How to pick a good Consultant/Integrator to Partner with?

by Jeremy Saunders on October 21, 2008

Since leaving IBM and moving on to greener pastures at Datacom, I have been given the opportunity to review several Citrix XenApp (Presentation Server) deployments around town. Time and time again I find…

  • Poorly deployed servers with little or incorrect tuning.
  • Applications that have been badly or incorrectly packaged, if at all.
  • Documentation that is just a bunch of screenshots. What value does that provide?

It’s almost as if someone simply put the CD/DVD in, clicked Next, Next, Finish…removed the CD/DVD, and then walked away. How amateurish is that? No understanding of what really needs to be delivered. No “method”ology to their madness. These are the Cowboys (or Cowgirls) of the IT industry.

Now, there is a big difference between a Systems Administrator and a Systems Engineer. It takes a special Systems Administrator to be able to step up and become an Engineer, whether working as a private Consultant, or for an Integrator. I have no qualms about a Systems Administrator wanting to move into my world, and would always encourage them to do so, but they need to understand how to step up to the plate. Unfortunately I’ve recently had to work with a couple whose work makes me cringe. And when you try and coach them, they just don’t seem to get it šŸ™

But at the end of the day the customer pays good money and should expect nothing but the best. Full stop. No arguments. And this is where I get so disappointed. Time and time again the Customer seems happy to pay good dollars for a second rate job. And I really struggle to understand why?

Is this acceptable? Can I tolerate it any longer without saying something? NO WAY! I am so passionate about this.

My rules of engagement are…

  • Understand the business needs and the IT challenges.
  • Deliver the best possible solution.
  • You should always strive to do the next project better than the previous one.
  • Ensure that if another Consultant/Integrator was to audit/review your work, they wouldn’t have a bad thing to say.
  • Ensure you understand how to fit in and compliment the Customer’s team. This usually includes mentoring/coaching and knowledge sharing.
  • Always be honest. If the Customer asks you a question that you cannot answer, tell them, and let them know that you will look into it for them. Own up to mistakes and fix them.
  • Don’t sit on issues and waste hours researching. Always escalate to the Vendor and/or your colleagues.

Unfortunately many industry certifications are often too easy to achieve, so it would be wrong to judge someone on this alone. This obviously differs from those industry certifications that require sitting through a proctored lab, such as the Cisco CCIE or the Citrix CCIA 1.0. But even now Citrix have replaced that 6 hour 30 minute proctored lab with a Prometric exam under the CCIA 4.0 path. This somewhat devalues the certification and pride for those of us who passed the proctored lab to complete the CCIA 1.0 certification. But I digress, as this is a topic for another day. My point is that most people can sit online exams and get certified, but does it really mean that they are good at what they do??? Absolutely not!

Some Vendors would only recommend certain Consultants/Integrators for a job, whilst others will evenly and perhaps fairly distribute leads, pending favours and corruption. Bite your tongue son! That never happens šŸ˜‰ Ā So here is where it becomes fuzzy.Ā The VendorĀ gives a lead to an Integrator and the Customer then believes that the Vendor has “recommended” the Integrator. They haven’t been recommended at all. You would expect the Customer to perform some form of due diligence. But time and time again this has not been the case. They feel that because they have been “introduced” by the Vendor, they have therefore been “recommended”.

So I say to all my existing and future Customers. Check someoneā€™s references, credentials/certifications, and past projects (track record).Ā Ensure their personality will complement your team. And most importantly, make sure they have passion and drive. Because without it you won’t get the solution you deserve.

And lastly, I think that in this day and age if an Engineer is not active on public forums and/or blogging, then perhaps thatā€™s a sign of a lack of confidence and passion, and a reason to stay away and look elsewhere.

After all, often the purpose of engaging a Contractor/Integrator is not only to mitigate the risk, but to get a good understanding of current and emerging technologies and strategies, which ensures that the architecture and implementationĀ is completed to the highest of standards. This should ultimately provide the business with a flexible and agile IT environment that meets the business requirements. Because it’s all about Simplicity, Manageability and Agility.

IT is easy. Some people just make it hard.

Jeremy Saunders

Jeremy Saunders

Independent Consultant | Contractor | Microsoft & Citrix Specialist | Desktop Virtualization Specialist at J House Consulting
Jeremy is a highly respected, IT Professional, with over 30 yearsā€™ experience in the industry. He is an independent IT consultant providing expertise to enterprise, corporate, higher education and government clients. His skill set, high ethical standards, integrity, morals and attention to detail, coupled with his friendly nature and exceptional design and problem solving skills, makes him one of the most highly respected and sought after Microsoft and Citrix technical resources in Australia. His alignment with industry and vendor best practices puts him amongst the leaders of his field.
Jeremy Saunders
Jeremy Saunders
Jeremy Saunders

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