Consultancy – but what does it mean?
Basically think of going to the doctor, that is called a Consult. You go to him or her to ask how you can get a solution for your physical or mental problem and the doctor will use his or her knowledge and experience to find the right solution for your problem. In most cases the doctor can prescribe medication or give you an advice on changes in lifestyle and sometimes they send you to a specialist to try and solve your problem. In the end, you pay the doctor for the consult, pay the pharmacy for the medication or the hospital for the operation.
Basically this is exactly the same with IT Consultancy. You come to the IT Consultant because you have problem. Sometimes the consultant is able to solve this for you and sometimes you are recommended to see a specialist. The possible solution is provided by the IT Consultant and a good one knows when he cannot solve this himself and writes a “prescription” for another solution provider. The only difference is that in most cases the IT Consultant does not get paid.
We have seen many cases where we are asked to think about a problem and see if there is solution. We research the problem and in some cases tell the customer to go to another company that is specialized in their problem. In the end the customer is helped and we are stuck with giving out information and a solution without getting anything in return. Sure there are bigger Consultancy projects where we upfront decide on a price for the work (for instance designing a new network, researching possible software solutions etc.) and those are not the problem. Customers however seem to easily forget that asking a question can sometimes become a consultancy project or at least consultancy work. Is it viable to send an invoice for that kind of work? The consultant used knowledge and education to come up with a possible solution but in the end does not get the job to implement it – doesn’t sound fair if you ask me. No matter how small, if you ask a question that results in research or advice basically this is consultancy. But (there is but) you may have a good customer that pays in time and gives you 99% of their IT related work. Do you charge them for a question that is not part of the normal IT support or maintenance you offer? I wonder – it could harm the relationship with the customer and you may loose the customer all together. So in every question lays a decision – how do I handle this? There are no rules and regulations for this and is a per-case situation.