Frequently when you think of the stereotyped Information Technology (IT) worker you think of "nerds" tucked away in a basement somewhere with poor social skills in reality that is nowhere near true. IT consultants have to be able to work well with several different types of people and companies. Without the IT department companies would be in shambles when it came to information security, communication platforms, company websites, and much more.
IT is the broad term for jobs that involve using computer programming, data, and analysis. This could be information security analysts, web developers, computer network architects, computer-systems analysts, and other jobs that analyze how computer systems, software, data, and security work within a company. An IT consultant typically works for a consulting firm or independently.
Consulting firms are hired or contracted by a company to come in and analyze their IT systems and structure. They often advise companies on how to use information technology in order to meet their business objectives or overcome problems. Often IT consultants will work to improve the structure and efficiency of IT systems within the various organizations they’re working with.
The jobs can take weeks or months but as consultants, they’re contracted to work for that company until the job is done. Consultants usually have an office they report to, but often work on-site at the company to which they are contracted.
In order to be an IT consultant, you must be a great communicator and have excellent organizational skills as well as sound knowledge and understanding of IT systems. Most consulting firms will require their IT consultants to have a bachelor's degree in computer or information science, engineering, or other computer-related fields —some only require that you know how to write code or computer programs and have demonstrable skills.
Day-to-day tasks include:
- Meeting with clients to determine requirements.
- Working with clients to define the scope of a project.
- Planning timescales and the resources needed. Oftentimes several moving parts to every organization, and having to consider every moving part requires some serious organizational skills.
- Clarifying a client's system specifications, understand their work practices and the nature of their business.
- Traveling to customer sites.
- Developing relationships with staff at all levels of a client organization. Developing and establishing new IT systems is a company-wide project so IT consultants have to be able to work and communicate well with several different types of people.
- Defining software, hardware, and network requirements.
- Analyzing IT requirements within companies. IT consultants have to be able to look at complex data and computer systems and find inefficiencies, analyze weaknesses, security threats, and give independent and objective advice on the use of IT.
- Developing agreed solutions and implementing new systems. This takes massive amounts of concentration and attention to detail because some projects require writing code for long stretches of time. This also takes some creativity in finding new innovative solutions that will work best for a particular company.
- Presenting solutions in written or oral reports. This includes presenting to the people within the business they’re contracted out to and their own management. Which means establishing two —oftentimes very different— presentations to show that the work that was done will be beneficial to the companies.
- Helping clients with change-management activities.
- Purchasing systems where appropriate.
- Designing, testing, installing, and monitoring new systems.
- Preparing documentation and presenting progress reports to customers.
- Organizing training for users and other consultants.
- Being involved in sales, and where appropriate, maintaining contact with client organizations.
- Identifying potential clients and building and maintaining contacts.
- Providing guidance and technical expertise during other processes and procurement and user training and feedback.
Practically every company with computers has (or has had) an IT consultant and large corporations would not be anywhere near where they are today. IT consulting is hard work that takes a lot of skill, practice, and patience. IT consultants are a major part of what makes a company run effectively, efficiently, and deserve to be thought of as more than just basement-dwelling nerds.