How well your computer consultant understands your business computer requirements determine your total computer consulting costs by minimizing midstream changes, corrections and additions. Things not fully clarified can get altered or totally omitted, requiring more costly labor to correct or redesign.
Don’t leave it to chance. Here is a checklist that covers the key areas to clarify for yourself and your computer consultant before discussion starts:
A list of the things you need to keep track of in your database and how they relate to each other is a good start but here is a more complete list to make sure nothing is falls between the cracks between you and your computer consultant.
1. What are your major categories of data and what specific data is stored under each category. Listing out your various business processes, and the steps required to accomplish them will help answer this.
2. How will want to filter your data to get a just what you need for a report or a screen view.
3. Any examples of reports or other output you may need or are currently using. (Microsoft Word can be used to illustrate a report design.)
4. Define what data validation or business rules are needed during data entry.
5. Any special requirements involving linking to or importing data from data sources outside of your business software.
6. Any financial accounting requirements or other legal / liability issues requiring additional data storage and output.
7. What kind of hardware system exists and is anyone supporting this.
8. Will data access require any remote access permissions?
9. The level of security access required for various areas of data viewing and editing among the individuals given permissions.
10. Current data entry media and formats currently being used if any exist.
11. Any data migration requirements from existing data sources, such as available formats form these sources
I can tell you that a consultant’s time might not always be billable on that first consultation, but he or she will appreciate the business owner who is prepared and can answer these basic questions.
I have found that it’s rare that a business owner is sufficiently prepared to start a discussion in this area unless these points have been thought out.
If you have had any experiences with computer business consultants that went sour or did not meet expectations, your comments and lessons learned are welcome. We all need to learn more about this vital area and that includes me.