Google the term “IT consulting firm” sometime and you will get a few hits… 222 million hits to be exact. Search more narrowly in most cities and you will uncover dozens to hundreds of players – everyone from lone wolves to divisions of the Big Four. The partner you choose will have a major impact on the growth and productivity of your business. And all of them will probably tell you that they can do the job.
This is why you need a strategy in place for finding the right IT partner. A strategy that is defined by much more than just your budget which helps you get the results and ROI you are looking for. A series of litmus tests that combine with your gut feelings and good judgment to choose the right fit.
Here are some of my favorite criteria when looking for that perfect IT consulting firm:
Do they have a vision of the future?
All firms know what IT has done in the past. Does the firm you’re considering understand where technology is going? When you speak with them, do they instill confidence that they can help your organization to leverage current trends in IT to help you connect with customers and business partners?
Do they have a track record?
Any IT consulting firm can point to how many servers they have installed or what great network security they can promise you – but that first thing you want to look for is real business results. Strategy in any form, including IT strategy, is about positioning your business to succeed. The firm that you hire for strategic IT consulting should have a track record of delivering tangible business results. And don’t just take their word for it: look for testimonials from CEOs showing long-term relationships that have delivered measurable value.
What are they really selling?
Many IT consulting firms are in the business of selling hardware and software. Many a quote-unquote “strategic consulting practice” is a thinly veiled excuse for selling you more hardware and software, regardless of the investments you’ve already made in your existing infrastructure.
How do you tell? Look at their website. Do they focus on their bottom line versus yours, with a focus on IT tools and technology solutions? Does it list all of their technology partners whom they likely have sales agreements and quotas with? Or can you find a firm that focuses exclusively on strategic consulting? Explore whether the firm you choose knows how to leverage the investments you have already made to protect your organization and to position it for growth.
Can they protect you?
Whether you realize it or not, your organization is in the information technology business. Your information is your most important asset and it needs o be protected. Are you confident that the IT consulting firm you are considering has the expertise to protect you from threats?
Do you trust them?
When you select a firm to perform a strategic assessment, you will need to give them the keys to the kingdom in order for them to do their job. All companies have issues with their IT infrastructure. The firm you hire will have access to all of your flaws and vulnerabilities. Do you trust them to assess the current state of your infrastructure, advise you on how to address gaps in your security, and position your organization for growth?
Notice that we have barely said a word about technology itself here – instead, we are focusing on trust, expertise, and results. This is completely intentional. Obviously, technical expertise will be a ticket-of-entry skill for any good IT consulting firm. But if you want to be more successful (as opposed to hiring the biggest geeks) evaluate your next provider through the lens of a trusted business partner.