The ugly truth about Chicago IT consultants and vendors

The ugly truth about Chicago IT consultants and vendors


By: Sean K Blair, CTO at MXOtech

You need IT support — or maybe a more complex web application to move information through your organization. But if you’re not a technology expert, vetting Chicago IT firms is foreign territory.

To expose the ugly truth behind Chicago IT consultants and vendors, MXOtech and I hosted a webinar along with Andre Simones, an Agile Coach at One80 Services.

After interviewing clients, we found their past IT projects failed far more than they succeeded.

So what causes some IT firms to fail gloriously while others deliver highly functional technology solutions?

Why Chicago IT consultants fail

An IT consultant's number one goal is to make money. Some firms take on virtually any engagement regardless of their ability to succeed. Consultants have quotas to meet and often prioritize sales over client success.

Some risks of choosing an IT firm with misaligned priorities include:

But you don’t have to speak IT to call a tech firm’s bluff.

Here are telltale signs that an IT firm cares more about making a quick buck than your success:

The IT consultant says “yes” to everything

Does your IT partner ever tell you no? A firm that quickly agrees to any project will likely under deliver.

Most clients interviewed had worked with a “yes” IT consultant and been the victim of broken promises.

For instance, before working with Chicago-based MXOtech, I worked with one client who asked a digital marketing firm to build a mobile app, even though it wasn’t a listed service.

The digital marketing company chose to use the client as a test subject, and the end product didn’t accomplish the business need.

My team had to fix the digital marketing firm’s mistakes, and the client spent more money than planned.

The moral of the story? Choose an IT firm with a proven track record of success with your particular project or technology — and be sure they ask plenty of questions about your business goals.

A firm that cares about your success will ask pointed questions before agreeing to a project. They evaluate your business needs and recommend a plan presented in terms of business value — not technical jargon.

They promise to transform your business overnight

You have a vision for your business, and unfortunately, you won’t get there overnight.

But it’s tempting to push the envelope and ask for deliverables beyond a reasonable scope to reach your goals faster. If an IT firm promises to overhaul your business with one project, you’ll likely end up disappointed.

“If a consultant agrees to your project without asking questions, something is wrong,” Andre said.

A trustworthy firm knows when it can’t help you and will go the extra mile to find someone who can. They’re upfront about whether or not a project has a good chance of succeeding and will offer alternatives if necessary.

If an IT firm makes tall promises without taking time to educate you, consider going elsewhere. You should walk away feeling knowledgeable and confident in what the firm will accomplish for you.

They sell you services you don’t need

Revenue-crazed firms are incentivized to sell you IT services you don’t need —a common occurrence among larger IT consulting companies.

Andre experienced this firsthand when working at a large technology firm.

He was helping a client transition from a traditional project management system to an agile system, and the client’s team did most of the heavy lifting, only needing occasional help.

“My supervisor pressured me to be at the client’s office full-time so we could bill 40 hours per week,” Andre said. “I told my supervisor I wasn’t going to bill the client for something they didn’t need.”

When asked, many clients say their past IT projects went great, something both Andre and I have encountered often. But once we dig deeper, we learn that project leaders asked for more time, scope and money throughout the project.

But growing project budgets and timelines don’t constitute a “great” experience. The best IT consulting firms in Chicago and the country stay laser-focused on your project needs before recommending areas for improvement.

Each billable hour should tie back to your original project scope. If you’re being overcharged for services you don't need, talk to your partner and make your needs clear. For tips on ensuring your web application development company stays on budget, check out this blog.

Developers are overworked and stretched thin

Some IT firms make their developers work long hours (up to 20 a day in some cases) on two to four projects at a time. While the firm creates revenue, you (the client) get little attention.

With multiple projects on their plate, consultants cannot be 100 percent focused on your needs. You might be at the bottom of their priority list.

Before hiring an IT team, ask:

  • How many projects do your consultants work on at one time?
  • How do you prioritize projects?
  • How many hours per day do your consultants work?

If consultants are stretched too thin, they won’t produce quality work.

If you’re looking for a trustworthy IT partner who won't take advantage of you, contact MXOtech today by calling 312-554-5699.