Consultants can do everything from advising you on your choice of system to providing a full installation. Their main advantage is that they make sure you have far less work to do. You simply specify what you want, and, to the extent that you choose, the consultant helps you acquire it.
Typical e-business consulting skills include analyzing your requirements and turning a proper specification into a workable technical design in addition to installing all the required hardware, software and (where necessary) network cabling, as well as knowing where to find the most cost-effective solutions. It’s the job of a consultant to arrange or perhaps provide training and on-going support.
The big disadvantage of consultancy is the cost. Fees vary from around $25 to $250 per hour, depending on the skills involved, although most consultants will be happy to quote on a per-project fixed-fee basis. Both fixed fee and hourly rate work should be carefully defined in a contract so that your legal and professional positions with respect to each other are clearly defined.
However, even with the extra outlay, consultancy can still be cost-effective. When chosen wisely, a consultant will save you money and time overall, and will also sidestep the most common pitfalls involved in creating a working system.
If you are buying one or two computers for an office, then you will probably be able to get by without a consultant. But if you are trying to connect 50 PCs in a building and install a new accounting system at the same time, you will almost certainly need to call in an experienced third party. Larger companies will be able to ask the computer services and software association for consultancy referrals, but finding consultants willing to work with a very small business can be problematic.