IT consulting has greatly helped many business to switch to the modern era of computing and automatization. IT consultants are external individuals or companies who act as independent advisors to businesses.
We at Oqtacore have extensive experience with building small and large IT systems, we have built software in many different industries.
IT consulting can be separated into two parts:
- Integration of existing software, both internal and external (system integration)
- Advisory on writing new software
Many businesses often have a choice between writing their own software or choosing some existing solutions and configuring them. IT consultants have a lot of first-hand experience in such cases and can help choose the right path.
What is a system integrator?
The task of a system integrator is to take individual parts (hardware and software) and create complex IT solutions from them.
At the hardware level, a system integrator makes sure that all devices in the infrastructure work together well, and the computing capacity and network bandwidth is enough to process all the incoming data, while backups and access management maintain data security.
At a higher level, a system integrator takes individual software solutions or even designs custom software applications, that work together as a single infrastructure. The main challenge here is making the data flow through different applications, it involves using various data bridges, data convertors, importers, exporters, etc. And only an expert can tell beforehand that the designed solution will work, as integrating software includes numerous pitfalls and unexpected behavior.
System Integrators are independent IT consulting firms that provide services with its own staff of highly experienced IT specialists with an extensive knowledge database of already completed projects by a contractor with its staff of specialists who are engaged in the design and implementation of appropriate IT solutions – automated systems and their elements. Moreover, the executing company does not just implement single solutions but creates complex solutions that work in close integration with each other. This requires professional knowledge of database management techniques, creating software systems, ensuring network and individual application security, and virtualization techniques.
An IT integrator must have the following knowledge, skills, and qualities:
- Former experience of implementation of integrated software and hardware IT systems;
- extensive experience in the management of software architecture design
- organization of technological processes within a single infrastructure;
- expertise in system administration;
- coordination of multiple contactor organizations
- research and development of an encompassing IT infrastructure for the whole organization
- preparation of cost estimates for the initial deployment and further maintenance
- implementations of reports and analytics
- security management
- risk management
Why do companies choose to work with external system integrators?
- Accelerated development and implementation of new products or solutions. Here integrators are ahead of the staffed IT department. Processes are accelerated due to the attraction of new technologies, modern tools, established relationships with suppliers of equipment and software, special conditions for working with them.
Professional approach. The tasks that integrators face in their daily professional activities are more complex than those that ordinary IT engineers solve. The client receives a service, the scope, and evaluation criteria of which are specified in the agreement between the parties.
Attracting new technologies. With an innovative approach, the client company has lower design/deployment costs or lower operational costs in the future.
Would you like to have a qualified personal IT management advisor who knows the situation in your company? People with a good knowledge of IT management usually either run IT themselves or work as IT consulting experts on specific projects. The project ends, information about it is quickly clogged, and even after several months it simply becomes irrelevant.
For this reason, external IT advisors are usually long-term relations, so they also know the inside of the company and the team well.
External advisors bring some important advantages to the company:
- They provide a lot of documentation that an internal team wouldn’t
- They are much more accountable than an internal team. They have to forecast and report the actual costs, and also they have their reputation at stake with every project. Many advisors have 3-5 key clients, and each new client comes with word of mouth, so quality work is expected
Many companies nowadays tend to have their own IT directors instead of attracting external IT consulting. An inside person knows the company well, knows the team, responsible persons for various processes inside the company. It allows and IT director to solve many IT-related tasks efficiently.
The “Personal Advisor” model assumes that a concrete qualified advisor that suits you personally will work for you and your company for a year or more. At the same time, he, on average, spends one day a week on your company, which allows him to be aware of all the changes, and how to answer specific burning questions, and participate in the systematic improvement of IT management (keeping the IT strategy and plan IT projects, planning organizational structure improvements, IT processes, etc.).
