You are meeting with a new client. After a rundown of their current operating and business systems and a quick peek at their hardware and software, or lack thereof, you realize that the project requires some major structural revamping. The evaluation of a client’s business system is the first step. But just how do you encourage clients to upgrade?

Evaluating current systems
Evaluating a client’s needs is the most important thing that a contractor must do. This calls for a solid understanding of the nature of the client’s business, needs, and objectives, as well as the types of activities done on a daily basis. Maryam Bekhrad, president of VTRAC IT Consultant Corporation in Ontario, Canada, said that in order to provide proposals and solutions for their clients, her firm performs an evaluation of the client’s current systems based on seven factors: efficiency, accessibility, scalability, security, reliability, compatibility, and quality.

A common misconception made by consultants is that clients are dead set against spending the money to upgrade. The reality, however, is that your client has a need, and you are there to fill it. Help them understand the benefit to be gained from an upgrade. Show them facts, figures, examples, and benefits. Name companies where a similar upgrade or system is being used and where efficiency has been gained and money has been saved. Tim Landgrave, president and CEO of Vobix Corporation, an application service provider based in Louisville, KY, agrees: “Show clients what other companies are doing in the form of case studies or magazine articles. They need to see the business case for the upgrade.”

Encouraging the upgrade
Bringing a new process to the client and making them aware of the competition will streamline business, making it more efficient, says Gene Ozgar, consultant and Partner of Information Risk Management at KPMG International. ”We can best help our clients by bringing to them an understanding of the industry and the new entrance of e-commerce into their markets.” Ozgar adds, “We want to teach them how to fish, not give them a fish.”

A frequent obstacle that consultants face is that clients want makeshift or temporary fixes for inadequate systems and permanent problems. Patchwork solutions, however, just won’t cut it. The more you patch, glue, and tape, the bigger the mess and expense in the end. Bekhrad says that a good way to justify upgrade costs is by utilizing cost benefit analysis, break even analysis, and payback analysis. “These summarize the relevant costs and benefits of the proposed project in detail, which can be both tangible and intangible. Customer satisfaction is intangible, and the most important,” said Bekhrad.

The contact person
Contacting the point person in an organization is very important when discussing proposals and purchases. If you are not careful, you may end up wasting your time. It is important to speak with both the IT and business departments to ensure that both sides know what is required for the business operation. Some companies are more forward-thinking, where technology is considered imperative. And as all IT pros know, “In organizations where technology isn’t seen as important, the responsibility is delegated solely to the IT person,” said Ozgar.

Sometimes a language, functionality, or hardware preference may not be the best way to run business operations. This is when having the right contact person is key. “We often like to pursue those in these forward-thinking organizations who have business responsibilities, such as the vice president of a large division, and also interact with the technology people so that we can focus on what would be most beneficial for the business in the long run,” Ozgar said.

Landgrave adds, ”Start with the business manager who has the spending authority. Too many IT consultants start in the IT manager’s office and just end up doing free consulting for him instead of getting a paid gig with the company.”

All clients want to keep their business operations fresh. “Organizations really need to have a good process for identifying the new kinds of competition that may be presented by new technologies and how they may be somewhat lagging behind,” said Ozgar. Showing a client how to be successful, modern, and proficient is the key to being a successful consultant.
Ever had to convince a client to “get with the times?” How did you do it? Were you successful? Tell us about your experience by posting a comment below or if you prefer, send us a note.