Consultancy

Would you like someone with wide ranging experience of working with a huge range of clients from stock exchanges to one person businesses advise you on how to make the test of your IT? Someone to help understand the business opportunities and risks, or to understand the implications of choices you make?

Even massive companies hire consultants to help with these decisions, despite having in-house expertise. It is not just about understanding technology (you may have IT people who can do that). It is about understanding business too. That is what I am here to do for SMEs and micro-businesses. I can stop you making expensive mistakes, I can point our opportunities you may have missed.

For a longer term relationship I can act as a virtual CTO for companies without in-house expertise. Many SMEs have IT support in-house but have no-one with experience of projects that bring significant change, or of custom development, etc. Smaller businesses sometimes have neither.

Free initial consultation.

Unbiased advice

You can probably get free advice from contractors, employees or those interested in your business. What I offer is advice that is unbiased because you pay for it separately. I do not need to make a sale of development services to make a profit.

Take the simple example of choosing a technology platform for your website. Very often people choose the contractor or agency who is doing it first, and then leave the choice of platform up to them. This means that they will inevitably use their favourite platform. We will start by advising you of the pros and cons of different types of technology: the common choices are hosted platforms, CMSs, and entirely custom sites. Then you are better equipped to look or the contractor with the right skills.

Benefits

The answer is that I have spent years working with a huge variety of organizations and systems figuring out time after time what the best solution is. I will consider a wide range of issues, business as well as technical. For example, most people do not consider things like lock-in (how hard it will be to switch to something else later). Many organizations have found themselves with a sub-optimal product or service, but also find it too expensive or difficult to move from it: the problem could be the difficulty of moving data (because its not in vendor's interest to make it easy!), or it might be retraining, or it might be delayed by a contract.

Take the simple example of setting up a website. Many people start by finding someone to do the work, agree that they should do the work, and let them advise on what should be done. This is a bad idea for two reasons. Firstly, You are deciding who should do the work, before you know what skills are needed. Secondly, people will be biased towards using what they are most comfortable with.

A designer will tell you design is critical, a Wordpress developer will tell you that Wordpress is the best solution for you, and so on. People with a more limited viewpoint will also tend to miss opportunities in terms of what is possible.

What you actually need is unbiased advice from the start, from someone who can understand what your business needs.

There are also business aspects to this. For example, it might be a technically a perfectly acceptable solution to get backups for hosting or SaaS (cloud software) from the provider of the main service - but where does that leave you if there is a payment dispute, or you get wrongly identified as a spammer and you account is canceled? What if a disgruntled employee with access to your account deletes the backups along with the main data?

A more generic mistake is to fail to distinguish between costs and investments. Some IT spending is just an operational cost you want to minimise, some will give you a return and you need to think about RoI, not just money going out.

Another very common mistake is to fail to spot opportunities. You might not realise that you have come to the point when your business should be using a CRM Perhaps you can save time and money by replacing a manual process with an automated one but do not realise it can be automated.

There are a hundred issues like this to think about, but its not all just problems.

I do not know every single technology you might use, but I know enough to tell you when you need to seek more specialist advice in a particular area. I can also ensure you decision process is good: that you consider everything.

I will also find opportunities to reduce costs and to improve your business.