How will your company benefit from having an external IT advisor:
Pros for the internal IT manager
Qualified and timely advice on a wide range of IT management issues. A personal advisor knows the state of the company, he does not need to spend 1-3 months in the framework of consulting projects to analyze the current state
Work can be planned to improve IT management over the long term
A personal advisor is much less drowning in the routine and internal intrigues of the company. At the same time, the probability of raising a competitor to the head of the IT department is less than when attracting employees of his IT department
The payment for a personal advisor is less than when attracting consulting companies.
When moving to another company, it is easy to take a personal advisor with you. Most likely he will not mind.
Pros/cons of having an external IT consultant vs having an advisor inside the company
Pros of an external IT consulting expert:
- You buy exactly as much of the missing resource and exactly when you need it, without any social obligations and the need to pay for the expert just being around;
- It is easier to find and attract an extremely highly qualified IT consultant for a limited period than a high-quality employee on the staff since the latter usually apply for high-paying and high-profile management positions.
Pros of a staff member:
- A consultant costs about 25-30 percent more than the total cost of an appropriately qualified staff member;
- Staff member, if works for a long time, usually knows the company better;
- If you invest resources into a staff member, there is a slightly higher chance that you are growing the expert for your company and not your competitors
4. External individual IT consulting expert vs a consulting agency
Pros of an external IT consultant:
- An independent IT consultant costs about 2 times cheaper than a staff member of a large IT consulting agency of the same qualification;
- An independent IT consultant, as a rule, has a better motivation and a higher desire to do the job well, because, unlike the member of an IT consulting agency, he/she risks his own reputation, not the consulting agency’s reputation.
Pros of an IT consulting agency:
- Serious projects, as a rule, require the involvement of a whole team and not a separate consultant;
- In case of any problems with a specific IT consultant, the company will quickly replace him/her with another.
Services that an IT consultant can offer:
- Development and maintenance of IT strategy, project plans for IT development
- Elaboration and selection of IT development projects. Drawing up a portfolio of IT projects
- Formulation of strategic IT management
- Consulting on current IT management issues, incl. improvement of IT processes and organizational structure of IT service
Business automation from scratch
We all still remember times when we had to exchange a lot of emails, text messages, hold tons of memos in our heads, and our desks. Today, many of those are obsolete and were replaced by very specialized software – supply chain management systems, customer relationship management systems, project management systems, and many more.
It’s possible that you are building a new company from the ground up and that you don’t yet have absolutely any IT systems. Maybe you are a startup that has revenue already, but no infrastructure that consumes this revenue in an organized way.
If you want to take full advantage of the benefits of modern information technology for your business, saving your employees time and financial resources, then using an external IT consulting company might significantly shorten your path.
Experts from an IT consulting agency that will work on your project:
- Project manager (organizational planning, the main business processes of the customer – the formation of a list of IT services);
- IT analyst (choice of topology for building IT infrastructure, design of a structured cabling system (SCS));
- Software license manager (selection of licensing programs);
- Provisioning manager (calculation of the cost of software and hardware of the project);
- Application Systems Engineer (Cisco, Microsoft, Linux, etc.)
- Expert in WI-FI technologies (level of technical director or IT architect).
Result of the IT automation
As a result, you will have much more effective work of your staff. Things will stop being forgotten. Estimates on process length will be more precise. Staff members will know much better who is responsible for each step.
Oqtacore can implement complex integration projects, both from scratch and maintain current solutions.
This is due to our interest in supporting the information system created by our specialists and meeting all modern requirements.
Non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
If you are going to work with an external provider, it’s important to know
NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) is an agreement on non-disclosure of confidential information.
Such a contract can be signed with any entity that you trust with access to confidential information.
The main objectives of the NDA:
The first task is to prevent the fact of disclosure of information by an employee.
The NDA has a preventive nature. Nobody expects to actually break it and bring harm to a counterparty, as it’s off nobody’s interest in 99% of cases.
The most important in this agreement is identifying which information is considered a commercial secret by each party. Some information might be useful to the IT consultant as a case that they might want to show on their website. Try to explain to them which things can be disclosed, and which cannot.
