IT consultants assist clients with technology-related issues. It involves such work as developing technology strategies (which, of course, should be done based on business unit strategy, which in turn should be based on corporate strategy). IT consultants also conduct technology assessments, where they evaluate a company’s current technology infrastructure and systems to find areas for improvement and development. They also design and implement technology solutions based on the specific needs of the client. Of course, clients may need ongoing technical support, which may also be provided by IT consultants. Because of their area of expertise, consultants need to stay on top of technology trends and have a good understanding of risks and how to maximize the benefits of technology investments clients may be considering or should be considering.
The work environment for IT consultants
IT consultants often work for large consulting and professional services firms like Deloitte, PwC, KPMG, E&Y, etc. As a result, their work environment is not that much different from that of other consultants. Although projects are often longer in duration and more time is spent on the client’s site. Of course, there are also boutique consulting firms that offer IT consulting services, and their work environment will be different from work environment of large international consulting firms and professional services firms.
Overall, consultants generally work in traditional office environments. It can be either their own firm or the client’s offices. Remote work is also common, given advancements in technology and especially after COVID lockdowns. Many consultants do most of the work remotely and communicate with clients and their teams through email, zoom, or other videoconferencing platforms, and other online collaboration systems.
Consultants usually work in a project-based format. They have short-term projects and long-term projects depending on the client and their needs.
Because of the nature of the work, consultants generally work closely with clients and other stakeholders to make sure IT solutions are implemented and well-integrated. Consulting, and IT consulting specifically, usually involves a fast-paced environment and is often challenging.
Consultants have a challenging job. However, it is also a rewarding job if someone likes technology and working on projects for variety of clients. And the biggest reward for many consultants is seeing the impact their work makes on their clients after IT solutions are implemented.
What education is needed to qualify for an IT consultant role
For large consulting firms, to become an IT consultant, you will generally need at least a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, and a related field of study. Some consultants interested in specializing in technology related work also obtain an MBA or another master’s degree, often in a technology-related field.
Of course, the degree requirement will vary depending on the firm hiring the consultant and the specific technology area in which the consultant specializes. Some IT consultants also obtain industry certifications in a technology-related field. Certifications may indicate to managers or to recruiters that this particular consultant is very serious about upskilling and being the best they can be in their chosen line of work.
Of course, education is not enough. To be an effective IT consultant one also needs work experience related to technology, as well as a track record of successful delivery of technology consulting projects. So it is not uncommon to see IT consultants who came from technical roles and later in their career obtain an IT consultant role. After all, when clients hire consultants, they expect them to be well-trained. They are not paying large consulting fees for junior people without work experience to learn on the job.
What kind of skills are needed
An IT consultant needs a variety of skills to be successful. On top of the expected foundation of education and work experience, the following skills are crucial to being an effective IT consultant.
Communication skills – Any consultant needs to have strong communication skills. And the more senior a consultant becomes within a consulting firm, the more they need to have strong communication skills. Just having technical skills is not enough. Consultants work in teams and work with people from the client’s side. So without good communication skills, the days of a consultant in that consulting firm are usually numbered. Even in firms where the up-or-out policy is not used, consultants without communication skills are usually pushed to stay in junior roles and will lack opportunities for advancement and growth.
Project management skills – Since IT consultants work on projects, sometimes simultaneously on projects for various clients, the ability to manage projects effectively is crucial. Projects need to be delivered on time, on budget, and up to standards.
Business judgment: Another crucial skill for any consultant, including an IT consultant, is business judgment. Since technology is a tool that is used to achieve an organization’s goals, consultants need to understand their client’s goals and business circumstances so they can assess, design and implement technology solutions effectively.
Ability to write – Most consulting roles require an ability to write concisely and clearly. Even if consulting project is primarily about implementation, a lot of communication with a client and reporting to the client may occur in a written format. So writing skills are important for someone to be an effective IT consultant.
Networking and client relationship-building skills – For any consultant, including an IT consultant, the more senior they become, the more they are usually expected to bring home the bacon. They need to support all the junior consultants under them in terms of being able to bring in large enough and overall enough projects. This is where networking and client relationship-building skills become more and more important.
Foundational problem solving skills – Of course, any consultant also needs foundational problem solving skills. The video below provides some training on foundational problem solving skills consultants need.
Time management and ability to work effectively under pressure – To be an effective consultant time management skills and ability to work effectively under pressure is a requirement.
An average salary to expect
As an IT consultant in the United States, you can expect around $80,000 at junior levels and over $150,000 as you rise within the organization, often much more depending on how much business you bring in at a senior level.
The salary of an IT consultant differs depending on the firm they are working for, their level of experience and education, their economic situation, the location of the consulting firm, and many other factors.
In addition to a base salary, an IT consultant generally receives health insurance, an annual bonus, and health insurance. Sometimes, an consultant is even compensated with a percentage of a fee for the project.
Usually, consultants who work for larger firms earn more than consultants who work for smaller firms or who offer their consulting services as a freelancer. However, if a consultant is able to build a successful consulting business, which we teach how to do in Consulting Sales Rainmaker coaching program, in that situation, a much larger compensation is possible.
Growing and protecting your consulting business
Consulting is a very rewarding line of work that allows for accelerated personal and professional growth. If you want to work as an IT consultant, you can start taking steps to ensure you are qualified for such roles. It is often easier to start in a technical role or as a consultant for a small boutique consulting firm, or by starting your own firm. Of course, if you end up starting your own firm, you will also need to learn a lot of skills related to starting a running your own business, which we do cover as well as part of our training resources and coaching programs available.
Learn more here on how consulting firms compete:
Some thoughts to keep in mind if you decide to start your own IT consulting firm. You will need to register your business. You will need to develop and implement a marketing strategy. Marketing is usually the hardest part for business owners. Business owners are usually qualified to offer a product or service that they choose to offer, but they usually struggle with finding customers and clients. You will need to ensure the delivery of the projects you sell is high quality, and at the same time, you need to ensure you are selling new projects. Most businesses go out of business because they run out of cash. So it is very important to watch your finances very carefully and watch your cash flow. You will also need to stay on top of business and industry trends and continue to improve your business since your competitiors are not sleeping, and they want to take your customers.
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