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Only Hire Contractors with the Relevant Expertise

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Last week, I wrote about a recent study which showed IT failing in one of four SMBs. As promised, I will be sharing on some pitfalls when it comes to managing IT that you can watch out for. Hopefully, this will help you avoid missteps that can result in missed opportunities or drain badly needed finances.

 

While outsourcing is no longer as popular as it was a year back, the fact is that getting vendors to take on projects that are beyond the scope of the company's internal IT capabilities makes perfect sense. Contractors can present a fresh perspective to solving your problems and bring to the table more resources and experience than your SMB might be able to muster on its own.

 

Overpromising by contractors

 

The unfortunate fact is this: Many contractors are willing to agree to anything and everything, simply to get you to sign on the dotted line. And truth to be told, they might not even be lying to you here, and actually believe that they can deliver what they are promising. Problem is, they have never worked on a similar project, or maybe not on the scale that you are asking for.

 

When such a mismatch occurs, you can expect them to extrapolate the project cost and duration based on their (limited) experiences to date. And this might well prove to be completely wrong -- and fatal -- to the implementation of your project.

 

While not an exact comparison, I tend to think of it this way: Do you really want to go under the knife with a surgeon who is performing a particular operation for the very first time? Or would you rather pay more for someone who has the experience?

 

Obviously, there might be compelling reasons to use a particular contractor or vendor. Perhaps they sold you the accounting software that the new ERP system is to work with. In such a situation, it makes more sense to give them a slice of the action -- the accounts-ERP integration in this case -- rather than the entire ERP project. If they are not the best candidate in terms of experience or expertise, why pay them to gain it?

 

Look beyond the sales pitch

 

The simplest way to expose technically incompetent contractors is to get the input of an experienced project manager or programmer (If it's a programming project) to scrutinize the project proposal. This might entail hiring an independent consultant, or if funds are tight, getting a couple of technically competent employees who have done similar work to give their honest appraisal.

 

What you need to do is essentially look beyond the sales pitch and ROI projections into the actual technical details. And should your consultant or staffer sound an alarm, pay very close attention to what they have to say. While not foolproof, this should at least eliminate most false starts.

 

In my next blog, I'll talk more on how to ensure that projects, once started, stay on course.

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