How To Find the Right Technology Help for Your Business

Information technology has made it possible for smaller companies and home-based businesses to compete more effectively. On the other hand, the California Society of CPAs ( cautions that failure to use technology effectively can erode employee productivity, undermine customer confidence and negatively impact a company's bottom line. The first step in maximizing the use of technology in your business is to hire the right technology help.

Whether a business opts to outsource its IT functions or to handle them in-house, CPAs recommend that businesses take the following steps.

Conduct a Technology Assessment

Involve staff at all levels to identify company needs. For example, do you need systems development or administration, software support and training, or help with e-commerce? Identifying and prioritizing the issues you want addressed will enable you to better pinpoint the type of technology professional who can most effectively serve your company.

Evaluate Applicants' Technical Abilities

Get applicants to speak specifically about the projects they have managed in the past. Ask questions to evaluate whether they are detail-oriented, innovative and knowledgeable about technology solutions.

Focus on Individuals with Strong, Generic Skills

If you're like most small business owners, you'll want a technology consultant or employee who can wear many different IT hats. For this reason, it's wise to find someone with good generic skills, such as problem-solving and analytical abilities. Remember, you'll want a professional who can grow with your company and its changing IT needs and functions.

You may want to consider contacting an individual who holds the certified information technology professional (CITP) designation from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The CITP designation is granted to CPAs who are experienced in the planning, implementation and management of information technology and in business strategies. It is a credential available to CPAs with a wide range of skills in many disciplines, but especially in bridging management and technology.

Assess Communications and Management Style

IT professionals should be able to communicate technical knowledge in a style and manner that you and your staff can understand. The last thing any company needs is an individual who alienates staff by discussing concepts in overly complex language. During the recruitment interview, find out how candidates interacted with staff and management in carrying out specific projects and ask them to explain a technology problem they faced. This will help you evaluate their "technology style."

Be Clear About Resources and Staffing

Let the IT person you retain or hire know up front which staff members he or she will work with closely. Also, when discussing IT needs and objectives, be clear about your technology budget. Ask your prospective IT specialist whether he or she is prepared to work within that budget and accomplish your goals.

Check References

Don't be shy about asking for and checking references. You'll want to validate the facts and experience presented by the IT professional and get a handle on the individual's strengths and weaknesses.

Finally, CPAs point out that once you hire or retain an IT specialist, it's important to engage that person with the management team as soon as possible. IT should not function in isolation ‹ it is integral to virtually every business process.