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IT consultants give technical advice to clients who are seeking to use IT to further their business in some way.
The world of Information Technology can be an extremely confusing one and the rapid advances which seem to occur on a daily basis can be difficult to keep up with. However, businesses of all sizes simply have to maintain an awareness of technological issues in order for their goals to be met. IT systems are used by almost all companies throughout the world and the efficiency of these systems can lead to a company’s success or failure.
IT consultants are responsible for providing each client with individually tailored advice, which will help them to use computers and technological systems to meet their objectives. IT consultants do not just provide advice. They also provide practical help, by implementing new systems on the behalf of their clients. Sometimes, IT consultants will be expected to train clients and provide feedback to those involved in the particular company’s management.
As with many roles in the IT world, more men than women hold positions as IT consultants. However, there is no reason why women should be dissuaded from applying to become IT consultants. Indeed, there are several organisations which are currently working hard to encourage women to apply for IT-related jobs.
IT consultants are generally very well-paid and those starting out in the industry can expect to earn at least £23,000, which is an excellent starting salary. Depending upon the nature and location of the company employing the IT consultant, this starting salary could rise to beyond £30,000. Salaries are likely to be higher with companies located in central London. After several years working in the role, individuals may earn between £50,000 and £100,000. The salary provided to the individual is often related to performance and impressive bonuses are common.
The typical tasks undertaken by IT consultants include:
- Deciding which clients to take on
- Meeting with each client to discuss individual needs and objectives
- Researching the different features of the client’s business
- Thinking about how the business could be improved through IT systems
- Assessing the client’s pre-existing IT systems and the knowledge of the staff
- Assessing whether or not the current hardware options are working well for the company
- Designing training programmes
- Providing training for the client
- Providing general advice to the client
- Explaining complex technical issues in simple and clear terms to each member of staff
- Drawing up timetables of action and budgets
- Making sure the client is happy with initial plans and budgets
- Designing improvements to the current system or designing new systems for the client
- Implementing different IT systems or improving pre-existing systems and explaining these actions to the client in detail
- Exploring innovative technologies such as cloud hosting and advising companies as to what would be the most suitable solution for their needs
- Ensuring that the new systems and software options work well and are easy to use
- Writing reports for the client and presenting these orally if necessary
Becoming an IT consultant is fairly difficult, since competition for the role is so fierce. Holding a degree in a relevant subject including computer sciences, engineering, and mathematics may increase your chances of being successful. Many IT consultancy companies may use tests as part of their recruitment process. This is necessary since so many graduates hold impressive and relevant degrees. The testing process may include numerical exams. Not all applicants hold degrees and some IT consultants gain their role with an HND.
Formal training will be provided when a position is gained. Numerous different training programmes are likely to be offered to each employee and these programmes include systems analysis and project management, which is increasingly becoming an important part of an IT consultant’s role. IT consultants may also decide to work towards formal professional qualifications. The British Computer Society offers employees the chance to gain new skills and improve their chances of climbing the career ladder. Take a look at their website for further details.
IT consultants will need to possess the following skills:
- Good knowledge of computers and IT systems
- Good communication and interpersonal skills
- Good business knowledge
- Good research skills
- The ability to explain complex technical issues in simple terms
- The ability to work well as part of a team whilst being able to lead and motivate others
- An analytical mind
- Decision-making skills
- Good organisational skills
- The ability to stick to a tight budget and a strict timetable
IT consultants are usually able to stick to regular nine to five hours. However, strict timetables often mean that overtime will need to be worked. Overnight travel may also be necessary in order for IT consultants to reach the sites of clients. Employees spend a lot of time working in a comfortable office environment and the environments of their clients are usually relatively comfortable as well. Many IT consultants love the job that they do on a daily basis but it can be stressful, particularly when tight budgets and strict deadlines place limitations upon the individual.
Gaining relevant experience will be invaluable for individuals applying for positions as IT consultants. Many large companies offer internships, which undergraduates can apply for during university holidays. These internships are highly competitive but they will provide successful applicants with great experience and will also allow the IT consultants of the future to make some useful contacts. If you are unable to commit to a long period of unpaid work experience, consider shadowing a relevant employee for a few days, in order to see if you would suit the rigours of the role.
Many IT consultants are self-employed but the large majority of these individuals choose to work for companies prior to starting out independently. This allows them to gain useful contacts as well as confidence. The major employers of IT consultants include:
- IT consultancies, such as Logica, which has its headquarters in London
- Management consultancy firms
- Large software houses
- Computing hardware manufacturers
- Health services
- Transport companies
- Investment banks
- Other large businesses
Many IT consultants choose to stay involved with IT throughout their career. Some choose to specialise in one particular area of IT consultancy, for example web development. Others may choose to move to a completely different area of IT. For example, they may decide to become IT trainers or system analysts. The skills learnt in IT consultancy prepare individuals well for moves to managerial positions and many IT consultants adopt roles in management after several years.
Also known as…
- Technology consultants
What’s it really like?
Dave has been working as an IT consultant for twenty-five years and has held his current position for thirteen months. He decided to become an IT consultant after being tempted by the persuasive management team which recruited him.
He was also keen to work for a small company which offered a great salary and benefits package. Prior to becoming involved in IT, Dave was responsible for forecasting traffic capacities for telephone traffic.
Dave holds several IT Equipment Manufacturer Qualifications but much of his official training was performed whilst on the job. He has also attended numerous technology training courses in networking over the years, which have helped him to further his skills.
During a typical day at work, Dave talks to customers, tests networking scenarios in a laboratory environment, teaches customers new skills, and writes consultation documents. He enjoys the technical side of his role and appreciates the fact that his job offers him numerous opportunities to meet new people. However, the long and occasionally unsociable hours can be very frustrating.
Dave had some useful words of advice for those wishing to become involved in the world of IT consultancy. He thinks that individuals should educate themselves as much as possible about technical issues. They should immerse themselves in the world of IT and technology and keep up-to-date with changes in the industry. Dave believes that all the information that is required to perform his job well is available in the public domain, so it is up to the individuals to learn as much as they can.
Furthermore, if you are keen on becoming an IT consultant, you should just try to get your foot in the door at any IT-related company or a general company which requires the services of somebody trained in IT. You should be prepared to have a go at anything and if you are good in your role, you will progress and eventually reach the position you wish to work in. Dave believes that the IT trade is crammed full of charlatans who are not very good at what they do. Therefore, if you have genuine talent, you will go far.
With regards to career progression, Dave hopes to stay involved with IT consultancy until he decides to retire. He currently cannot imagine wanting to change career unless he was forced to do so. General management, which would be the next logical step up the corporate ladder for Dave, holds no appeal for him, since it would probably leave him less involved with the in-depth technical side of his current role.