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The CPSR Guide To Picking A Consultant

If you are a small or medium-sized business (SME), the potential impact of the Year 2000 computer problem could be devastating. Chances are you lack the resources necessary to eradicate the problem's potential effects on your business. One way to assist you in alleviating the problem is to hire a consultant. Unfortunately, most SMEs are not accustomed to hiring and/or working with consultants, and possibly have had no experience whatsoever in this area. Following are some suggestions for finding and selecting a consultant with whom you can work and who is qualified to service the needs of your business.

As an initial step you may want to check the classified section of the largest circulation newspaper in your area. Check under such headings as "Computer", "Programmer/Analyst", "Information Technology" for consultants and/or consulting firms that may be looking to hire technologists. This should give you a good idea of the consultants/consulting firms in your area.

In light of all the Y2K "service providers" springing up lately, a good route would be hooking up with an established organization and/or consultant, or at least one on which you can do a background/reference-type check. This could be someone with whom you've worked in the past, or someone who comes highly recommended from a reliable source such as a colleague in the same industry as your business. A word of caution: Just because a company is "established" does not necessarily mean you're going to receive quality work and/or reliability for the $$$$$ you'll be paying. And usually, the more established the company, the more $$$$$ that will be. The best formula here is word-of-mouth and/or past experiences. Be sure to ask for and check references.

As the Year 2000 problem is becoming more widely recognized as a business-threatening problem, many industry associations are gathering and archiving useful information for their members. If your business is represented by an industry association, they may be a source of Year 2000 information. They may be able to supply you with a list of possible resources in your industry, perhaps even in your area.

Another extremely useful resource to help you locate a consultant is the Internet. There are vast amounts of information out there, but a good, targeted search can help you locate consultants in your area. Check through as many search engines (i.e., AltaVista, Yahoo!, WebCrawler, etc.) as you can. This method may take some time, but you can probably find out most of what you need to know about a consultant through his/her web site.

One more fairly reliable resource for locating a consultant is to check with your hardware and/or software vendor(s). They usually have some knowledge in this area, whether it be from working relationships or other means. One of the major drawbacks to this method is the "channel partner"-type programs that seem to be all over the industry between vendors and service providers. A "channel partner" is oftentimes a vendor who offers certain benefits to a consulting firm in exchange for the recommendation of the vendor's product(s).

A good source of Year 2000 information as well as a potential networking opportunity is Year 2000 User Groups in your area. Attend the meetings so you can obtain valuable information, and perhaps connect with potential consultants. Also check for a possible user group with your fellow small business-people or one specifically geared to your industry. Contact your local government on the state of their awareness and to see if they have any programs and/or information available to you. You might also consider checking with your local Small Business Administration to see if they have any programs and/or information available to you. Check to see if your home state has a Year 2000 web site. Many states maintain fairly extensive Year 2000-related web sites that contain valuable Year 2000 information.

You can aslo find helpful information on our Further Reading page.



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