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Pimp my IT staff as consultants to add challenges and generate revenue

By PDO2000 ·
All,

My organization has several required seats in IT Operations. Unfortunately, Dev and QA are under-staffed and create time/project bottle-necks. This leaves my staff idle and restless. I have great people with former consulting backgrounds, and am considering packaging the crew as a full-service Cisco and M$-based consultancy for area small businesses. This would create challenges for the staff and generate revenue for the company. I'm curious to learn opinions of others regarding this proposal.

Regards,
PDO2000

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consultants require people skills

by melvin In reply to COnsultants require peopl ...

I think we are confusing contractors with consultants. Consultants require people skills, sales skills and technical knowledge. In my company, the consultants have to have all of these qualities. Now, the Engineers or techies just have to do their jobs. So there is a big difference between actually being a real consultant as opposed to the engineer or techie that is doing the work after the consulting part is done. That's just my opinion

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Visibility and Perceptions

by YourAverageManager In reply to Pimp my IT staff as consu ...

Fortunately for you, the starting path leading to your for-profit consulting goal is wide. Later, as you travel down that path you will make decisions on which fork to take.

The programming and QA bottleneck could be eliminated at any time by management decision to attain additional short-term resources.

Occasionally, business decisions are not based directly on profit. Organizations will contribute back to their local or regional communities in which they operate in order to enhance their image. Thinking that you need a way to test the waters while offering an exit path if conditions change.

Sales arise out of efforts that require time and planning. In marketing, you need to identify the problem, propose a solution, and generally expose the groups talents and capabilities to the target consumer, you indicated small-business.

No way of knowing, but it would be nice to suppose that your present organization offers products and services appealing to small business owners. This provides an opportunity to enhance your employer?s image thus increasing their value to the community. Working through the SBA in planning, and offering to provide larger group consulting presentations through their channel at no cost is a way to learn while testing the market, and to establish a presence. I.e., your company has a customer list that can be filtered and added to the SBA list to create special invitations to a SBA sponsored meeting on small business networking. Lets suppose that the consulting is offered for free for a period in order to establish a satisfied customer reference base. You have invested in market development, while maintaining a no cost exit point. You have helped your employer?s customers.

Since you propose a for-profit program, it must survive the examination of Finance and Accounting. Perhaps you understand that there are negatives when identifying significant slack time to the wider organization. Infrastructure Support vendors look for these opportunities to prove their lower operating cost point to decision-makers in promoting outsource offerings. You know your organization. I have no way of knowing your environment.

Technical support personnel involved in the above need to appreciate the opportunity to gain wider exposure to the community, this enhances their resume while building a longer list of professional contacts. This is something we all need to keep in mind given the present IT market.

Hope this helps, good luck in your entrepreneurial efforts.

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A Conflict of Interests

by TexasEye In reply to Pimp my IT staff as consu ...

The idea has merit. The catch is that the needs of your business and the needs of consulting clients may be conflicting. You could hurt your business by giving consulting clients priority, or hurt your business reputation by giving your internal needs priority when there is a conflict. Resolve this issue, and it looks like a green light.

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Our company decided to try this....

by andras.bellak In reply to Pimp my IT staff as consu ...

Inside the department it was widely regarded as the stupidest idea any of us had heard in about 5 years. Some of the problems that we discussed with doing this where:

1 - IT consultants make more than IT staffers, and there were no plans to increase IT salary for doing this work

2 - we all signed on to design, engineer and manage a single network, not a bunch of smaller networks for other companies

3 - while management (outside IT) had this strong belief that we were over staffed, inside the department we knew that we all worked far more than 8 hours a day

One question that management was never able to answer (and most probably couldn't) was what the IT department/consulting group would do when our companies internal systems had a problem, and a paying customer had a problem at the same time? Where we supposed to let our 2000+ internal users lose time and money due to the problems, or telling our paying customers that we couldn't help them right now?

I'm not going to tell you not to do this (it's your funeral after all) but I will give you a list of what happend with us:

1 - all of our internal developers quit (they didn't want to get pulled into outsourced development for other companies)

2 - our intranet developer/manager walked (same reason as the developers)

3 - our director of server engineering left (he'd worked supporting servers for other companies before, and knew what a bad idea doing that is to begin with)

4 - our next 2 seniormost server engineers left (see # 3) leaving us with 1 very junior engineer (and now I can't find a decent senior engineer to save my life)

5 - our VP of IT left (he didn't want to be responsible for the mess that was going to happen)

6 - our top 2 oracle staff left

7 - the implication that everybody in IT just sat around all day and had time to spare during which they could be working elsewhere became partially true (the part that became true was that IT no longer had any motivation to work for the company, so they just sat around the office all day quoting "office space")

8 - everyone in the department was told that doing great things for the company was something they should want to do, and money shouldn't be a factor - they should in fact want to work from 7 to 7 everyday (problem was, the guy that told them this had just sold a bunch of his options for about $3million in profit, cancelled IT department raises and salary restorations, and was in the building for about 5 hours a day)

The sad end result of all this? One of the best groups of IT staff that I've ever worked with was decimated, the company decided it was bad idea (too late to make any difference to everyone leaving) and fired the guy that tried to do it, and left the remains of a department that is understaffed to this day, undermotivated, and will probably not recover fully for at least another year. IT lost years of knowledge about the company and it's systems, and didn't make a penny out of the deal.

