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Choosing wisely Featured

12:37pm EDT May 31, 2002
Choosing an IT consulting firm can be as time-consuming and stressful as hiring a new employee. After all, the consultant will have access to important and sensitive information, and will be manipulating vital hardware and software.

Identifying the right IT consulting firm starts with knowing your company's needs.

"Is the company looking for extra project help or someone to upgrade the computer system?" says Carolyn Wright, owner of C.J. Wright Co. and a member of the Independent Computer Consultants Association. "The company needs to determine what its needs are."

The next step is to come up with a preliminary list of firms for consideration.

"It's very common to ask people at other companies in the same industry what IT consultants they use," says Wright. "That way they are already familiar with the industry."

Also check with your software vendors. Unless the software company also offers consulting, vendors can usually recommend reputable consultants.

After you've made a list, ask for a past-client listing from each company and check references.

"The critical question to ask is, 'Would the company hire the firm again?'" Wright says. "If the answer is no, that's not a good sign."

When meeting with potential contractors, make sure they're listening to your needs. John Kratz, president of Columbus-based Information Control Corp., says many IT consultants are more interested in applying the latest software than in solving customer needs.

"Make sure the company is really assessing your business needs," says Kratz, "instead of offering the latest technical solution. The business's needs should drive the technology and not the other way around."

Kratz also says it's important to check references thoroughly.

"A lot of firms are all smoke and mirrors," he says. "You want to make sure the company has a successful track record, and the best way to see that is with an inventory of satisfied customers." How to reach: C.J. Wright Co., (937) 885-1175; Information Control Corp., (614) 523-3070 or www.icc-net.com