There are two perspectives of information technology (IT) that small businesses can consider for incorporation into their organization.
Strategic IT involves the use of IT to improve efficiency, create opportunities, and interact with customers and vendors.
On the other hand, operational IT refers to the use of IT to support the various functions of businesses, as through accounting software, email systems, and electronic file storage. Organizations may need the services of IT consulting firms if they cannot maintain IT staff in-house.
IT as an Operational Tool
Organizations may require the implementation of new IT capabilities to remain relevant in a competitive environment. Most businesses already have basic online capabilities and reach. This includes, for instance, a company website with information on products and services offered.
Businesses can approach the need for a website with an operational IT perspective. This is likely to involve a quick and efficient determination of information that should be on a website. However, a strategic approach looks beyond these basic capacities to the potential benefits a website can bring to a company. In a sense, strategic IT involves the recognition that a company needs more than just a website to differentiate itself from competitors and attract and retain customers.
Unfortunately, however, small businesses may not have the resources to employ internal IT staff for strategic IT. Existing staff may not be prepared with the skills to bring the organization into a more advanced sphere of technology.
IT Consulting Services
Information technology consultants are valuable assets for businesses without adequate IT management talent. They can provide support in identifying the needs of a business, finding service providers, giving advice on selecting a provider, and planning and managing a project. Smaller businesses can employ skills beyond those present from their in-house team on a temporary basis.
Businesses may decide to talk to service providers directly and without additional input or support from consultants as this is a way for them to reduce expenses. They may decide consultants are unnecessary with quality service providers gathering relevant requirements and taking charge of an entire project.
However, while service providers and consultants have relatively similar roles, they are completely different in terms of perspective and interest. A service provider is interested in the operations of their own business. As a result, they could drive up the costs of a project unnecessarily or return solutions not up to standards and project objectives. Service providers also have their own vision and perspective on how things should work with less consideration on how a particular solution can impact the business.
On the other hand, consultants look out for the best interests of the organization. Essentially, their goal is to ensure the service provider delivers the client’s needs at an appropriate level of cost.
A successful IT consultant is business savvy, has the ability to translate business needs into technical requirements, and possesses vendor assessment capabilities and project management skills. Consulting services allow organizations to maintain and improve IT infrastructure while being able to focus on other areas of their business.