Computer consultants are information technology professionals with proven experience in a specific area of information technology. There are two main types of computer consultants; functional and technical.
Computer technical consultants are often hired to implement, update, and redesign computer systems.
A functional consultant is experienced in the effective use and support of a technology solution. They are skilled in the actual roles or tasks performed by the solution. They are hired to act as a bridge between the needs of the business and the technology’s ability to meet those needs.
Functional computing consultants are often hired by consulting firms to provide support and advice.
Functional computing consultants tend to have a business degree, along with an average of five to eight years of business experience. Necessary skill sets include excellent communication skills, analytical thinking, complex problem solving and people skills. These types of consultants are hired by consulting firms to provide long-term support and advice.
Technical advisors must be able to recommend the computer hardware and software program that meets the customer’s needs.
A technical consultant has expertise in hardware, programming and configuration of the technological solution. They are usually hired for implementation projects, upgrades, changes and systems reengineering. The technical consultant may be hired to provide more in-depth knowledge than existing technical staff or to serve a niche need.
Computer consultants often have to work long hours.
Computer technical consultants hold university degrees in computer science, mathematics, engineering, or a related discipline. They are hired by consulting firms, hardware and software manufacturers to act as a resource during implementation projects and sales presentations.
Within the two groups of consultants, there are subgroups, with areas of expertise. A functional consultant typically takes a wide variety of product-specific courses to gain a level of specialized knowledge in a particular product or solution. A technical advisor should keep up to date on the latest product offerings, industry connections, and be aware of trends and the future direction of their niche market.
Job descriptions for IT consultants typically involve 80% to 90% travel, above-average salaries, and long working hours. There are also downtimes and IT consultants take the risk of having no income during a downturn. Consultants must constantly update their skills, manage a network of industry contacts, both as consultants and to increase their exposure to potential clients.
Computer consultants can start their own businesses or work for an agency. There are pros and cons to both options. Self-employment can be great, with greater financial rewards and freedom. However, running the real business involves looking for work, bidding for jobs, administration and paperwork. On average, 30% – 50% of an IT consultant’s working hours are spent managing their own business, with only 50-70% of the time available for billed work.
Working for an agency increases the time available to actually work and keep your skills up to date, but there is a cost that must be paid to the agency for the locating and management of the project engagements. Some agencies offer health benefits and training allowances. These options may be worth the difference in net income in the long run.
Computer consultants can help a company determine which software it needs to operate.