So, the better the agreement is worked out, the less the likelihood of disclosure of information that you don’t want to be disclosed, even if this disclosure would be unintentionally harmful.
The second task of the NDA is to apply sanctions to the violating employee in order to stop further disclosure of confidential information.
The third task of the NDA is to compensate for material damage that was caused by an employee of the company in connection with the disclosure of confidential information.
In summary, the main tasks are:
a) prevent disclosure,
b) stop disclosure if it has begun,
c) punish for the disclosure and compensate for damage.
Another set of purposes of NDA is:
a) Prevent usage of the work results that you pay for, for the profit of the organization for resell. In other words, they cannot sell again what they did specifically for you
b) Prevent usage of the information collected from within your company in the consultant’s next products
Please take note that the second set of purposes is pretty hard to control. Even if you sign that kind of NDA, you will usually need to spend a considerable amount of resources to somehow identify such kind of misuse. It is much better to look for a long-lasting relationship from the start. In that case, you and the consulting agency will both benefit from long-term cooperation.
What is an example of NDA?
- The general purposes of this Agreement are to cause all ideas and all inventions and other creations developed by the Employee while engaged by the Employer to be the sole and exclusive property of the Employer
- The Employee hereby assigns to the Employer, and agrees to assign to the Employer in the future, all the Employee’s Ownership Interest in any and all such Intellectual Property, whenever any such property is created.
Why should you create your own NDA?
If you do not have an NDA, it is very the worst scenario of all. Your company’s commercial secret information, documentation, internal correspondence, etc. are simply not protected, and any dishonest or offended employee on the side of the contractor (not even by the intention of the contractor as an entity) can use and disclose it both for personal gain and revenge, etc.
An example NDA from the Internet is infinitely better than no NDA but has pitfalls.
Generally, even the dummy NDA covers a lot of cases. But again, dummy NDAs cover only the most major cases. Usually, they just state “all the information shared during the communication should be kept secret”. This means that if the Contractor (usually unwillingly) shares some information, and then you want them do be responsible for the leak, they can just prove that information could be obtained from some other source. So it is always good to be even more precise about some specific projects, people, or even the fact that you have the project in the first place.
Also, if you work with a contractor from another country, NDAs almost never consider it. It means that you will have almost no force on the overseas contractor with a dummy NDA. Keep that in mind.
An NDA developed by a non-professional lawyer is as bad as an NDA downloaded from Google
Non-professional lawyers can sell you an NDA that they found on the second page of Google. Just a little further than you looked yourself. And they will even defend the NDA they found! But at its core, it is the same NDA from Google that does not know anything about the specifics of your business.
An NDA composed in cooperation with professional IT consulting agency is good
- Professional lawyers will start with understanding the jurisdiction in which NDA is signed. Are you and the Contractor in the same country, or different?
- What are the pieces of information that should never be disclosed, even if they do not happen in correspondence explicitly?
- What a member of the contractor’s team can see while inside your office, that you do not want to be disclosed?
- Can it be that even the fact of your work is something that you would want to keep in secret?
- And many other important questions
A typical structure of an NDA looks something close to this:
- Designation of the parties to the agreement,
- Types of confidential information,
- Specific projects that are fully confidential
- What is the disclosure of information, in the first place; what can be considered a disclosure, and what shouldn’t
Responsibility for disclosure is prescribed, usually financial – in the form of a fine,
The terms of the agreement are spelled out,
The applicable law to the agreement is spelled out.
Now, let’s get back to reality and try to understand what a good NDA should be.
Promise not to compete
If you are looking to hire an app developer, also consider a document called Promise not to compete.
Requirements for such promise-not-to-compete agreements are already established in general. Again, they are provided for a reference, not as the final edit. Among them are the following (in aggregate):
- both parties sign such an agreement voluntarily at-will;
- there can be additional compensation for the work being done with a promise-not-to-compete agreement;
- the term of the obligation not doing similar projects after the termination of the contract;
- territorial boundaries of this obligation;
- type of activity that can be considered competition;
- responsibility of the parties.