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How to manage IT in a growing business: Using consultants

Jonathan McCormick, COO, Intermedia | April 12, 2016
Part 1 of a 3-part series on how IT matures as companies grow

The advantage of having multiple employees with basic builds on the same domain is consistency. This enables businesses to control policies and manage system updates. For example, when a company standardizes on equipment and services, the business can determine when updates get applied to the systems, helping to ensure that employees have the best and latest versions of the tools needed to succeed in their jobs.

Evaluating an IT consultant

An IT consultant should possess a skillset that is fine-tuned to address a company’s specific needs, based on its size and projected growth. When a business is evaluating bringing on an IT consultant, the team should first consider the tasks that the consultant will be responsible for completing. As an early stage startup, Joe’s Widget Shop wants its first IT consultant to specialize in setting up and managing local networks, administering Active Directory and handling laptop and desktop builds and issues. This is because Joe plans for all other tools to be consumed as a cloud service.

Effectively articulating these technology needs in terms that resonate with business leaders is another trait Joe is looking to identify in candidates. An IT consultant should be able to clearly communicate, to both technical and non-technical users, the progress and status of their IT systems.

Identifying when internal IT makes sense

The need for an IT consultant can vary depending on the type of business. For example, a less technical company without IT management skills may see more value in making the hire earlier on because its own employees aren’t as tech-savvy. As such, an IT consultant should be able to effectively communicate to both technical and non-technical users.

Joe’s rule of thumb is that there should generally be one IT consultant for every 50 to 70 employees. But an accounting firm of only 15 people may still need to hire an internal IT consultant because they are hoping to have a technical person around at all times.

Once a company reaches between 50 to 70 employees, there should be enough of a workload for a business to consider hiring a full-time IT consultant, as opposed to contracting one. When making this decision, Joe is looking into whether or not the consultant is consistently working eight hours a day. If so, then he plans to bring someone on board full time.

Driving successful IT initiatives

The IT hiring process should be taken very seriously, as it will determine whether the company’s IT initiatives will be carried out successfully. As part of this step, businesses should also begin thinking about appointing a CIO sooner, rather than later. Companies should look to hire veracious IT consultants that understand the complexity of the technology and have the knowledge and skillset to make all of these systems work together.

In the next article, I will discuss the importance of the CIO and what important qualities to look for in the hiring process.


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