Author: Nicole Brinson
7 Questions to Ask a Technology Consultant
Whether you have a sizable internal IT team or not, there are situations in which an outside IT consultant or firm is needed.
Of course, consulting is a subjective field. There are no hard metrics by which IT firms are measured to determine if they have the experience, expertise, and vertical-specific background needed to support your business. You have to ask the right questions and vet the response to those questions in the context of your needs.
There are easy questions that should be part of every interview:
- What certifications and accreditations do you have?
- Are you vendor-authorized for the hardware/software you’ll be working on?
- How big is your staff and can you scale to meet our needs if they change?
- What are your payment terms and how are future changes handled?
But there are also more in-depth questions that help to root out the fundamentals. Does the consultant understand your business? Are they passionate about what they do? Can they become a truly strategic partner to help improve your operations?
Let’s take a closer look at 7 such questions and how to ask them in a way that helps make the right decision for your company.
What Brought You to This Industry?
There are two things you want to know based on this question.
- Does the consultant have a keen understanding of what makes your industry different from others? Are they a specialist in finance, healthcare or software? Or are they a generalist attempting to hone in on a more lucrative field?
- Are they legitimately passionate about what you do? Beyond domain expertise, do they have a passion for improving operations and providing support in your industry? If so, why?
What Impact Will Technology Have on Our Industry in the Next 5-10 years?
This may seem unrelated to why you’re interviewing a consultant, but it’s a great way to measure the depth of their knowledge in the industry. If this is someone truly immersed in all things IT, they should not only have insights about the next wave of software systems and hardware evolutions that will impact the industry but also opinions on what will have the greatest impact and why.
Look for a detailed response that shows a more comprehensive understanding of the impact that technology has on your industry, the current crop of emerging technologies, and what all these changes might mean for your organization.
Can You Describe and Show Documentation for Your Primary Processes?
This is a tricky question because many consultants are hesitant to answer it. While confidentiality for specific project details should be expected, an experienced consultant should have sample documentation available to show prospective clients and should be able to clearly articulate processes in an interview.
Ask about situation review, problem analysis and how they establish recommended solutions for their clients. This doesn’t have to be specific to your business, but the answers should show both a wealth of experience and comfort with discussing it.
What Role Do You See IT Playing in an Evolving Company Like Ours?
This is an open-ended question for which there is no correct answer, but it can help you better understand how they approach their work.
An effective consultant is more than just a “doer”. They are a strategic partner who can help envision the role of technology in your organization to meet overarching long-term goals. They should be proactive and willing to explore what IT can do to reduce costs, improve operations, and meet your organizational goals.
This type of question can help you separate those that do from those that plan and do.
What Support Can You Offer in Training Our Staff?
Implementation is a vastly different process from training and documentation. Does your prospective consultant have the experience, bandwidth, and manpower to support user onboarding and provide technical support as employees get up to speed?
This might involve a high level of training and support for your internal IT resources, or it could lead to a longer-term engagement supporting users on entirely new systems. It’s best to know now what your options are.
How Do You Handle Relationships with Internal Staff?
A seasoned consultant should be experienced in working with internal staff and navigating the oftentimes dangerous waters of being an outsider. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are good at it, however.
While it is difficult to fully gauge how someone will interact with your employees, asking for examples of how a consultant deals with existing staff can be helpful in determining how they will integrate with your team.
What Experience Do You Have Dealing with Our Unique Compliance Issues?
This is especially important in healthcare, finance, and other highly regulated industries, and it goes beyond the initial questions around their experience. Get into the weeds a bit and look for answers that are specific to compliance issues you regularly deal with.
HIPAA or MIPS in healthcare. Cybersecurity regulations in the US banking industry. Domestic and overseas privacy regulations impacting companies that collect and store user information.
The answers to these questions should be detailed and specific.
The Importance of Choosing a Consultant that Matches Your Business Needs
Regardless of skill, there are key differentiators around subject matter expertise in individual industries, technologies, training, and more. That’s why it is so important to ask a prospective consultant detailed questions and weigh the answers against the needs of your company.
Whether you’re preparing to integrate a new platform into your organization, are evaluating new network options, or are interested in learning more about the benefits of a partner dedicating to help you solve complex business problems, reach out to learn more.