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Eyes on Tech: The Technology Consulting Process

By August 13, 2018Consulting
Technology Consulting

We frequently consult with prospective clients and long-term clients about the state of their current technology and their needs for the future. We’ve talked about the importance of assessments before, and technology consulting does involve assessments – but there are other steps.

At OXEN, we value listening to our clients. As an IT provider, it could be overly easy for us to recommend all the latest hardware, the most innovative solutions, and every cool device that’s currently on the market. That would be a huge mistake though. Every organization has a custom set of technological needs: IT infrastructure has to be the right size. The key is communication. We have to listen to what business leaders, IT directors, and staff have to say about what they really need.

In fact, OXEN consultants frequently discover that we’re in a position to help organizations downsize and consolidate their technology. Oftentimes when a client switches providers and asks us to come in and survey their infrastructure, we discover that they have far more physical servers than they really need or that a new solution could replace and downsize a large portion of their network. Of course we love being able to recommend cost-saving changes to our clients! (Who wouldn’t?) But that’s not all that technology consulting is about.

What are the steps of a technology consultation? Here’s how we do it at OXEN Technology.

Step 1: The Discovery Meeting

We love to meet people face-to-face when possible, though our first discovery meetings are sometimes conference calls.

In this discovery meeting, we ask about current use and pain points:

  • How is technology used in your business today?
  • What software do you currently use, and how is it supported?
  • What problems have been troubling you with your network?
  • Are employees supported or hindered by existing technology?

And, crucially, we ask about the future:

  • How quickly is your organization growing?
  • Is your technology keeping pace with growth?
  • Do you have any plans or goals for new technology?

Things we might learn in this stage are the big brush strokes:

Our network worked well for years when we had a single office, but when we expanded to multiple locations, we started to have issues. We have an IT person on staff, who spends a lot of time at each location helping people. Many of our workstations are old computers, and we’re worried about cyberattacks and ransomware. We have multiple phone systems that we want to consolidate, and we think we’ll need a server upgrade. We know cybersecurity is a huge concern now, but we’re a small business and we don’t know what we should or can do with our budget.

We can work with that! And of course we’ll come back with follow-up questions to clarify issues.

Step 2: Surveys and Assessments

After digesting what we learned in our initial discovery meeting – and from any follow-up conversations – we then move on to gathering hard data on the existing technology with a physical walkthrough and/or an assessment. The technical information we gain from walkthroughs, site surveys, and assessments tells us:

  • What currently exists
  • What’s too old
  • What could be simplified or consolidated
  • What’s missing

Here we understand how many people are being supported and how many workstations, servers, switches, and other hardware devices there are. We also get a sense for further pain points (is the Wi-Fi in the office frustratingly slow? does the branch office have a good connection to the main network?) and the actual context in which people are using technology (are people having difficulty connecting to printers? is the server room a jumble of cables?).

We come prepared with questionnaires, checklists, and software discovery tools, which keeps our approach consistent, organized, and timely. We know physical walkthroughs can’t take hours and hours.

Step 3: Proposing Solutions

The proposal and recommendations stage is when we can take all that information we’ve asked for and return some solid ideas. Given all that we know, we propose solutions that will help fix or alleviate problems and will set the stage for future needs. We prioritize our findings to address the most critical issues, while staying within the required budget.

For example, take our earlier scenario:

Our network worked well for years when we had a single office, but when we expanded to multiple locations, we started to have issues. We have an IT person on staff, who spends a lot of time at each location helping people. Many of our workstations are old computers, and we’re worried about cyberattacks and ransomware. We have multiple phone systems that we want to consolidate, and we think we’ll need a server upgrade. We know cybersecurity is a huge concern now, but we’re a small business and we don’t know what we should or can do with our budget.

In this situation, we’d probably recommend managed services (to assist the IT staff in managing the network and preventing breakdowns), managed firewall and backup (critical cybersecurity measures), a technology lifecycle plan (to upgrade old equipment and keep it up to date), and security awareness training (to educate employees on the basics of cybersecurity). Consolidating the phone systems is a large undertaking and we could propose a project where we assist with this, such as helping the client create a plan, liaising with the phone companies, and ensuring the resulting phone system meshes with the client’s network. Upgrading the server might be another project – but moving to the cloud or virtualizing the server entirely might be a better fit.

That’s a lot of work!

This seems like a very long process, doesn’t it? Sometimes it is, especially if the IT environment is on a large scale, the organization’s needs are complex, or the technical consultation is part of a bid process. It can take months, or it can take weeks or days.

There are two ingredients that make this technology consulting process smooth and productive though: listening carefully and proposing realistic solutions. The technology landscape is already complicated. Our job is to help organizations navigate this landscape. Our goal is to be a trusted partner that delivers simple and strong solutions, so that our clients succeed.


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