October 1, 2000
As community-based organizations explore their technology needs and goals, they often look to technology consultants for help. Using technology consultants can be very fruitful—or it can be a total disaster. Disasters most often occur when the technology consultants know little about working with organizations like yours and when no one on your staff has the time or interest to learn about the issues and understand the trade-offs. The following tips may help to avert problems:
- Begin by calling other community centers that have gone through a similar review and upgrading of their technology.
- Establish a clear sense of the purposes and functions within your o rganization or community before you make any decisions about the technology.
- Determine how much money you have available-first to support the consultant's work, and then to purchase and install the equipment and implement the staff training.
- Give the consultant a comprehensive introduction to your organization .
- Be as clear as you can about what you expect from the consultant.
- Develop, with the consultant, a written contract or detailed letter of understanding describing the tasks, products, timelines, budget, and payment schedule.
- Make each milestone represent a working product rather than waiting until the end to get the entire system up and running.
- Before you decide on a consultant, ask for the names of clients with needs similar to yours for whom the consultant has developed systems.
- In selecting consultants remember: ask questions, ask questions, find someone compatible.