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Three Myths of Working With IT Consultants

We IT consultants are sort of a mystical bunch. People don’t seem to really understand what we do or how and in many cases we get called when people are desperate because all else has failed. Not many people call me when everything is working great. I want to take this opportunity to clear up three misconceptions people have about working with consultants:

1. We usually don’t need your passwords…and just as often don’t want them.

It amazes me how often I’ll show up at a site and the client will just hand me a sheet listing everybody’s account name and password. Or the moment I sit down at their keyboard they volunteer their password. Usually…we don’t need them.

If I’m working on a machine that is on a domain (which for companies that have a Windows server is most of them) then I can just reset the password at the server to something like “Service Password” and use that for the little while that I need to work on that machine. When I’m done the user can simply reset their password back to what it was before – or select a new one of their own.

Also, if I’m working on your machine there’s a good chance I need to use the Administrator account…which hopefully isn’t yours. So please…don’t throw your passwords at me. A password shared is a password compromised. And a password compromised needs to be changed, right now.

So many people reuse passwords that the password for their computer is often the same one they use for their bank or their home security system. Frankly, I don’t WANT those passwords. I don’t want that level of access to your life. And you shouldn’t have to worry about it.

By the way, those of you with in-house system administrators…they usually don’t need your password(s) either and for the very same reasons. They can usually reset them to something else and use that temporarily reset password to access what they need to access. The days when your system admin needed to have a sheet with everybody’s passwords printed on them in his desk drawer is long since over.

The next time an IT guy asks you for your password…ask him why he needs it. It MAY be that he really needs it, but pretty often he doesn’t. If the answer is “company policy” then you should have a chat with the person who sets policy.

2. We don’t need to own your domain name.

This one is vaguely similar to the first and it has to do with control. When you register a domain name like “mycompany.com” the name has to be registered to somebody. Very often people have their consultants or web designers register the name for them but then they never check to see in whose name that domain got registered. Too often the web designer or consultant ends up registering it in their OWN name. They think they need to do that so that they can be authorized to make changes to the domain, or they don’t realize they can register it in your name…or they want to keep control of it so that they have leverage against you in future negotiations.

Here’s what you need to know about domain registrations : there are TWO contact names listed on the domain – the “Administrative Contact” and the “Technical Contact”. The administrative contact should ALWAYS be the owner of the domain; the person who pays the bill. Usually, that’s you. Your consultant can be the “Technical Contact”. That gives them the ability to easily make changes if you request it, log in and monitor the settings and so forth. But it doesn’t take the domain away from you.

Recently I heard a horror story from a client who had used an IT guy (not us) to create/register their domain. The IT guy registered the domain in his own name…then he passed away. She never got the notice that her domain name was going to expire because unbeknownst to her it was registered in the IT guy’s name and the warning e-mails went to him. Her domain name expired, her website and e-mail mailboxes all disappeared.

Then she had to spend some money to file a claim to reacquire her domain name…made more complicated by the fact that according to the domain registrar it had never been hers to begin with. After days of no e-mail or website, and more than a few dollars, she finally reclaimed her domain name. And had to re-create her e-mail mailbox and her website – both of which were wiped out.

This problem would have been avoided if she had simply been listed as the Administrative Contact on her own domain. Want to see how your domain name is registered? Go to IPTools.com and enter your domain name in the “Domain Info” box. It’s fast and free.

3. If we can’t speak your language that’s as much our fault as yours.

It’s been said that you don’t really understand a subject if you can’t teach it to a novice. And a lot of guys in our business spend their time talking in jargon and acronyms that mean nothing to the client. Infer from that what you want.

You hire a consultant to consult. To assist you. To guide you. To advise you. Some clients don’t want to know the details, they just want the solution and that’s fine. Other clients want to know the why’s and how’s as much as the what’s and when’s. Your consultant should be able to effectively communicate with you the why’s and how’s of whatever their doing or recommending. 

If they can’t do that then that says as much about them as it does about you. Don’t accept that you’re not smart enough or that the answer is too technical for you. It may take a great deal of time and patience – depending upon how tech savvy you are – but if you really want to know they should be able to help you understand it. 

If they’re not able to do that, then you may want to consider looking for a consultant who can.

Summary

A consultant should be a trusted advisor who is looking out for your best interests and who guides you to the solutions you want and need. A good consulting relationship should make you and your firm more effective and more profitable. Select your consultants carefully and make sure the consultants you hire are dealing straight with you though and not putting you in a compromised position.

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Comments

  1. Haha, I find your article all too true. I think one thing people really do not get is that IT is not Technology Guy. I think there are boundaries that are crossed a lot, like while setting up a server in the datacenter, someone will come in (another issue in itself) and ask about the website. Why don’t people realize website guys are not IT guys, just because we both sit in front of a computer, doesn’t mean we do the same work. Accountants sit in front of a computer, but I never get asked for approval for a business expenditure. Recently our company started offering a massive Cloud Computing Service lineup, and I have a bad feeling that once these clients see that we are selling them Google, or Office365, they will think I am Google or Bill Gates. :/