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For far too many businesses, IT strategy is more buzzword than reality: they find themselves putting out fires, jumping from crisis to crisis. Equipment upgrades are reactive rather than proactive, just staying ahead of the curve of obsolescence or failure. IT is seen as a tool to get business done, not a true strategic priority.

But the truth is, building an effective IT strategy is difficult. It requires a level of both IT and organisational experience that is hard to come by. And the internal resources best suited to do this work at your business? They’re already overloaded with their normal day-to-day responsibilities.

For these and other reasons, many organisations looking for a stronger IT strategy turn to IT consulting firms to assist.

As an IT manager, evaluating and choosing the right IT consulting firm can be tricky. This guide will show you how to narrow the field and select the best firm for your business’s needs.

What does an IT Consulting firm do?

An IT consulting firm evaluates the IT assets and infrastructure of client companies, either in whole or in part, and advises on ways to improve the use of or functionality of those IT resources as to how they enable the realisation of the business strategy. IT consulting is one component of IT professional services and typically includes a focus on high-level IT strategy. IT consulting usually involves higher-level skills and thus requires expertise and experience that goes beyond the basics.

IT challenges for a typical business

The typical ANZ business (from Sydney to Melbourne to Auckland) faces numerous IT challenges, including many of these:

Fragmented systems
Information silos
Resource bottlenecks
Capacity constraints
Modernising legacy technology
Digital transformation
Broken or poorly documented processes
Lack of agility

And many more IT challenges could surely be added to the list.

These challenges are a primary driver behind why you may choose to begin outsourcing your business.

In whole or in part: outsourcing your IT helpdesk may alleviate capacity constraints and ease some bottlenecks, for example. But some of the above challenges may be easily solved by bringing in the right outside consulting perspective.

Benefits of hiring an IT consulting firm for your business

Chances are, you already have an in-house IT department or a managed IT partner (or a combination of the two) covering your day-to-day IT operations. Why bring on an IT consulting firm in addition? Because doing so delivers benefits such as the following;

Gain a high-level perspective

The people doing the day-to-day IT work are busy doing that work, and it can be difficult for those same personnel to step back and see the big-picture strategy. For that matter, the professionals skilled in executing day-to-day operations may not be particularly well suited to form that big-picture strategy.

Bringing in an IT consulting firm means accessing a group of highly skilled professionals that are not burdened by the day-to-day. They can focus exclusively on your broader IT strategy and remain free from distraction.

Improve efficiency

When you set a stronger or more cohesive long-term strategy and refine your existing processes to support that strategy, you will also improve efficiency throughout your IT estate. Organisations can achieve more when all systems, software, and resources are pulling together toward a singular strategy than when systems are bolted together piecemeal based on the crisis of the moment.

Follow industry best practices

In today’s environment, IT evolves rapidly. “You don’t know what you don’t know” has never been truer. Even more dangerous is when an organisation doesn’t know that it doesn’t know. Ignorance about industry best practices or current developments in IT can quickly set a business behind compared to its competition. IT consultants deliver expert advice related to best practices in information technology as well as the latest digital transformation developments. In this way, your IT strategy partner fills in those gaps, showing you what you don’t know and educating your team on those points.

Resolve dysfunction or bottlenecks

IT can grow astoundingly complex as an organisation scales. Both broad dysfunction and localised bottlenecks commonly result from growth, but they also threaten to slow or halt that growth. IT consulting partners bring the clarity that your internal team may be missing, helping you isolate and resolve any growth inhibitors.

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What to look for when evaluating IT Consulting firms

It won’t take much research to find that there are all sorts of IT consulting firms out there, from small boutique operations to larger firms like Canon Business Services. As you narrow your search, look for an IT consultant that meets the following criteria;

Looks to align IT strategy with business vision and goals

Perhaps above all, look for an IT consulting firm that is truly collaborative and consultative. Some “consulting” firms are light on the consulting, instead seeking to apply their generic IT strategy to as many clients as possible with as little customisation as possible.

Instead, look for a firm that will take the time to truly understand your business vision and its goals. Only then can a consultant craft a customised IT strategy that actually achieves those goals.

Curious and asks questions

One way to suss out which type of consultant you’re dealing with is by evaluating their sales and onboarding process — specifically how curious they seem during those early stages. Do they ask questions that show they want to truly understand your business needs, or are they the ones doing all the talking, telling you how their innovative or breakthrough approach is the best?

Breadth and depth of technical knowledge

IT consultants may deal in high-level strategy, but they still need a deep understanding of the technical systems they’re advising on. Consulting firms should be both broad and deep in their knowledge. The more specialised your business is, the more that depth matters. IT systems in healthcare and, say, automotive manufacturing may look quite different, and so would the technical depth of skills needed for each.

Excellent communication skills

What is strategy if not communication? A strategy cannot exist unless it exists in words, so look for a consultant that can communicate clearly, authoritatively, and effectively in the context of your business and its IT needs.

Flexibility in a team environment

Look for an IT consulting firm that’s as flexible as you are. Investigate whether they have the ability to work onsite, offsite, independently, and alongside your team.

Strong project management skills

Project management skills may seem like a surprising entry on this list, but an IT consulting firm engages in its own initiatives that could rightly be called projects. Your business needs to have clear documentation of those projects as well as any outcomes, which means your IT consulting firm needs to speak the language of project management.

Additionally, documenting the life cycles of projects and project issues may be within the scope of work consultancies and advisor services are asked to complete.

Strong case studies and testimonials

If you’re looking for experts with significant experience, then you’ll also want to see evidence of that experience. There is such a thing as a good brand-new consultant, but you’ll rarely find a poor one that stays in business for multiple decades.

If a firm claims to be an experienced expert consultant, they should have the case studies and testimonials to back up those claims.

Provides IT support beyond the project

Even better than a consultant that rolls in, solves a problem, and rolls out is a consultant that can support your IT needs for the long haul. Some consultancies offer consulting services and nothing more, while other firms offer a broader range of services. For example, once you set the strategy and solve the process problems your IT team was facing, you may want help maintaining those gains on a day-to-day basis. A firm that offers both IT consulting and IT managed services can provide support on both fronts.

Does my business really need an IT consulting firm?

Organisations that are looking to optimise, innovate and transform their IT operations need an IT consulting firm to achieve those goals.

Additionally, if your business falls into one or more of these categories, then consider partnering with an IT consulting firm to navigate the changes to come.

In the midst of digital transformation
In need of digital transformation
Experiencing marked or rapid growth
Hampered by IT dysfunction or system limitations
Constantly putting out fires

In other words, if your organisation needs help it cannot source internally — from strategy to systems design and implementation to high-level decision-making — then you need an IT consulting firm.

CBS IT Consulting Solutions

If your business is in need of IT consulting solutions, you require a proven partner you can rely on to understand your concerns and challenges, build a strategy to meet them, and then execute and maintain that strategy over the long haul.

With more than two decades in the field of IT professional services, CBS has the breadth and scope to offer comprehensive IT consulting solutions, along with a broader range of services including IT support services, IT help desk, and a full suite of IT professional services.

When you’re ready to access our team of expert consultants, we’re here for you.

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