for you, taking care of all possible risks and vulnerabilities.
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How to choose an IT consultant?
To make sure that you hire experienced and reliable IT consultants you should pay attention to the following skills and characteristics:
- Proficiency in diverse technologies and solutions specific to your project
- Experience in a range of activities, from giving advice on IT business strategy creation to making recommendations on technology implementation and software configuration
- Good interpersonal and communication skills
- Critical thinking and attention to detail
- Effective time management and project management
- A portfolio of relevant consulting projects (e.g., available case studies)
- Good customer references (on-demand, or on analytics platforms like Clutch or Techreviewer)
You’ve made up your mind — so what’s the efficient way to hire technology consultants?
There are 5 key steps involved in the hiring process: defining your vision, shortlisting several vendors, interviewing candidates, protecting your data, and signing a contract.
Let’s discuss each of these steps in detail.
#1 Define your vision
Start with clearly defining your project requirements through an interview or Request for Proposal document. You should clearly identify why you need IT consultants and what goals you are planning to achieve. Then you will be in a position to select the most suitable companies for your project.
#2 Shortlist vendors
To make the right choice it is better to contact more than one vendor. You can then evaluate their expertise and portfolios. You can also evaluate vendors using review and rating platforms such as Clutch. These platforms usually verify clients’ feedback, so you can be sure that all the comments there are valid.
#3 Protect your data
Make sure you protect your data before discussing any project details with the candidates. In doing this, it is a good idea to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which will cover such aspects as the procedures of data collection, access, transfer and more.
#4 Interview candidates
An interview is a good opportunity to review a vendor’s experience and communication skills. Make sure that you prepare for the interview by outlining the questions you have for the team and the key points you’re planning to discuss (e.g. project timeline, communication channels).
#5 Sign a contract
Drawing up a contract will allow you to legally protect your data and overall project. The contract should generally include aspects such as types of services provided, project deadlines, price, and delivery procedure. Also, make sure that you sign an NDA (in case you haven’t yet) to protect your project idea.
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How can you measure the success of an IT consultant job?
As you now understand what IT consultants’ roles and responsibilities are, the next question is likely to be how to measure their performance. To do this, we recommend you ask the following questions:
- Did they provide you with the necessary resources and skills to tackle your problems and/or improve your business processes?
- Were the project’s KPIs met?
- Was the project delivered on time and within the agreed budget?
- Was the collaboration process smooth and efficient?
- What was the ROI on the consulting services?
Also, to be able to effectively measure the success of an IT consultant’s job, it is a good idea to do the following before the project starts:
- Set clear and measurable goals. For example, you can leverage the SMART principles according to which your defined goals should be smart, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-oriented.
- Identify tangible results that you want to achieve. It might be better performance, increased revenue, process automation — and plenty more besides.
- Identify the intangible results you are looking for. The intangible results that are important for your business could range from improved employee loyalty to increased customer satisfaction.
- Set the key performance indicators. Establish clear KPIs that the technology consultants should achieve. Measure their progress at each phase.
PixelPlex consulting: our success stories
As a software development and IT consultant firm, we can’t miss this opportunity to showcase some of our own consulting success stories — the ones we are particularly proud of.
Challenge #1: Automate a shipper-to-carrier direct freight network
Our client, LaneAxis, wanted to build a direct brokerless freight network in the US, which would eliminate the involvement of intermediaries and thereby save significant amounts of time and money. LaneAxis also planned to leverage blockchain technology for the project and approached our team, due to our relevant expertise.
Our team assisted the customer throughout the entire solution development. PixelPlex consultants identified the central components the solution should possess, defined key user roles, and designed the secure and reliable architecture for the future solution.
As a result, the LaneAxis platform now provides for direct negotiations without intermediaries. It also allows automated contract and carrier management on the blockchain, and offers a competitive economic system with a 360-degree incentivization mechanism.
Challenge #2: Elaborate on functions and technologies for an AI Google-like search authenticator for NFTs
Quoth, a leading player in the financial services and crypto DeFi community, approached PixelPlex with the goal of getting support with designing a decentralized application that would help authenticate the originality of NFTs.
Our consultants elaborated on the platform’s functionality, including AI tools (AI-powered content validators, anti-plagiarism tools etc.) and NFT token design, and provided recommendations on MVP development, as well as suggesting the most effective project architecture and tech stack.
As a result of our collaboration, the client obtained comprehensive research, technology recommendations, and also a detailed vision and scope document to start the project smoothly.
Challenge #3: Validate project idea for an esports startup
Proleague.gg is a US-based startup engaged in the esports industry. They aimed to develop a blockchain-powered esports platform that would legitimize the esports industry and create new revenue models, enabling both professional and casual gamers to earn revenue.
The startup contacted PixelPlex consultants to analyze the feasibility of their idea and compile a vision and scope document for future investors.
Our team performed a set of discovery sessions during which they identified project goals, discussed the best solutions, and determined redundant features. After that, they compiled a comprehensive vision and scope document, which included an outline of MVP functionality, optimal technology stack and blockchain implementation plan, effective monetization strategies, project roadmap and risks.
Thanks to our contribution, the client was able to validate their project idea, establish an implementation plan, and of course gain a well-crafted vision and scope document to demonstrate their idea to project investors.
Information technology consulting is a must-have service for businesses that are starting new projects, setting new processes, or improving the existing ones.
By hiring external assistance you can see your business from an objective viewpoint and gain access to a wider expertise and knowledge base, and meanwhile focus on your strategic goals while IT consultants take care of the rest.
If you require technology backup with your future project we will be glad to fill the gap and provide IT consulting services for your business. We do hope that you’ve found inspiration in some of our consulting success stories: now it’s time to write a new story, with you. Just send a message our way and let’s discuss how we can help.