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Hiring a Consultant F.A.Q.

Q: Why hire a consultant?
A: With many clients under their belts, consultants can provide you with advice based on their experiences with others who've implemented the services in which you are interested. All the manuals and reference materials in the world won't truly give you an understanding of how a system will work for your firm. Long-term, firsthand knowledge is best.

Q: Why is there such a wide range of costs for computer consultants?
A: Many factors influence computer consultant rates. These include:
  • Experience
  • Skill level
  • Education
  • Consultant's organization and associated overhead
  • Areas of specialization
  • Self-perception of the consultant
  • Business sense of the consultant
  • Market factors
Q: Most of the consultants I talk with "sound" like they know what they are doing. How do I select which consultant or firm to use?
A: Computer jargon can make many non-experts and pseudo-experts sound knowledgeable. However, to provide efficient and effective assistance to businesses, computer consultants MUST also be able to communicate well with clients of all backgrounds. Many projects fail due to poor communications, so look for consultants that you can understand and that understands you.

Q: Why should I even consider a computer consultant instead of just hiring a computer expert?
A: Consultants can often make the best choice when:
  • Very specialized skills are needed and are difficult to find in affordable employees
  • The expense of hiring a new employee can be up to an additional 40% of the employee's annual salary
  • The consultant has resources that employees typically do not have available
  • Employees are often pulled from projects to help in other areas, making it difficult to complete projects efficiently
  • The project has a known life-span and layoffs are undesirable
   In addition, the cost of training, supporting, paying taxes and benefits for a new employee can be up to an additional 60% of the employees annual salary. When these often hidden costs are considered, consultants are often cost-effective too.

Q: Once I choose a computer consultant for my project, can I just turn the project over to the consultant and forget it until it is finished?
A: While you can do this, it is not suggested. Computer projects typically involve automating a business task or developing a product for your business. Your expertise (or your employees') about your business can speed many development issues and provide quick resolution to any problems that may occur.

Q: Why would in-house technical staff resist help from knowledgeable computer consultants?
A: There are almost infinite reasons - some of which are important and others which are counter-productive. Several of the most common reasons are:
  • Lack of confidence in the consultant's ability, skills, experience or integrity
  • Previous bad experience with consultants
  • Concern that the use of out-of-house experts would make it appear that the in-house staff is not capable or is inefficient
  • Office politics
  • Resentment that funds spent on consultants is not spent on the in-house staff
  • Frustration that the consultant was selected without the input or approval of the in-house staff
Q: Why are there so many tales of custom computer projects that went way over budget?
A: Just like many non-computer projects, the reasons can vary. However, some of the most common causes are:
  • Lack of understanding by some or all parties about the amount of work involved (before and/or during the project)
  • Unrealistically low project bids that were the result of miscalculations or attempts to "just get the work"
  • Poorly defined project specifications or constantly changing specifications
  • Failure of management to ensure that non-project employees are responsive to the needs of the project development staff
Q: If a consultant knows how to install and configure a software program, then shouldn't they be experts how to use that program and train users?
A: Not necessarily. Many computer consultants are proficient in Microsoft Word or Excel but that doesn’t make them Microsoft Certified Specialists (MCS) in the same way they don't become CPA's or Graphic Designers by just installing and configuring QuickBooks or Adobe Photoshop.

   While each of these questions could be discussed at great length, the information presented here can be an excellent starting point for dealing with these important issues.

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