Consultation Services are probably the most overlooked and undervalued aspect of computer systems activities. Many people rush out blindly and buy a computer or software package and THEN decide what they are going to do with it. It's like starting on a trip without knowing where you're going or buying materials to build a house without having the design complete. Good consultation services up front will result in a much better system solution and often save you more in the long run than it costs.
Determination of Need: The very first thing that your consultant will need to know is YOUR KNOWLEDGE LEVEL in the computing world. Be honest! A good consultant will taylor questions, suggestions, recommendations, reports and the like based on what you not only understand but what you may already know. He will not waste time telling you about things which you already know or assuming that you know things which you don't.
Determination and Setting of Goals: What exactly is it that you want? If you do not know the say that you don't know. Don't make something up or say something that you read in the newspaper. If you don't know then the first goal may well be to more deeply analyze your potential usage and recommend goals.
Determination of Your Participation Level: How much work are you interested (and capable) of doing and in what timeframe? Your consultant can tailor activities to include your participation in areas that you are comfortable. Some folks want just the plan and do it all themselves while others want a complete turnkey solution. Most fall somewhere in the middle of the two.
Determination of Your Budget: What are you willing to spend on your system? This can be a ballpark figure or a blank check, you are the controller of the currency. It is a waste for your consultant to research and recommend a system that you cannot or will not be willing to purchase and implement. Alternatively, it is a waste for a consultant to recommend a low-end system with limited capabilities when you want and are willing to pay for a more powerful system.
Pay for What You Get: It's an old story but true about the customer who has the Sear's interior decorator to come out and do a free in-home evaluation and recommendation of draperies, carpet, etc. and then buys everything from K-Mart and does it all himself. Your consultant is bringing to the table probably the highest level of knowledge and experience that you will encounter in any aspect of your system implementation. He is an expert in ALL areas of system and network design, installation, implementation, training and support. Ask up front what the consultant is going to charge for services.