When you bring in an unbiased IT consultant, they’re supposed to be completely unbiased. You’re paying them to assess your IT systems, whether internal or outsourced and trusting their opinions and expertise. The idea with an external consultant is that in concept they have nothing to gain from any expertise or recommendations they provide, so it’s a truly unbiased resolution of any issues that you’re experiencing. But what if I told you that some consultants stand to gain something from the decisions you make with regard to your technology? That gain for them can come in a number of different formats. Let’s explore some of that potential bias and suggestions we have for dealing with it.
- They are incentivized by external providers.
The best way for an external IT consultant to get started in their business is to partner with technology companies. That includes phone vendors, cabling vendors, internet service providers and even managed services providers. These companies incentivize your consultant to sell their businesses and services, so while you may be paying between $150 and $500 per hour for their help and expertise, what they’re also getting is a kickback from all your vendors – ISPs, phone systems, technology partners. And while you hope that they’ve done their diligence to truly select the appropriate vendors, you have no idea if that’s actually the case because as soon as they’ve resolved your technology issues they’re out of the picture to a certain extent. They’re not the ones that have to support your system when you’ve selected a poor VoIP vendor. This is where you avoid issues with managed services providers. Since they’re the ones that have to handle your support and handle your technology ongoing, you know that regardless of incentives, they have your technology efficiency in mind – because the last thing they want is your staff upset and calling their HelpDesk for assistance.
- They might even have their own company they’re trying to bring in.
You have to do your diligence on any external consultant that you hire, because you don’t know what you don’t know. A consultant that might seem unbiased could be angling to bring in their own organization to handle your support and infrastructure. We’ve seen consultants without the appropriate centralized management tools try to bring in their own companies to take over company IT when it’s the farthest thing from the company’s best interest.
- Find out their reputation in their marketspace, not just with your industry.
Industry expertise is great, but it’s worthwhile to get history on the people that you’re working with. A truly professional CIO or technology consultant will never just start bashing your existing technology provider. Ask around. Get other company’s opinions on your consultant and even competitors in the same space. For the most part, competitors don’t bash each other, but if they have a great reputation, you’ll hear that about them. We’ve had differences with our marketplace competitors, but we always answer questions professionally and honestly without bashing, and that’s an important quality to seek out in a consultant.
Probably the most important to thing to do in all this is to follow your gut. You may not know technology, but you know your business, your industry, your financials and your existing IT situation. If you’re in a technology partnership and are starting to question things or have engaged a consultant and are not 100% comfortable with their recommendations, take a moment to explore how they educate their clients, their reputation in the space, and how they handle situations. Also consider if they have anything to gain from their recommendations and address that concern with them. Consultants and managed services providers that operate with integrity are more valuable than any inexpensive temporary solution that you might be able to find. Pioneers aren’t followers. You know your business and you know the best partner. Choose wisely.