Chicago (July 1, 2004) -- Technology assessments can become a good market niche once you understand the client's true technology situation, says information technology director Mike Crowe of Plante & Moran in Chicago.

Clients' existing technology infrastructure can impede growth by siphoning off too much money that is poorly spent, warns Crowe. "There are still a lot of companies where growth is the main issue, and IT spending sometimes takes a back seat. Sometimes companies grow so fast that IT departments can't keep up," he said. "That's a good situation in general, except that sometimes a disconnect happens."

He recommends asking: Is too much or too little being spent on information technology? Is there an appropriate number of IT staff, with the correct skills and expertise? And how does the spending and staffing compare to other organizations?

An IT assessment begins by taking a look at capabilities in a business context, including how an organization is administered, the capabilities of its technologies and how well the elements of IT supporting strategic business plans are thoroughly reviewed. The process can take as little as a week or as long as eight to 10 weeks, depending on the desired scope. He also says assessments for clients are priced on the size of the client company, and can range from $6,000 to $15,000, generally on a flat-fee basis.

Firms looking to start doing IT assessments for clients should examine themselves and their IT departments first. "If your own IT department is a mess, you're probably not ready," says Crowe, adding that changes in the profession now mean that "technology drives the work product, and there's very little time you're selling to the client that doesn't involve use of the computer."

Firms are also in an experienced position to sell IT assessments to clients. "A typical client has maybe half a dozen applications," says Crowe. "An accounting firm may be running 60 to 70 applications," Crowe says.

-- Jeff Stimpson

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