And if you think that this was done because the company was in desperate straights for revenue, they were making about $400 million a year then, and had been extremely profitable for the last 9 quarters. It was just a bad idea, made by people who had (and still have) no idea how IT works.

Like I said, I'm not going to tell you not to do this, but just wanted to let you know what happend to us when it was tried at another company.

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Same company, additional insights

by chad.filean In reply to Our company decided to tr ...

I run the support and day to day operations for the same company as the poster of this message, and can attest to the issues that evolved from this attempt at revenue.

In our particular situation the motivation to outsource our internal department stemmed from the quality of the people that worked here. Hitler (the executive spearheading this movement) had made commitments to external clients that he had no business making. An executive that wanted to create an "Enterprise Solutions" group, needs to at least have a clue as to what an enterprise network is. In our case he did not, but, would not take the direction of our VP of IT, and the four Directors there-under, of which myself and this poster belonged to.

From the aspect of my staff, I was already tasked with supporting over two thousand internal clients, with a staff of 7. That works out to 1 technician supporting around 300 internal clients...where are they supposed to find the time to work on and support external networks. That added to the fact that my support folks signed on to work in a corporate environment, and not a consulting environment had them all poised to leave. I was barely able to keep them on long enough to see the idea squashed and Hitler fired.

The unfortunate was that by this time we had already lost the experts that put the network together, and the decades of experience they had went with them. We now have a staff still in disarray, and can not replace the lost personnel with qualified people.

My advice is simple, and is only pertinent if the decision to outsource is made, keep it seperate. Make sure that you have a staff solely dedicated to the internal client base, and one for the external client base. Otherwise, how are you going to meet SLA's to both sets of clients?

My opinion is just as simple, bad idea. Keep consulting to the consulting firms, and corporate support to the folks that made that their forte.

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I've done it...

by CindyPsych In reply to Pimp my IT staff as consu ...

I work for largish employment agency that has an IT recruiting department. My current title is "Director of MIS" but that basically means I'm the computer person for this 75 employee, five office company. When I first started in this position we only had around 30 employees and they didn't always have a need for me full-time. So our IT Recruiting department sent me out on a couple of short-term, part-time consulting assignments developing databases and doing training for a couple of our clients.

It worked out very well for me. They gave me a few bucks extra an hour for the extra hassle. They made money instead of paying me to sit around and do nothing. It made my job more secure since I wasn't idle. It made my job more interesting since I got to practice skills I don't always use. It made our clients happy because they felt we valued their business so much we sent them our own IT Director!

Recently I've been so busy this hasn't been an option and I really miss it. Overall, if your business is flexible enough to bow to the needs of clients then I think it's a great idea.

- Cynthia Parker

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I have a better idea - take the extra time to invest in your staff instead!

by hybrit In reply to Pimp my IT staff as consu ...

Personally, I'm quite sick and tired of companies and managers trying to maximize the output or return on their staff. What ever happened to the days where the spare time could be spent learning something new on resources provided by the company?

As I see it, everyone wins: the company will get happier techies who can do more in less time and with less error, and more importantly, the employees feel more appreciated due to this investment and rewarded for their efforts and are therefore less likely to go searching elsewhere for the next opportunity to come along. If they still leave, so what. Staff turnover is a fact of life and if you provide them with at least some of what the want, they are less likely to leave.

NEWS FLASH! - Your average salary and "benefits" are being matched by every other Tom, **** and Harry out there so why wouldn't one jump ship to make more money? This is not the employee's fault, but corporations' for starting view their people as gears in the old money-making machine.

That's the problem with IT today, business owners and managers like yourself are all trying to make money without any investment. If you're selling knowledge, you have to invest in people first!!! Knowledge and people skills don't grow on trees you know.

Oh yeah, and a few extra dollars for all their extra work doesn't really provide long-term incentive. That has been proven time and again ove the last 10-15 years.

I apologize for my little outburst here, but put people first.

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Been there done that, have scars for proof

by mhuffman In reply to Pimp my IT staff as consu ...

In 1995 I was CIO for a mid size Engineering company, well regarded for the use of technology to increase quality and performance. A local CAD consultant was havig a hard time financially, not of his own making. I pitched the idea to bring his company in under it IT Department. Utilize our technical expertise and our project managment techniques to add revenue.

We started off OK, then as the Consulting grew a bit we added staff. As we progressed there came periods when the marketing department or a customer would have a priority project that while more profitable for the company, caused the shuffeling of in-house projects or support services. These conflicts which occur regularly for consultants, and are handled with a focus on the customer. Our technical staff had problems with the split focus of internal and external customers. Over the next two years these conflicts caused my staff managers to polorize their positions. I was forced to spin of the division as a stand alone operation, which was not nearly as profitable for the company, but saved the sanity of the Board of Directors and myself.

I stronly believe that the operation your looking at can be work, but get the project managers and marketing persons focused on what your doing and if you have success with the external marketing, outline the business plan for the next 2-5 years. If it works or not you still have customers on the outside and the inside that will expect service, and you cannot let either down. If you do, it reflects on the whole company, not one business unit.

Good Luck

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Maintain focus on key accountabilities

by mandrake64 In reply to Pimp my IT staff as consu ...

By all means, keep your IT people interested in their jobs but maintain focus on their key accountabilities. Perhaps they would be of more use within the organisation as facilitators for other improvement areas. This can provide many challenges and allow them to stretch their thinking in fresh domains. IT personnel are highly trained and can often offer new perspectives into the way the non-IT portion of the business is and can be run.

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