For a lot of businesses, particularly startups, there is always the question of whether to fill certain positions with full-time employees or to outsource and work with consultants and contractors. One such position where there can be a debate is the role of CTO.
Do you need someone heading up technology, or can consultants offer what you need?
For many startups, the best option at least in the beginning is to work with consultants, so the following are some tips for finding the right person.
Do You Want Someone Local?
One of the earliest decisions you need to make when hiring a technology consultant, especially someone who will essentially fulfill the typical requirements of a CTO, is whether or not you’re willing to work with someone remotely. There are advantages and disadvantages to only working with local consultants.
If you go local of course, you get the value that comes with face-to-face interactions. This can improve accountability and also help the consultant understand the more subtle elements of your business that can be difficult to articulate.
However, if you are only looking at a local talent pool, it can limit your options and reduce the quality of talent you may get. These downsides can be particularly relevant if you have a limited budget, or you need really specific skills.
Firm or Individual?
Another big upfront consultant hiring decision is whether you’ll work with a firm or an individual. Again, there are positives and downsides to both options.
If you’re working with a firm, it’s going to be more expensive, but you’re also going to get a team of people working on your projects when necessary. You’re also not going to be relying on the schedule of one person. If that person gets sick, let’s say, and it’s close to an important deadline it can cause serious organizational delays.
Firms also tend to have pretty set processes they follow, so you can know what to expect. Of course, as was touched on, all of the benefits of working with consulting firms do come with higher financial costs.
Do You Need Specialized Skills?
If you were going to be hiring a CTO, they might not need a specialized skill set. Instead, they might be a general technology expert. However, is that what you need in a consultant? Do you need someone who can generally do it all, or do you need someone who is very specific in what they do?
Another thing to think about here is hiring someone who’s well-suited not just to your specific industry and technical needs, but the size of your business. The technology needs of a small business are very different from those of a large business, or even a mid-sized organization.
If you hire a consultant who’s used to working with large businesses, they may not understand your limitations, and they may create solutions that are too big, too complex or too expensive for your needs.
Finally, when hiring a consultant, you need to ensure that you communicate in a similar way. Sometimes the biggest problem with hiring consultants is that you have two different ways of communicating, and it derails projects. You need to know the whys of what your consultant is doing, and for those whys to resonate, you should speak a similar language, in terms of communication style.