How can you be sure your IT expert has the expertise you need? No matter the scale of the project, success depends upon having a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, and then setting milestones on how you expect to achieve it.
1. Write an RFP
Write a Request for Proposal (RFP) that defines the project scope and consultant selection criteria. An effective RFP not only maps a plan of action but also serves as a compass to select a consultant that can best follow the map. It's important that the people most likely to be the primary users, or who are most likely to be affected by the implementation of the technology be involved in writing the RFP.
2. Conduct a Personal Interview
Getting a response to the RFP is only the start of a conversation. Personal interviews are critical to consultant selection. Just as if you were hiring an employee, interviews are where you first gain a sense of whether you feel comfortable with the candidate and that you have a mutual basis for a good working relationship.
3. Negotiate and Set Firm Pricing
In most situations, costs are negotiable. You should be aggressive in stating exactly what you are willing to pay for, and what your budget allows. Most consultants will want to work with a reasonable budget, but your budget must be tied to specific deliverables and actions.
The only way to ensure you are getting exactly what you are paying for is to specify upfront exactly what you are going to pay for. Don't leave anything open-ended, because anything you leave open is likely to be something you'll eventually pay for (especially if the consultant feels they've come down considerably in price to fit your budget). It's also a good idea to put a cap on all expenses -- the phrase "shall not exceed without written authorization" should be in all of your contractual pricing.