IT Consulting Services – Benefits

IT Consulting services are one of the fastest growing IT services. IT consulting has now become a ‘sought after’ service, due to the following reasons. In-house teams are either hard-pressed for time to attend to complex IT issues or do not have the necessary expertise. Similarly companies are particular about availing the services of an external consultant, who can add value. On certain occasions, companies have benefited by improving their service offerings, with the services of an IT consultant.

Consulting firms offer IT strategy consultancy, IT services outsourcing and Project Management services, apart from mainstream IT consultancy services. Some of the firms offer services on highly specialized areas like Program management. Therefore, it is important for IT firms to asses if they need the services of a generalist or a specialist. In the last five years, not many IT firms have signed mega deals. Volumes do not make an impact anymore as many IT firms choose vendors on the basis of specialist edge. Even some of the Request for Proposals’ (RFP’s) specifies that only pure-play consultants should apply to the proposals. Therefore, there is a huge increase in the demand for specialist IT consulting companies. There are still a percentage of IT firms that prefer to avail the services of a generalist, though such deals are gradually decreasing.

Surveys have repeatedly indicated the importance of IT consultancy services. IT consulting spends have seen a manifold increase. There is also an emphasis to spend less on IT consulting and get optimal benefits. IT firms have also increased the expectations from consultants. Companies also expect IT consultants to provide staffing services. IT consultants have better access to resources with specialist skills and also employ them in highly scalable models. Since these resources are not contractors, but employees of the consultants working in the client’s office, the IT firms do not have to comply with contractor obligations. Therefore, they avail the services of cost-effective resources.

It is not a compulsion to outsource operations to a supplier and also avail the services of their IT consultants. However, there are competitive advantages in outsourcing operations to a supplier and engaging the services of their IT consultants. Co-sourcing mode of engagement is preferable to a traditional outsourcing model and an IT firm can employ the resources of the supplier to work along with their employees. This helps them to retain business control and also get specialist skills on demand.

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Consultant – A defenition, and a bit more

My first post under this subject should have been this one but it was not so, I’m posting the definition of Consultant now. I believe it is important you understand this definition so that you can better understand the content of my posts on consultancy.

A consultant (from Latin: consultare “to discuss”) is a professional who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area such as security (electronic or physical), management, accountancy, law (tax law, in particular), human resources, marketing (and public relations), finance, engineering, or any of many other specialized fields.

A consultant is usually an expert or a professional in a specific field and has a wide knowledge of the subject matter. The role of consultant outside the medical sphere (where the term is used specifically for a grade of doctor) can fall under one of two general categories:

■ Internal Consultant – someone who operates within an organisation but is available to be consulted on areas of specialism by other departments or individuals (acting as clients); or
■ External Consultant – someone who is employed externally (either by a firm or some other agency) whose expertise is provided on a temporary basis, usually for a fee. As such this type of consultant generally engages with multiple and changing clients.

The overall impact of a consultant is that clients have access to deeper levels of expertise than would be feasible for them to retain in-house, and may purchase only as much service from the outside consultant as desired.

‘Consultant’ is also the term used to denote the most senior medical position in the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland (e.g., a consultant surgeon).

Qualifications

There is no such thing as a single qualification to be a consultant other than those laid down in relation to medical personnel who have attained this level.

Internationally the accreditation of Management Consultants is overseen by higher education training and accreditation organizations —

Consulting guru, Peter Block, defines a consultant as “someone who has influence over an individual, group, or organization, but who has no direct authority to implement changes.” He contrasts this with a surrogate manager who is a person who “acts on behalf of, or in place of, a manager.” The key difference is that a consultant never makes decisions for the individual or group, whereas a surrogate manager does make decisions.

The Institute for Independent Business (IIB) with — globally, July, 2012 — 5,889 mature executives, stringently accredited as Associates since the IIB was established in 1984 as the Institute for Independent British Business (http://www.iib.ws) The IIB’s twelve month pe-accreditation Consultancy Business Development Diploma — CBDDip.— is now awarded by the International Independent Business University (http://www.iibu.org) as a pre-requisite for its unique MBA (Consultancy) — NB, that’s Master of Business Arts, not Administration. And the prestigious Oxford Brookes University even recognizes the CBDDip as 20 of 80 credits in its MBA (Global)!!

Institute accredited Associates are bound by a Code of Ethics that requires the consultant to only provide “practical advice that works” — by “Analysing as a Generalist and Solving as a Specialist” — using the skills and experience of a sub-contracted fellow Associate, thus at all times providing the client with the best available advice and support.

