8 essential requirements of a technology provider
It never ceases to amaze me how often businesspeople tell me that they really don’t understand the technology their consultants are buying for them, why it is essential and why it costs so much. It seems all too common for businesspeople to simply throw their hands in the air and say – ‘Whatever you say, I just need it up and running as soon as possible!’ This suggests to me that some consultants are not explaining their client’s technology requirements clearly enough or in plain English.
It was Albert Einstein who said, ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’ In my experience, this quote is highly relevant to IT consultants. Providing absolute clarity and ensuring clients fully understand the options, the rationale for the preferred option, the implementation process and the associated costs is surely the responsibility of every consultant.
But how do you identify the best IT consultant for your business? Well, over the last 20 years, I have identified 8 critical factors you need to address before engaging an IT consultant.
1. AN ENTERPRISE MATCH
All too often, businesses appoint consultants that while competent, cannot meet all of their needs now and into the future. Maximising technology efficiency requires a long-term partnership.
Professor Peter Drucker was right when he noted – ‘culture eats strategy for lunch’. Your consultants must share your values and embrace your vision – along with the strategy that will realise that vision. They must understand your priorities and demonstrate the capacity to grow with you.
My advice – Have prospective consultants demonstrate that they understand your business priorities, embrace your culture, and have the capacity to help you realize your vision
2. KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
It is essential to ensure that your consultants are accountable. This will require agreeing on and documenting the key performance indicators to which the consultant will be held accountable.
A primary responsibility of the consultant must be to ensure that you never have to think about your technology because you know it is functioning optimally. Customised key performance indicators are needed to give you the confidence that everything that needs to be addressed will be addressed.
My advice – Ensure your consultant agrees on key performance indicators and reports monthly, taking full responsibility for your technology so you can focus on core business.
3. EFFICIENCY RATINGS METRICS
Technology is a means to an end. For most businesses, that ‘end’ is efficiency. The primary role of an IT consultant must be to take responsibility for leveraging technology to eliminate inefficiencies.
In developing a strategy, your consultants need to clearly articulate the Efficiency Rating Metrics to be used. ERMs should drive decision making and must be incorporated into monthly reports – to demonstrate that the consultancy is doing its job and efficiency is improving.
My advice – Establish your initial efficiency rating and the best options for optimizing it. Ensure that there is an ERM update in every monthly report.
4. ABSOLUTE TRANSPARENCY
Rather than just talking about a partnership, you and your IT consultants need to establish such a partnership – one that ensures you know precisely what is to happen, why and at what cost.
This must involve the consultant documenting in plain English an agreed statement of your requirements, the options for addressing those requirements, the costs associated with each option, the strategy for implementation and the return on investment.
My advice – Ensure your consultant spell out in plain English, exactly what you need, when you need it, why you need it, how much it will cost and what it will deliver.
5. TECHNOLOGY AUDIT
It is one thing to solve an immediate problem and quite another to establish a system that eliminates inefficiency. The later requires a deep understanding of your business and technology.
The required understanding of your business and technology can only be developed by way of a technology audit. Such an audit need not be time-consuming or expensive – but it does need to be comprehensive, strategic, and objective. It is essential for developing the optimal strategy.
My advice – Once you have a preferred consultant, have them conduct a low-cost audit, report on that audit, and highlight the issues requiring attention if inefficiencies are to be eliminated.
6. DOCUMENTED STRATEGY (with upfront costings)
You would not run your business without a documented strategy and budget – and should not invest in IT without a strategy and advanced costings. This strategy should draw on the technology audit.
Addressing the agreed KPIs and incorporating the ERMs into your technology strategy should detail the action to be taken (and the rationale) over the medium to long term. This strategy must provide for the consideration of options and give you the information needed to identify your preferred option.
My advice – To maximise return on investment, ensure your consultant documents a medium to long term strategy with budgets that give you options and the capacity to choose.
7. ACTIVE COMMUNICATION
While you should not have to think about your technology so you can focus of core business, you do need be kept up to date – in plain English – on action, expenditure and progress toward the KPIs.
Consultants must schedule a briefing before drawing on the budget and an update immediately afterwards. With managed IT services – the minimum expectation should be a monthly report detailing action taken and to be taken, new issues and progress towards KPIs, and a monthly ERM.
My advice – Ensure your consultant uses plain English. Demand a schedule of communication with at the very least involves a monthly written report with a verbal briefing.
8. PURCHASING POWER
It is madness to pay more than you need to for technology. Minimising costs involves – purchasing only what you need, considering all viable options, and securing the best price on the best option.
Unfortunately, not all consultants present all of the options or have the buying power to ensure you purchase the preferred option at the best possible price. With the best intentions, there is also a common propensity to implement a belt and braces approach that attracts unnecessary costs.
My advice – Ensure that your consultants present you will all of the viable options, a clear recommendation – with rationale – and a price that reflects buying power.
Never tolerate a consultant who ‘blinds you with science’. Even the theory of relativity can be explained in plain English. Always ensure you know where your consultants are going and how much it will cost. Demand to know what progress is being made and the rationale for all expenditure. Ensure that you know the options and have the information you need to select the optimum option. I would never engage a consultant who cannot put all his or her cards on the table, ensure I know where we are going, how we will get there and how much it will cost. Nor should you.
If you want to know more, please give me a call or email me.
0488 445 044