Foundations: 5 Ways To Get the Most Out of Your Tech Consultant

Eliza Smith Articles By This Author

May 24, 2017 12:19:16 PM

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Undoubtedly, your foundation is equipped with the staff, tools, and expertise to make strategic grants, and maximize your impact. However, sometimes it really helps to bring in some outside assistance – especially when it comes to technology. Maybe you need help with selection and implementation, cloud computing and security, or CRM customization. Hiring a tech consultant allows you to get ahead of your tech to-do list and free up your time to work toward your mission.

Finding a tech consultant may sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Start by calling on your partners to ask if they’ve had good experiences working with consultants. Ask what those experiences were like – what kinds of projects did they work on together? How long did they work together? Is their relationship with their tech consultant ongoing? For more tips on choosing the right tech consultant for your organization, read our white paper, How to Optimize the Tech Consultant Relationship at Your Foundation

You’re well on your way now, but there’s still work to do. Here are the top 5 ways to get the most out of your tech consultant relationship:

1. Be clear about your needs.

Before you even start looking for candidates, you should identify exactly what it is that you need help with. Are you hoping to learn more about cloud migration? Disaster recovery? Software selection? Maybe you are looking for help on multiple projects. Make sure you define the scope of the projects you will assign to your tech consultant before you hire them.

Also, be sure to define the length of the project. Maybe you only need help with one project, with a distinct end-point. Let your prospective consultants know if your project is finite. Maybe you’re looking for someone who can provide ongoing assistance. Having clarity about your project – e.g.: what it is, and how long it will last – will help you find the best consultant for your foundation.

2. Make sure your consultant is committed.

When you’re interviewing your candidates, be sure to ask them about their workload. Even if you feel a certain candidate is well qualified for the position, she might be juggling too many projects at once. If you do get the impression that she is bogged down with projects, consider passing on her. A great consultant with little availability can run you the risk of missed deadlines, delayed projects, and costly miscommunications. Your tech consultant needs to have time in her schedule to meet your needs. 

3. Dedicate an internal project manager.

Communication with your tech consultant is key to a successful project. Consider picking a member of your own staff to serve as a liaison with your tech consultant. He will manage the tech consultant’s projects, and communicate with them regularly. This not only ensures that you have someone in-house on whom you can rely to communicate regularly about the tech consultant’s work, but it also saves small details or essential communications from falling by the wayside. Overall, an internal project manager can both streamline and maximize the effectiveness of your tech consultant’s output.

4. Communicate clearly & often.

Communication is absolutely key to a productive relationship with your tech consultant. Regular check-ins ensure that you and your tech consultant are on the same page. Nothing sets a project back like a miscommunication – and setbacks can be costly. Find a system that works best for you – perhaps you’re relying on your in-house project manager to be on top of communication. Or maybe you’re scheduling regular check-ins with your tech consultant. Perhaps you’ve set up a Slack channel for immediate updates. Whatever method you choose, make sure you understand what your tech consultant is doing and why. 

5. Emphasize the importance of collaboration.

Tech consultants can accomplish a lot for your foundation. But they can also provide something very valuable: institutional knowledge. For example, if you are working with a consultant on a finite project, such as cloud security, make sure you work together to identify which software is best, how to implement it, and how to use it. This way, when the project is completed, you can fully understand how your new security system works. You can even train staff how to use it. And if you’re working with a consultant on an ongoing basis, make sure they train you as they go – whether they’re customizing your CRM or helping you choose the best grantmaking software for your foundation. If you maintain an open channel of collaboration and communication with your tech consultant, you and your staff can incorporate what you’ve learned into your daily work.

For more on hiring and working with a tech consultant, we’ve put together a guide. Check it out here. 

Click here for the complete paper.