Improve the proficiency of your IT consultancy's techs

Here are three steps IT consultancies can take to get techs up to speed and then maintain a high level of expertise.

There's an uncomfortable truth tech consulting firms must address: IT professionals don't know as much as they think.

In seven years as an IT consultant, I've hired dozens of technology professionals to service hundreds of clients. I've seen first-hand tech pros who have developed impressive expertise in a half dozen or so areas; the trouble is, as a consultant, you must be able to skillfully administer a dozen or more technologies. It's one thing to master server OSs, virus removal, enterprise system deployment, and database administration, but what about when clients require swing migrations, corrupt RAID recovery, point-to-point VPNs with least-cost routing, and so on?

IT consultants must cover vast territories of responsibility, or we don't get paid. When you recruit technology professionals, it's imperative that they are enthusiastic about constantly learning; otherwise, your firm runs the risk of coming up short and having to outsource important projects. Fortunately, your consultancy can take three simple steps to ensure its engineers, technicians, and support professionals grow their skills in effective ways.

1: Continuing education

Colleges, universities, career training centers, and Web-based resources all offer continuing education opportunities. Regular fundamentals reinforcement and periodic structured training covering important skills for which a professional hasn't previously been properly or formally trained pay exponential rewards. Embracing continuous education opportunities helps ensure consultants' skills receive important fundamental reinforcement and fills critical knowledge gaps within a consulting firm.

2: Proprietary certifications

The IT industry incessantly debates the value of certifications, but one thing is certain: You can't debate the effectiveness of a properly trained engineer boasting confidence and expertise with a new software or hardware technology where the individual or consultancy previously possessed no expertise.

Dedicating concentrated time for a technician or engineer to receive formal training and earn certification for new software and hardware products is an important if not critical role within consulting firms. Obviously, there's pressure to maintain high billing rates and dedicating regular work hours specifically for training purposes runs counter to that priority, but it's a decision smart consulting firms must favor. The knowledge and expertise vendor certification programs deliver -- if consultants are willing to take the time and initiative -- can be impressive.

3: Cross training

Consultants do not need to reinvent the wheel. Often, while scrambling to address crises and close troublesome service tickets, consultants forget they really trade on information. Clients don't hire consultants for products, but for knowledge. A consultancy with even six employees will find that several of those employees possess skills and information the others don't. You should leverage cross-training to help more knowledgeable employees transfer their skills to others.

The next time the firm's routing expert travels to a client site to deploy a new firewall with multiple site-to-site VPN connections, why not send another engineer with the expert? The less knowledgeable staff member can take direction from the more experienced technician, ask questions, and see the process first-hand.

By enabling cross training within your organization, you can help knowledge flow from the mind of one engineer to two, three, or more staff members. It's a simple and efficient way of educating staff and growing skillsets.

What methods do you recommend?

Have you found other effective techniques and methods for staff to continuously learn new skills? If so, share your tips in the discussion.

Also read on TechRepublic: Get your IT consultancy staff up to speed


Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...


For an IT Consultant, it is necessary to grab all the knowledge flowing in the process and department of the Company. If he/she is able to do so then definitely company can easily maintain their niche by having skilled Consultants.


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Which is to say that I think most IT people have so much going on and the content changes so so fast that they're often left googling for answers or solving only the current problem. In the end, that leads to fragmented knowledge and a lack of REAL understanding of the technologies theyre around. If you REALLY know it, you should be able to pass a cert exam without studying. Thats how it was in 1998 when I got my MCSE. Similarly, even though I no longer pursue certifications (my customers honestly dont care or even KNOW about certifications), I often use their list of study material to guide me on stretching my own knowledge and learning. That helps me fill in the holes and stay relavent, without IMO wasting the time, stress and money on formal training programs, media, and programs. Overall though, great advice (even for companies who ARENT consultancies)

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