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Information technology consulting

Information technology consulting

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Information technology consulting (also called IT consulting, Computer consultancy, Computing consultancy, technology consulting business and technology services or IT advisory) is a field that focuses on advising businesses on how best to use information technology
Information technology
Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

 to meet their business objectives. In addition to providing advice, IT consultancies often estimate
Software development effort estimation
Software development efforts estimation is the process of predicting the most realistic use of effort required to develop or maintain software based on incomplete, uncertain and/or noisy input...

, manage
Project management
Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, securing, and managing resources to achieve specific goals. A project is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end , undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value...

, implement, deploy
Software deployment
Software deployment is all of the activities that make a software system available for use.The general deployment process consists of several interrelated activities with possible transitions between them. These activities can occur at the producer site or at the consumer site or both...

, and administer
System administrator
A system administrator, IT systems administrator, systems administrator, or sysadmin is a person employed to maintain and operate a computer system and/or network...

 IT systems on businesses' behalf, known as Outsourcing
Outsourcing
Outsourcing is the process of contracting a business function to someone else.-Overview:The term outsourcing is used inconsistently but usually involves the contracting out of a business function - commonly one previously performed in-house - to an external provider...

.

Overview



The IT consulting industry can be viewed as a Four-tier system:
  • Professional services
    Professional services
    Professional services is an industry of infrequent, technical, or unique functions performed by independent contractors or by consultants whose occupation is the rendering of such services....

     firms which maintain large professional workforces and command high bill rates.
  • Staffing
    Employment agency
    An employment agency is an organization which matches employers to employees. In all developed countries there is a publicly funded employment agency and multiple private businesses which also act as employment agencies.-Public employment agencies:...

     firms, which place technologists with businesses on a temporary basis, typically in response to employee absences, temporary skill shortages and technical projects.
  • Independent consultants, who are self-employed or who function as employees of staffing firms (for US tax purposes, employed on "W-2"), or as independent contractors in their own right (for US tax purposes, on "1099").

  • Information Security Consultants


There are different reasons why consultants are called in:
  • To gain external, more objective advice and recommendations
  • To gain access to the consultants' specialized expertise
  • Simply as temporary help during a one-time project, where the hiring of permanent employees is not required
  • To outsource all or part of the IT services

Five basic principles


Five basic principles of IT consulting are:
  • Focus on the Relationship: Understanding the personality and expectations of client, client organization and all other stakeholders

  • Clearly Defined Role: Defined roles and responsibilities for both clients, other stakeholders and consulting team

  • Visualize Success: Helping the client see the end at the beginning

  • You Advise, They Decide: Client is the best person to decide

  • Be Oriented Towards Results: Ensuring that the solution addresses end user concerns, user training, implementation and maintenance constraints

Prerequisites and Major obstacles


Once a business owner defined the needs to take a business to the next level, a decision maker will define a scope, cost and a time-frame of the project . The role of the IT consultancy company is to support and nurture the company from the very beginning of the project till the end, and deliver the project not only in the scope, time and cost but also with complete customer satisfaction.

Project Scoping and Planning


The usual problem is that a business owner doesn't know the detail of what the project is going to deliver until it starts the process. In many cases, the incremental effort in some projects can lead to significant financial loss.

The worst problem is that the baseline for evaluating the managers appointed to manage the project becomes blurred - making it more difficult to hold him or her accountable.

Business Process and System Design


The scope of a project is linked intimately to the proposed business processes and systems that the project is going to deliver. Regardless of whether the project is to launch a new product range or discontinue unprofitable parts of the business, the change will have some impact on business processes and systems. The documentation of your business processes and system requirements are as fundamental to project scoping as an architects plans would be to the costing and scoping of the construction of a building.

Project Management Support


The most successful business projects are always those that are driven by an employee who has the authority, vision and influence to drive the required changes in a business. It is highly unlikely that a business owner (decision maker or similar) will realize the changes unless one has one of these people in the employment. However, the project leadership role typically requires significant experience and skills which are not usually found within a company focused on day-to-day operations. Due to this requirement within more significant business change projects / programs, outside expertise is often sought from firms which can bring this specific skill set to the company.

IT Consulting Skills


An IT Consultant needs to possess the following skills:
  • Advisory skills
  • Technical skills
  • Business skills
  • Communication skills
  • Management skills

Consulting fees


Under normal circumstances a fee for IT consulting is measured on a per day, per consultant basis. There is however an alternative option; fixed fee IT Consulting. A fixed fee IT consulting contract applies only to projects which are well defined, for example:
  • Infrastructure refreshment projects
  • Network design
  • Troubleshooting IT Consulting
  • Implementation of specific well described features, such as monitoring platforms
  • Infrastructure Capacity Planning


Generally, fixed fee IT consulting is for a specific amount of work, within a defined timeframe.

Many companies are now moving towards a fixed priced IT consulting model.

This trend is expected to continue as more companies now require delivery of IT Consulting services within a defined time and price structure.

Open ended consultancy models generally favour the consulting firm, as the consultancy firm is rewarded on a per day basis, there is no incentive to complete assignments within a fixed time. The result often being project overruns and significant cost overrun.

Management consulting and IT consulting


There is a relatively unclear line between management consulting
Management consulting
Management consulting indicates both the industry and practice of helping organizations improve their performance primarily through the analysis of existing organizational problems and development of plans for improvement....

 and IT consulting. There are sometimes overlaps between the two fields, but IT consultants often have degrees in computer science
Computer science
Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

, electronics
Electronics
Electronics is the branch of science, engineering and technology that deals with electrical circuits involving active electrical components such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes and integrated circuits, and associated passive interconnection technologies...

, technology
Technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

, or management information systems while management consultants often have degrees in accounting, economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

, Industrial Engineering
Industrial engineering
Industrial engineering is a branch of engineering dealing with the optimization of complex processes or systems. It is concerned with the development, improvement, implementation and evaluation of integrated systems of people, money, knowledge, information, equipment, energy, materials, analysis...

, finance
Finance
"Finance" is often defined simply as the management of money or “funds” management Modern finance, however, is a family of business activity that includes the origination, marketing, and management of cash and money surrogates through a variety of capital accounts, instruments, and markets created...

, or a generalized MBA (Masters in Business Administration).

According to the Institute for Partner Education & Development, IT consultants' revenues come predominantly from design and planning based consulting with a mixture of IT and Business Consulting. This is different from a Systems Integrator in that you do not normally take title to product. Their value comes from their ability to integrate and support technologies as well as determining product and brands.

See also

  • List of major IT consulting firms
  • Consultant
    Consultant
    A consultant is a professional who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area such as management, accountancy, the environment, entertainment, technology, law , human resources, marketing, emergency management, food production, medicine, finance, life management, economics, public...

  • Management consulting
    Management consulting
    Management consulting indicates both the industry and practice of helping organizations improve their performance primarily through the analysis of existing organizational problems and development of plans for improvement....

  • Outsourcing
    Outsourcing
    Outsourcing is the process of contracting a business function to someone else.-Overview:The term outsourcing is used inconsistently but usually involves the contracting out of a business function - commonly one previously performed in-house - to an external provider...

  • Grade (consulting)