Information technology (IT) has taken root in the deepest parts of many industries. Whether they’re running a burger shop or a beauty care store, people will find themselves working with computer systems soon enough. If an apparel store wants to do email marketing, for instance, they’ll have to build a database of prospects’ email addresses, and this requires considerable IT knowledge.
As a response to this need, many businesses look for IT consulting services, mainly from reliable agencies such as ntiva.com. Naturally, this has resulted in a higher demand for IT consultants, and while that’s indeed good news, there’s a downside to it.
While it may up the demand for IT consultants, it would also mean that younger talents will set their eyes on the position, thus making the competition a lot tighter than it is now. So before the industry brims with members of the younger generation, you might want to start honing your skills so you don’t get lost in all that noise. What better way to do just that than by reviewing practical IT consulting techniques?
Prepare For Interviews
Rarely would a company hire the first IT consultant that applies for the job. There will be a process, and often it involves interviews. Sometimes, the interviewer will be the human resources (HR) representative of the company alone, but other times it’ll involve interviews with each high-authority member of the organization.
Either way, if you want to make a lasting impression, you have to know how to approach interviews, or more precisely, how you’ll answer the interviewers’ questions. To help you with that, here’s a compilation of the most likely topics that interviewers may raise and some observations they might make during an interview:
- They may indicate a problem and ask how you would solve it.
- They may ask about your competencies.
- They may monitor what kinds of questions you raise during the interview.
- They may take note of how well you listen to what they say.
- They may observe your personality throughout the interview.
However, remember that each individual has their own perspective. A company’s representative may think you’re fit for the job according to your answers, while other representatives may not. With that said, you might want to consider researching the company’s values and beliefs. That way, you can align your answers to what they want to hear.
But before anything else, you have to remember that before you get an interview, you need to catch their attention first, and you can accomplish that by showing them your qualifications.
Acquire Suitable Credentials
One of the first things prospective clients check is the consultant’s knowledge of particular technologies and services. As such, you need to build your portfolio by acquiring relevant credentials and certifications. Examples of the most in-demand IT certifications recently that may help seal the deal with prospective clients include:
- Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
- Certified Information Security Manager
- Certified Information Systems Auditor
Although credentials would indeed help you get the position, you should also remember that your certifications should be relevant to the company. Even if you’re a certified Microsoft Azure professional, that won’t mean a thing if the company’s cloud system is Amazon Web Services.
On the other hand, if the employer doesn’t think your certifications will help with the role they’re offering but you think they will, you must be upfront about this and help them understand how your credentials make you an ideal fit for the job. In other words, after acquiring relevant certifications, you must also show their value to your prospective clients.
Focus On One Industry
People would often tell you to broaden your horizons by entering one industry after another. As a result, many IT consultants tend to work in multiple industries, but that might not be the best approach to IT consulting. After all, often the first question of prospective clients to IT consultants has to do with the extent of their experience in the industry.
If you’re applying as an IT consultant for a construction company, for example, they’d be glad to take in someone who’s been working in the construction sector for quite some time. Saying that you don’t specialize in their industry might make them think twice about hiring you.
With that said, if you want to land more IT consulting assignments, consider focusing on only one industry, at least when you’re starting out.
Besides, if you were to specialize in a particular sector, people will recognize you better. For instance, if you only work for construction companies for the first three years of your IT consulting career, you may end up being deemed a construction IT expert, and that would be a significant milestone.
Set Up Project Milestones
Speaking of milestones, you should also consider setting up some for projects you’re assigned to. Project milestones are like checkpoints that mark a momentous occasion that occurred during a project’s life span. For example, if a company launches a mobile application, once they reach one million downloads, they can think of that as a milestone.
What makes milestones so important is that they provide a sense of achievement to a team. Moreover, they help stakeholders track the project’s progress, allowing them to stay updated on where the project currently stands.
For that reason, if you’re working as an IT consultant for a particular company, it’s a good idea to set up project milestones. That way, whenever you reach one, they can clearly see whether they made the right call in hiring you for the job.
Work On Your Consulting Agreement
If you’re working for an agency, then you’ve probably never concerned yourself with vexing matters such as contracts. But if you’re working independently, you’re probably already aware that when sealing the deal with prospective clients, you need to write up an agreement.
The agreement would mostly talk about how you’ll work for their company as an IT consultant. It’s pretty crucial because it prevents misunderstandings that may stem from the lack of information. For instance, if the client doesn’t know the deliverables you must provide, how will they know if you’re doing your job correctly? On that note, a consulting agreement may involve the following details:
- Deliverables: One of the essential details you must include in the agreement is the deliverables, which are often tangible objects. Examples include reports, documentation, or a written summary of your consulting advice.
