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What Is IT Consulting?

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IT consulting is more than advising a company about which computers they should buy. It includes everything related to the information technology side of the business. From implementing new software to creating a plan to recover a crashed hard drive, IT consulting is a fast-growing career field.

This guide covers:

IT Consulting Overview

Consulting is when a business brings in an outside person with expertise in a specific field to help objectively evaluate where the company is and to design a plan that helps it achieve its goals. In IT consulting, the consultant does exactly that, but with a specific focus on the business’s technology infrastructure.

Often a company brings in an IT consultant to work with the internal IT staff to offer advice and insights from a fresh perspective. They may design systems, suggest hardware and software to invest in, or identify security risks. The consultant may even help the company connect with other specialists who can assist with the project.

Robert Douglas, president of PlanetMagpie Consulting, an IT consulting firm, explains that, ultimately, all IT consulting is based around a business need, and those needs can cover “anything and everything” IT-related. The consultant could work with the client for a short time (which computers should we buy) or long-term (how do we defend against phishing and ransomware attacks).

IT Consulting Market

As of 2022, the IT consulting market is a $623.1 billion industry and is projected to grow 9.1% between 2022 and 2026. This growth will likely be fueled by these industry trends:

  • Internet of things (IoT): With over 8 billion connected devices, companies will need to maintain and manage devices and their connections.
  • Big data: Analytics and big data are playing an increasingly important role in business decisions and goal setting.
  • 5G cellular: Though still new, 5G technology is the next big thing in connectivity.
  • Blockchain: While blockchain is mainly used in cryptocurrency, other industries are starting to adopt the technology for security reasons. 
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): Artificial intelligence is still a long way off, but with more companies exploring this area every day, it’s poised to take on new significance in the future.
  • Augmented reality (AR): Augmented reality is fast overtaking virtual reality (VR) and may soon dominate this niche market.

Types of IT Consulting Services

Though IT consulting includes anything and everything related to information technology, nearly all of the work falls under eight main categories:

  • Strategy: creating a long-term plan that defines how IT will support the business
  • Architecture: designing the plans and guidelines to build IT systems
  • Implementation: overseeing the execution of the IT plan
  • Systems integration: connecting different parts of the IT system and ensuring they work together
  • Data analytics: capturing, processing, and analyzing data to help answer business questions
  • Security: creating a strategy to prevent unauthorized access to hardware, networks, and data, and ensuring systems are compliant
  • Software management: planning and leading software projects, including scheduling, tracking, and delivery of code
  • ERP (enterprise resource planning) services: helping choose the software the company uses for daily business activities (like accounting or project management)

However, within those broad categories, IT consultants often have a specialty. Some examples are:

  • Infrastructure planning: identifying what hardware, software, and staff the company needs
  • Risk assessment: identifying security threats and assessing their potential impact
  • Disaster recovery planning: designing a response to unexpected events, like cyberattacks, power outages, or other disasters
  • Migration: moving data and software from one system to another
  • Network design: structuring the IT network

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Pros and Cons of Working in IT Consulting

Like any industry, working in IT consulting has its pros and cons. Here’s what to consider before entering the field.

Pros of Working in IT Consulting

Douglas notes that one of the pros of IT consulting is the money. While a beginning IT consultant might make $66,000 a year in base salary, bonuses, profit sharing, and commissions could push that number higher. According to PayScale, the average base salary for IT consultants is approximately $81,000 per year, with seasoned pros earning as much as $143,000 annually in total pay.

Beyond wages, though, IT consulting offers you the opportunity to broaden your skill set. While you’ll likely have a strong foundation in IT and perhaps a focus area, as a consultant, you’ll likely face situations and challenges that require you to develop and use skills you may not otherwise have a chance to.

Cons of Working in IT Consulting

To be successful in IT consulting, Douglas points out that you have to be willing to work crazy hours. “Customers can’t afford to be offline during the day,” he says, which means you may do a fair amount of your work overnight.

Another con of IT consulting is that as the consultant, you are sometimes the bearer of bad news. Even with excellent conflict resolution and interpersonal skills, telling the client their data is lost for good or their budget is impossible to meet can be stressful.

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