Life as a Consultant
Life as a Consultant (Photo credit: Ikhlasul Amal)

The International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI) has around 50 member institutes covering the globe. The award of Certified Management Consultant (CMC) status is its internationally recognised accreditation that is not specific to the technical content of the consultant’s practice. For instance this could be held equally by a Human Resources (HR) expert or a Chemical Engineer operating as management consultants in their field(s) of expertise.

Chartered Institute of Management Consultants (CIMC) is a not-for-profit professional body chartered federally under Letters Patent granted by the Government of Canada. CIMC is also chartered under the Laws of the State of Delaware, USA. CIMC is also registered with the National Certification Commission, USA. The CIMC award Chartered Management Consultant Ch.MC designation as a global management credential.

Common types

In the business, and as of recently the private sphere, the most commonly found consultants are:

  • Strategy Consultants working on the development of and improvements to organisational strategy alongside Senior Management in many industries.
  • Human Resources or HR Consultants who provide expertise around employment practice and people management.
  • Internet Consultants who are specialists in business use of the internet and keep them self up to date with new and changed capabilities offered by the web. Ideally internet consultants also have practical experience and expertise in management skills such as strategic planning, change, projects, processes, training, team-working and customer satisfaction.
  • Process Consultants who are specialists in the design or improvement of operational processes and can be specific to the industry or sector.
  • Public Relations or PR Consultants dealing specifically with Public Relations matters external to the client organisation and often engaged on a semi-permanent basis by larger organisations to provide input and guidance.
  • Performance Consultants who focus on the execution of an intuitive or overall performance of their client.
  • Information Technology Consultants in many disciplines such as Computer Hardware, Software Engineering or Networks.
  • Marketing Consultants who are generally called upon to advise around areas of product development and related marketing matters.
  • Interim Managers as mentioned above may be independent consultants who act as interim executives with decision-making power under corporate policies or statutes. They may sit on specially constituted boards or committees.
  • Pay per question consultants The professions vary greatly from appliance repair consultants to medical specialty consultants. Clients post a question to a website that provides a venue for consultants, that are verified as an expert in their profession or trade, and customers to interact in a Q&A session. A value is chosen, and a deposit made by the customer to have their question answered by an expert in a specific trade or profession. The expert provides the information to the customer, and is then paid a percentage of the deposited amount. The website retains the remainder of the fee for use of the venue. Although still a new method of getting information from professionals on a one to one basis it is growing in popularity. For an average fee of $30.00 people can ask specific questions to professionals such as Lawyers, Doctors, Mechanics, Electricians, Veterinarians, Appliance Servicemen, Teachers, Engineers, and almost any type of trade or profession there is.

References

  1. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/consultant
  2. Pieter P. Tordoir (1995). The professional knowledge economy: the management and integration services in business organizations. p.140.
  3. http://www.icmci.org/
  4. Consultant. (2012, November 12).  In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:10, November 12, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Consultant&oldid=522605872

To Be, Or Not To Be: An Independent Consultant

I’ve been in the Web Development field for over 16 years and during this time I have worked as a consultant and as a fulltime employee. If you ask me which I prefer I would say I prefer being a fulltime employee but not for the reasons you might think. As a Consultant I experienced working for consulting firms and as an independent consultant. Both options are viable ones which I would recommend to any developer seeking to make a move away from the fulltime employee scene. Both offer great pay opportunities and a level of independence that is refreshing and rewarding. They also ask for a higher level of commitment when you consider how your level of responsibility is increased when you become a consultant.

IT consultant
IT consultant (Photo credit: Todor036)

How could this higher commitment level impact you? Consider this, as a consultant you will no longer have tuition reimbursement available to you unless you are lucky enough to be hired by a consulting firm that offers it. Most likely you will be hired by a consulting firm that only offers this benefit to fulltime employees, not short-term consultants like you. Add to this that you will have to keep up with new trends in the field of your choice if you want to stay competitive. As a consultant you are only as good as your level of experience which can be limited to the type of work you are contracted to do. Unless you make a commitment to keep your skills up-to-date you will not remain competitive. The consultant market is full of opportunities but most of them are for short-term contracts and as a consultant you won’t have the luxury of choice, at least not at the beginning. You will have to be focused and committed to your choice if you want to succeed.

If you are looking into becoming a consultant you must consider more than just your experience and what pay you could expect, you need to consider the fact that what you have taken for granted as a fulltime employee will be your responsibility. It will be on you to secure many of the benefits your HR department offered. It will be on you to track your expenses in order to deduct them come tax time. It will be on you to market yourself in order to secure new contracts and keep earning money.

At first glance, choosing to become a consultant seems like a no-brainer but I’m here to tell you it is a very serious decision which will impact your life considerably. Make an informed decision, do your homework and research all aspects of consulting before committing to becoming one.

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