The IT Agenda: Consultants: Make IT Services a Custom Fit

The value of consulting lies in the customization of deliverables. Here are some tips and tricks to fine-tune that plan of action.

February 25, 2005

3 Min Read
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Tailored IT

Let's say your IT organization provides excellent engineering and support services, and you're pushing out new technology like there's no tomorrow--everybody's propellers are a-whirlin'. What's more, your team's collective compensation for any given project costs the company half the amount a consultant would charge--maybe even less. So how do you explain why managers and users seem less and less appreciative of your efforts--or why you're hearing rumors that the company may outsource some of your proposed projects?

Chances are you're not tailoring your technology rollouts and support services to your users' needs, so the benefits of your hard work are being taken for granted. The good news: It just takes a little fine-tuning to solve the problem.

• Get input. You don't need business managers and users involved in basic tactical decisions, like which print server to make your standard or what kind of PC to lease, but decisions about strategic initiatives that affect most or all users benefit from their input--for example, is an ERP system a worthwhile investment for the company, or is it time to implement voice over IP? Explain the technology under consideration in lay terms, and encourage users to weigh in. By addressing their concerns, you'll build goodwill and minimize resistance.

• Keep the customer satisfied. When it comes to the helpdesk and other services that demand one-on-one interaction between IT staff and business users, be sure it's clear that the users are your top priority--you're there to serve them, not to wank around with the gadget of the week. And give users choices--if you're planning some downtime for nonurgent maintenance, ask what day and time would interfere least with their work. You may not always be able to accommodate them, but at least they'll know you tried.• Be proactive. Prevent fires by combining best practices with clear, open communication. (For more, see "Attention to Prevention,", and "IT Best Practices,".) If a raging inferno does break out, put it out promptly.

• Get more feedback. Don't stop asking for input just because a project is under way or a support system is in place--there's always time for tweaks. And use whatever method you think will work best to gather feedback in your particular corporate culture.

If your users are high-tech, set up an intranet that sends them periodic e-mail messages and automatically presents their feedback on a Web page where they can see the results as quickly as you can. If they're decidedly low-tech, stick with the ol' pencil and paper, or the telephone. Also, have people zero in on specific aspects of a project--"Rate how quickly the helpdesk responded to your most recent call"--and share your findings, even informally.

And if you're deluged with positive feedback, make it known to the powers that be. After all, isn't that what a consultant would do?

Jonathan Feldman is director of information services for the city of Asheville, N.C., and a contributing editor to Network Computing. Previously, he was director of professional services at Entre Solutions, an infrastructure consulting company based in Savannah, Ga. Write to him at [email protected].0

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