As the middle of Q3 approaches, many IT organizations are revisiting their goals for virtualization in 2014. Whether their original goals included deploying VDI, increasing storage, upgrading or changing hypervisors, implementing a new printing solution, or any other aspect of virtualization, some organizations are determining that their existing staff just can’t handle another large project, so the quest for consulting assistance commences.

For every great virtualization consultant, there are some, shall we say, not so great ones. Distinguishing between the two can be quite difficult before you sign the contract. However, performing extra due diligence can save you an immense amount of time.

IT organizations often look to the vendor consulting practice, assuming that the vendor knows the product the best. Having been on both sides of consulting, I’ve seen that this is true only sometimes. Most vendors have top-notch virtualization consultants within their ranks. However, it is important to keep in mind that these heavy hitters are likely the consultants who are called upon for the most complex consulting projects or to salvage projects that have gone bad. In most cases, these top-notch consultants are not assigned to average or seemingly easy projects.

How do you ensure that the vendor virtualization consultant assigned to your project will be the most qualified? Ask questions; don’t just assume that your consultant or consulting team will be the best trained and most highly technical within the practice. Demand to see the resume of each virtualization consultant who will be assigned to your project. While it is not necessary to see individual names, the years of experience and qualifications listed should scream to you that this extended project team can and will make your virtualization project a reality.

To take the experience factor one step further, ensure that the consultant or consultants assigned to your project have work experience other than just for that vendor in a consulting role. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks. Likewise, someone who has lived only in the vendor consulting world doesn’t fully understand user experience and business decisions, such as maintenance, the disruption of a new technology, or the day-to-day life of a real production environment.

You should also ensure that you are viewing the resumes of all of the vendor consultants who will be assigned to your project. If you will be engaging two or more consultants, check that you are being provided with not just the resume of the senior team member, but also those of all other people who will be working on your project. Unless you are being provided with a junior vendor consultant at no charge, your environment should not be the training ground for newbies.

Further, take a look at the certifications the vendor consultants hold. Because these consultants should be receiving extensive training and pressure to take exams, those assigned to your project should be current on advanced vendor certifications. When vendor consultants don’t hold advanced certifications, it may imply that they are new to the organization or are junior team members. Verifying certifications, especially for the vendor practice, will ensure that you will have at least mid-level consultants working on your project.

Vendor partners often have a consulting staff to address design and implementation projects. As with vendor consultants, their resumes should be reviewed in detail. Keeping in mind that vendor partner consultants must be well versed in multiple technologies, ensure that their technology expertise and experience matches your project requirements.

While there are many top-notch vendor consultants, there is also a large array of sole practitioner and small-business consultants who can provide excellent project assistance. These consultants may be more difficult to find through references and research, but the extra time will be well worth it. For example, consultants who take the time to post tips and tricks or contribute to technical forum websites clearly demonstrate that they have a deep understanding of specific subject matters, as well as a willingness to share within the technical community. One of the best ways to find a top-notch consultant is to approach potential individuals based on technical forum contributions and expertise.

Small-business consultants may not achieve the same certification levels as partner or vendor consultants, just because they are not incented to do so. However, their proficiency often far exceeds the certification levels that exams provide. Because small-business consultants must survive on reputation and abilities, they are often superior in terms of their knowledge level, their industry contacts, and the services they provide.

Lastly, no consultant knows everything, so you should not expect a consultant to have the full breadth and depth of knowledge on all aspects of virtualization. Focus on depth for the key areas of the project. Good consultants often know other good consultants who can be engaged as necessary for areas in which they have superior expertise. When you can’t tackle a project with your in-house staff, it is the top-notch consultants who will be key in helping you achieve your 2014 virtualization goals.

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Jo Harder (29 Posts)

Jo Harder has been involved with virtualization for over 15 years, long before virtualization was the norm. After holding several sales and marketing positions, she started down the path of bits and bytes while at AT&T/Lucent Technologies. She then moved onto Citrix in 1999, where she became a Senior Architect. Her 11-year tenure included a combination of Citrix Consulting and Technical Readiness roles. After leaving Citrix, Jo provided consulting services for various clients for the next year. In her current role at a hosting provider, she is focused on cloud-based solutions for financial industry clients.

Jo's diverse background of sales, marketing, management, and architectural/technical expertise brings a unique perspective to Virtualization Practice. She welcomes input from vendors, industry contacts, and end users and can be reached at joharder@virtualizationpractice.com.

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