Commonly when we speak to business owners they question why they need IT consulting services – surely IT is just a matter of installing a network, plugging in a computer and working away. In actuality, it could be that simple. Or maybe not.
In essence, IT consulting services reveal opportunities and threats in a business that can be addressed using IT services.
Take for example a common threat – loss of data. Loss of data can come about from a virus or through hardware malfunction. The way in which we manage these threats vary. Viruses can be countered using virus software, while hardware malfunction can be addressed with data back-ups and hardware contingencies, such as off-site servers.
Traditional IT Consulting Services
IT consulting plays an important role in addressing the traditional role IT plays in a business, such as hardware selection and installation, software choice and management and server and network suggestions.
An IT consultant should be well rounded in current IT hardware and software trends and should be able to source these at favourable rates, when compared to an off-the-shelf retail purchase. This is especially true when you are reviewing your businesses entire IT system.
IT consulting therefore plays an important role in managing your IT costs. Without appropriate consideration for the bottom line, IT can have a big impact on your businesses profitability and cash flow.
While an IT consultant in industry probably wouldn’t consider these services as ancillary, they are not services that often come to mind when people consider what an IT consultant does.
When employing IT consulting services it is important for businesses to understand that IT covers a wide range of data management services, including communications. Because our communications are widely distributed online these days, IT consultants can provide a wide range of solutions that are both cost effective and highly efficient. Voice of Internet Protocol or VoIP is one common ‘non-traditional’ IT service that falls into the communications grey area.
A more obvious communications strategy is the integration of a network across geographic locations and mobile devices. Technology allows for business to maintain 24/7 access to data globally, wherever an internet connection is accessible.
IT Databases, Software and Business Efficiency
In considering IT opportunities, a business should consider the benefits of integrating their IT infrastructure into their business processes. For example, a business with multiple sales people should have a sales management and reporting program. This allows top level management to follow sales and productivity, while potentially giving the sales team valuable information that improves their performance.
A fully integrated IT Infrastructure environment could consolidate all emails into the businesses Customer Management System (CMS), ensuring valuable information was never lost. Customer orders could also be recorded into a business dashboard that could show, in real time, the number and value of sales and customers. The CMS could also be mobile enabled, so that while on the road the sales team can easily access contact details, customer history and preferences etc. Further, when the customer pays for a product, the invoice could then be automatically referred to the accounting department or entered into accounting software for monthly reconciliation.
This is a common example of how IT can be implemented into a businesses to improve business functions.
IT consulting services should be considered as a driver of profit for your business. This can be achieved in three ways.
- Pricing Model: IT consulting services can be charged on either a monthly fixed fee, ad-hoc service fee or combination of the two. This allows business to know what their regular IT maintenance fees will be and allow for additional upgrades to be charged on an as needed basis.
- Shifting Risk away from your business: IT consulting is about identifying the risks in your businesses IT infrastructure. Risk comes in many forms when considering a businesses IT infrastructure. Data loss, Hardware and Software redundancy and high cost of maintenance and repairs are all potential IT risks. These risks can be shifted away from the business or managed by the business, based on a number of strategic decisions suggested by an IT consultant.
- ROI on IT: Through the right advice IT consulting can improve a businesses ROI. Easily quantifiable ROI can be seen when an IT consultant sources lower priced hardware/software, that performs just as well or better than competitors. Harder to quantify, but potentially more valuable, is the efficiency improvement IT can make in your business processes.
Ultimately, what you pay an IT consultant should be repaid in IT savings and improved business efficiency and most importantly, profit.
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