- Time Frame: You must also indicate when you’ll start working and when you’ll finish. The time frame may decide whether you get paid or not.
- Payment: As for the payment terms, you need the client to understand how much you’re charging them and the due date for the payment. You should also explain how you want to approach this matter, whether you prefer a fixed fee, an upfront deposit, or an hourly rate.
- Intellectual Property: More often than not, you’ll end up using your intellectual property when delivering your services. Perhaps you have your own software to help with IT consulting. If that’s the case, you need to include that in the agreement.
- Dispute Resolution: During the entire IT consulting process, there will be times when you’ll end up in a conflict against the client or anyone who’s involved in the project. To prepare for such an event, you need to include in the agreement how you’ll resolve such disputes, like how the mediation will go and who the mediator will be.
- Termination: Lastly, you and the client must agree on how you’ll deal with termination if ever the need for it arises. This part of the agreement may explain whether either party can cancel the services and what’s required of them to be able to do so.
Your consulting agreement is what governs your relationship with your clients. If it’s not adequately consolidated and validated, there’s a good chance there’ll be some misunderstandings. It also helps minimize problems down the line and ensures that you get paid no matter what.
Consider The Company’s Size
Ask any consultant for tips, and they’ll always include one thing: understand your client’s business. In your case, understanding the client’s business means analyzing their IT structure. By doing so, you can figure out what needs to be changed and what needs to be retained.
One of the IT consulting best practices involves checking the size of the company. Here’s a closer look at what that means:
- Small: If the company consists of fewer than 25 employees, each employee usually performs multiple tasks. Most of the time, the employee with the highest technical aptitude will have more tasks assigned to them. Small businesses are also more likely to hire a managed service provider (MSP) for complex IT tasks.
- Medium: If the company consists of 25-75 employees, some employees may only focus on a specific task, but there’ll be some IT staff members who provide support for other business operations. Medium businesses aren’t so different from small businesses in that both will benefit from MSPs.
- Large: Finally, if the company has more than 75 employees, chances are they have trusted contractors handling different operations. Furthermore, since the business is continually growing, you’ll end up with more work than usual.
In the case of small- and medium-sized businesses, you’ll usually find yourself alongside managed service providers. With large-sized enterprises, you’ll spend the majority of your time advising your client on how to deal with their IT contractors. Regardless, depending on the size of the company, your responsibilities may also differ.
Ensure Meetings Are Efficient
When you’re working with companies as an IT consultant, you’re likely to spend a great deal of your time in video conferences and meetings. Sometimes, you’ll be the participant, while other times you’ll be the planner. Regardless, an IT consultant must always aim to make meetings efficient, especially if the discussion involves the information technology sector. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Make sure only the people who are most likely to have essential input are involved.
- Set a clear agenda for the key discussion points and inform the participants afterward.
- Stick to the agenda you’ve set throughout the entire meeting.
- Follow up with the other participants a few minutes before the meeting.
As you work with more and more clients, you’ll come to understand that many companies tend to overlook the importance of meetings. If you want to help a company improve, then meetings would be an excellent place to start. But that might not be possible if there are no proper communication lines within the workplace, so you also have to keep tabs on that.
Encourage Open Communication
When it comes to consulting, communication is of utmost importance. Most of the time, your clients will have limited time, so you have to know how to communicate efficiently.
Furthermore, when clients hire IT consultants, they expect them to have good communication skills. If you don’t have those, then you’re only setting yourself up to fail. Take note, however, that communication isn’t something you can establish within a company overnight. What you can do is take small steps and start by establishing open communication.
For instance, if there’s a setback, don’t be afraid to tell them. If things aren’t going as expected, inform them as well. They’ll appreciate your honest and objective reports at the end of the day.
Help Your Client Acquire Long-Term Skills
Clients often hire IT consultants hoping you’ll do everything they want you to do. If they’re struggling with their networks, they expect you to figure it out for them. If their cloud system is encountering an issue, they probably hired you to monitor it for them.
However, what companies usually need isn’t an immediate fix but long-term skills, especially when they’re a small-sized business.
On that note, if you genuinely want to help your clients, you can start by educating them or their team and sharing your knowledge with them, at least until they acquire long-term IT skills. Don’t be the type to withhold information just so they end up spending more on you. Think of it as leaving a lasting impact on the company so when they end up in trouble, you’ll be the first one they’ll call.
If you want to be a successful IT consultant, there are factors you need to take into consideration: yourself and your clients. To be precise, you need to help your clients to the best of your abilities while helping yourself further your career. If you can do that, then you shouldn’t have any problems. These tips should be more than enough to help you in that area.