More and more, organizations are outsourcing the support and maintenance of their technology systems to consulting firms. As one of these same outsourced consulting firms, you can imagine that we field many questions about average hourly rates. Even if the prospect doesn’t end up using Optimal’s services, we still like to give them a feel for what to expect, and what prices should give them pause.
 
And, after being in the IT industry for almost 25 years, we’ve gained a pretty good sense of what firms in the area are charging for support. Below we’ll walk through the different levels of IT consulting, and what factors will influence how much you’ll pay for each of them.
 

What kinds of IT consulting are there?

“IT Consulting” can mean a lot of different things. Just as technologies themselves vary in levels of complexity, technology consulting varies in levels of sophistication.
 
Generally speaking, there are three main categories when it comes to IT consulting:

1. Help Desk Support. Something breaks, and the consultant fixes it. Help desk support can address things as small as password resets, to problems as complicated as removing widespread viruses and training users in specific applications. This is the most basic level of technology consulting, and is generally done remotely by most IT companies (though it can be on-site in the form of “desk-side support”).

2. Engineering. This usually means server-level support, and support for all elements of networking: firewalls, remote access, switches, and so on. This can be on-site or remote, and can sometimes include help desk support. Some IT companies will provide a discount if you schedule an engineer on-site on a regular basis as this reduces emergency calls, and makes scheduling much easier.

3. Strategic CIO-level Consulting. This is high-level stuff. With this kind of consulting, you’re essentially “renting” a CIO to align your technology with your overall business mission. You’ll see the consultant conducting interviews with key members of an organization, intensely vetting software solutions and their vendors, and compiling long-term roadmaps for the future of the organization’s systems.

 

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What’s the average hourly rate for IT consulting in DC/MD/VA?

If you take all three of these levels into consideration, you’re looking at a pretty wide range of hourly rates—your consultant could charge you anywhere from $90 to $395 per hour.
 
There are two main factors that will determine where you fall in this range:

1. The type of work being provided. There is a direct correlation between the price and the complexity of the service being provided; as you move from the more basic help desk support up to strategic consulting, rates are going to increase. Specifically, as we zoom in on each type, average rates in the DC Metro area are as follows:

• Help Desk Support: $80-$110/hour
• Engineering: $125-$175/hour
• Strategic CIO-level Consulting: $195/hour and up

2. Who it is doing the work. Independent consultants usually fall on either the high or low end of these scales—some will do any and everything for a low flat hourly rate, others dedicate all of their efforts to one or two clients and have to charge extra for the downtime in between projects. In the middle you’ll find managed service providers who have multiple consultants on-staff, and the ability to scale resources as needed.

 
So, that’s what you can expect if you’re looking to partner with an outsourced IT consultant. The higher-level services do come with a fairly hefty price tag, but many companies are willing to invest if it means they don’t have to shoulder the burden of technology on their own.
 
In the end, no matter what kind of consulting or what kind of provider, be sure that you are choosing a partner who has their goals set on solving your problems, not just taking your money.

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