Let’s face it – a lot of the time, your SQL Servers seem to be running just fine. Someone someplace pressed next a few times, then finish – an application was installed, a database was deployed for that application, and you’ve not looked back. Until now.
So, you need to find a SQL Server consultant. I’ve been one in various approaches for the past 10+ years, and I’ve hired them before back when I was a DBA by day and consultant by night. It’s hard to know where to start and to figure out how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Here are three steps to consider when looking for the right SQL consultant to help you out (reactively or proactively.)
Three Steps to Find a SQL Server Consultant:
Step One – Know What You Need
A good SQL Server consulting firm will help you figure this out and ask the right questions underneath the pain points to get to the root.
It helps, though, for you to have a sense of what you need. Come into it with the desired outcome visualized. You are about to spend some of your money on some folks who are (hopefully) experts, and you want them to solve the need you are bringing them in for quickly.
So before you start searching and calling, ask yourself, “This purchase will be successful when we ________. ” Make it specific. Make it measurable. And know what you need.
Try and explore the problems underneath the problems. What have you tried so far? What are you concerned with if you don’t get this consulting help? Why? Ask why questions about your why questions until you know what you are looking for help with. This can help you choose the right firm. And it will help that firm engage with you on your issues as well.
Sometimes, database problems can be caused by external problems like network problems or computer hardware. It’s possible you may not even need a SQL Server consultant. But the more information you can collect and the more specific you are about the problem, the quicker someone will be able to point you in the right direction.
Step Two – Search For and Evaluate the Firms
There are a LOT of SQL Server consulting firms out there. How do you find them? How do you know which one to call?
First off – I say don’t call one. Call a few. You’ve either tried working on these issues already, or you are being proactive and want to make the right move forward. Make a few phone calls or e-mails, make sure you are 100% comfortable with the consulting firm, the plan they present you with, and their team’s experience.
You can start with a web search for SQL Server Consulting. You can look at firms on LinkedIn. You can ask around. But whatever you do – don’t just click on the first one and throw money at them. Bring your questions to them; any good SQL Server consultancy should offer a free introductory call. A confident firm will even tell you, “look, just do these two things and that will solve your immediate problems!” and not wait for your money to help fix an obvious issue.
Evaluate the firm – Here are some questions you can ask as part of this evaluation process:
- Have they been around for a while?
- Do you see who makes up their team on their about us page?
- Are they people who have been working with SQL Server for a long time?
- Can you find any of them on LinkedIn? And do they seem to really back up what they are saying about themselves?
- Have they blogged?
- Do they speak at conferences?
- Have they had industry recognition?
- Are they credentialed and/or partners with Microsoft or other firms?
Single Player or Team? Sometimes a single-player consultant has some benefits. That’s how I started, after all. But sometimes they can get busy and splintered. Do they have a team? Is that team big or small? Do they have a variety of experiences to be able to focus on the breadth of your issues?
Have conversations with 2-3 of the consultancies that seemed to match what you are looking for.
Ask them questions – Ask them for times you’ve helped clients like you with issues like yours. And ask them for the details of how their rates work. So they may be $250/hour – but at what increment is that time billed? Is it small enough, so you get your full value? What happens if you buy a bucket of hours at a fixed price and the issue is solved right away? Are the hours gone? Ask them for some references. Will they teach you?
I think most firms are in the same price range, and the larger the firm, the more potential sooner availability – but I’d probably be concerned for a combination of lower price and immediate availability in a smaller team. I’ve learned a thing or two from hiring the first available carpenter with the best rates – twice now, I’ve ended up having a project cost a lot more when I brought the right carpenter in to fix the other one’s mistakes.
Review their contract. Make sure they have insurance – they should be willing and able to name you as an insured party. Make sure they protect you with their contract.
Step Three – Learn and Relax
This is the best step. Sign the agreement, get the firm you selected into your environment, get your SQL Server challenges solved, and let your shoulders relax. Help is on the way.