At its most basic, IT consultancy involves advising clients on how to use information and communication technologies to meet their needs and goals, whether these are commercial or personal. IT consultants are most commonly employed by organizations or businesses to improve the function of the organization’s IT infrastructure, making it more efficient, cost-effective and intuitive. Some companies and organization bring in an external IT consultant to carry out an audit of its IT systems and make recommendations for improvement, as outsourcing is sometimes more economical than hiring a dedicated IT consultant. Outsourcing may extend from estimating costs and implementing new IT systems to administration and maintenance of existing systems.
While no institution of higher education offers a specific course for becoming an IT consultant, many people in the field have some kind of IT qualification, particularly Computer Science, Systems Analysis, Systems Design, and related degrees. Courses in structured programming, working with the current programming languages, are invaluable, but some consultants are self-taught. Other consultants learn almost entirely on the job, working as systems operators, programmers, researchers and managers.
The typical tasks carried out by an IT consultant are wide-ranging, and will vary depending on the specialism or specialisms of the consultant. Typically, consultants will meet with clients to discuss IT requirements and define the goals of the project by examining the specification supplied by the client and observing their work processes and how these serve that particular type of organization. They will then plot a timescale for the project, and outline all resources required for its implementation. IT consultants will often go on-site to the company in order to observe the processes in real-time and get a fuller sense of the nature of the business. IT consultants usually liaise with a wide range of staff at multiple levels within the company infrastructure to ensure that the proposed project meets all requirements and has the proper support. IT consultants must examine the existing IT infrastructure and define the company’s requirements for hardware, software and servers going forward. An IT consultant is required to provide an objective and informed judgment on the best way to develop this existing infrastructure. Working with clients, the IT consultant will develop an appropriate solution which is tailored to the specifications provided, and may present these to clients in a verbal or written format. Some IT consultants will be involved in the process of purchasing hardware and software for the new infrastructure, or they may simply fulfill an advisory role. They will often help their clients with managing the changeover to new systems, minimizing disruption.
IT consultants often help with the implementation of new IT systems, including the design, test stages, installation and subsequent monitoring, to ensure that the new system fulfills what was promised. After installation, IT consultants may remain on hand for a period of time to train users in use of the new system and provide maintenance and troubleshooting where needed. Some consultants maintain a long term relationship with clients, maintaining and supporting the infrastructure on a day-to-day basis.
Victor is a tech blogger and freelance writer. His interests span from cloud computing and VPS to gadgets and gaming. He currently works for a IT support company in Sydney as well as writing for several blogs and publications.