1. Expertise level
2. Management response
5. A final thought
When it comes to working with technology companies, one thing to consider is their level of expertise. Specialist IT Consulting Firms, often referred to as boutique IT firms, spend most of their time on a specific technology domain. Some examples are application development, IT infrastructure, or CRM implementations. These firms often become experts within their specific field due to their consistent focus in this particular area. This means that they can function efficiently and effectively within their area of expertise while keeping a finger on the latest trends and upcoming technologies.
However, when you're working with a small firm, there's a chance you may want to leverage a technology that the small firm may not have the capability, expertise, or capacity to provide.
This is when bigger generalist firms with a large variety of well-established technology service areas come in. With these larger firms, you can use a single vendor to manage all your technology needs. Job done, right? Not quite. Because large firms deliver services in many areas, the consultants rarely get to spend time on sequential projects, developing their expertise and capability in a single domain. This means that often customers are given consultants who are generalists in nature. They may have worked in the desired technology domain briefly, but they are often not the expert you are looking for. They will eventually deliver your project; however it will be with increased cost and time due to inefficient delivery and the extra management overhead required.
If your organisation values a single vendor partnership, has large budgets with long variable deadlines, then large generalist IT firms are for you.
On the other hand, if your organisation knows what it wants and places importance on doing the job as efficiently and effectively as possible -whilst only paying for what you use - then smaller specialist IT firms can provide the expertise to meet those needs.
Specialised IT firms often have far fewer levels of management. This is essential to delivering services efficiently and effectively. A flatter management structure can give you more direct consultation with the firm's senior members. This type of structure allows for a higher level of operational transparency; something that is not typically achieved with larger firms because of the number of levels between the management and those doing the groundwork.
On the other hand, when working with larger IT firms, if the relationship with your delivery manager is not going well, they generally can be swapped out quickly for someone more fitting for your needs. This is often harder to do with smaller specialist firms due to their size and the number of available personnel.
When it comes to agile delivery; smaller, more specialised IT consulting firms are more flexible during delivery. Because they're more specialised, they tend to see more issues arising earlier. In addition, they proactively work to adjust along the way to avoid delays or increases in the project cost.
Working with larger firms means you can easily change resources during delivery or bulk up the team to increase the speed of the project. However, since large generalist firms tend to have more layers of management, it can be much more costly and harder to manage the structures. Even though a large team will usually end up delivering the project, the very size of the firm can impact agility and therefore increase the end cost.
Small IT services work closely with each of their members to ensure the quality of their work. Since there are only a few people responsible for doing specific tasks, it makes every employee directly accountable for their performance.
On the other hand, working with generalist firms means that you may have to deal with many people to complete a single project. With so many people performing different roles, a sense of individual responsibility in achieving the overall outcome can be lost. In addition, in these structures there tends to be heavy focus on detailed individual tasks, which can affect the bigger picture.
Both generalist and specialist IT consulting firms have unique capabilities that they bring to the table. Depending on your needs, it is always best to get a thorough review of the company's background before you decide to work with them.
Larger firms can seem more attractive because of the volume of past clients, however there’s a good chance you will get better customer service from a smaller consulting firm.
Specialist IT firms may have a limited workforce but having such a smaller number of employees means that these IT firms can really become an extension of your business. They are dedicated to delivering the very best. They know how valuable their clients' feedback is when it comes to building a reputation for being a competent and professional company. So they always strive to deliver optimum results every time.