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 to meet their business objectives. In addition to providing advice, IT consultancies often estimate, manage, implement, deploy, and administer IT systems on businesses' behalf, known as outsourcing.
The IT consulting industry can be viewed as a Four-tier system:
• Professional services firms which maintain large professional workforces and command high bill rates.
• Staffing 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 Form W-2), or as independent contractors in their own right (for US tax purposes, on "1099").
• Information Technology security consultants
There are different reasons why consultants are called in:
• To gain external, objective advice and recommendations
• To gain access to the consultants' specialized expertise
• Temporary help during a one-time project where the hiring of a permanent employee(s) is not required or necessary
• To outsource all or part of the IT services from a specific company
Four basic principles
The four 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
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.
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
• Advisory language skills
• Business and management language skills
• Technical language skills
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
• 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 risk of project and cost overrun.
Management consulting and IT consulting
There is a relatively unclear line between management consulting and IT consulting. There are sometimes overlaps between the two fields, but IT consultants often have degrees in computer science, electronics, technology, or management information systems while management consultants often have degrees in accounting, economics, Industrial Engineering, finance, 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.
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