Posts Tagged ‘IT consultant’

From in-house to consultancy: moving to the ‘dark side’

November 23, 2011

There are many exciting directions a career path can take when one works in the IT field. This is not exclusive to skill development or career advancements within the same company or field. Many IT people with in-house experience at some point choose to ‘move to the dark side’ and embrace the world of consulting. It can be a positive change for a Service Desk-bound professional to finally be able to get to the clients directly without all the layers of sales people, and be able to make good use of the inside knowledge they acquired by advising companies in different fields and with different environments on what is best for them.

Moving to consultancy is a choice that more and more IT professionals are making, while other professions are slowly becoming less popular. According to the research paper ‘Technology Insights 2011’ published by e-skills UK, there were as many as 149,000 ‘IT Strategy and Planning’ professionals in the UK in 2010. This category consists of professionals who provide advice on the effective utilisation of information technology in order to solve business problems or to enhance the effectiveness of business functions, and in particular computer and software consultants. This sector has an average growth of 2.22% per annum and is expected to grow by another 29,800 people by 2019, with 178,900 professionals working as IT consultants in the UK. Whereas the IT Strategy and Planning field has enjoyed a growth of 15% since 2001, jobs like computer engineers and database assistants on the other hand have decreased, the latter category by a striking -34%. It is evident that the more technical roles are suffering from the increased use of automation software, remote support and best practice processes that allow less skilled and therefore cheaper staff to take the place of qualified engineers without losing efficiency. So it is no surprise that more strategic roles are winning ground and many techies are making the choice to use their skills in the role of advisers.

While moving to a consultancy role can be a very positive choice for an IT professional from a career point of view, it might however also face the person with new challenges – in particular, the negative prejudice they could encounter when approaching clients. Consultants are often seen as salespeople who want to trick companies into buying their services, perhaps long projects that they don’t really need, and overcharge them when they could do the same work themselves, for less. This gives way to many issues. It is difficult for consultants to get hold of business heads or get them to listen to their proposals, and when they do manage to have a meeting, they need to be very well-prepared and find the right balance between cost and quality, where they do not undersell or oversell their services. Finally, they have greater responsibility with regards to the outcome than they had in their in-house role, so it is important that their plan is feasible and effective and that they check and monitor constantly to be sure that everything is going as expected, making any necessary correction along the way.

It is not all bad, of course. At the top of the ‘positives’ list, there is the fact that consultants get to see many different environments, rather than just a few in their career lifespan. This allows them to build a greater, wider knowledge and experience base and improve their professional skills. But it also helps to avoid the feeling of stagnancy, keeping their level of enthusiasm high as they can enjoy working on a variety of projects.

A former in-house professional may also have some advantages over consultants who do not have that kind of background: having experienced ‘the other side’ helps them understand what clients want and, especially, don’t want from a consultancy, so that they can deliver a better service and even identify new work opportunities. They know and understand how things work inside organisations – the communication issues between business and IT, the difficulty in justifying IT projects to the CFO or the blaming game when a project doesn’t go as predicted.

Balancing all the positive and negative sides of this move, one thing is certain: these kinds of professionals have an edge over those without an in-house background, and can therefore be a valued acquisition for a consultancy firm as well as a resourceful advisor for any company in need of IT improvements. And if taken advantage of appropriately, work success and personal satisfaction are natural consequences.

 

 

Jennifer Norman, Technical Consultant

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‘Cloud Consultancy’ – Experience On Demand

September 27, 2011

The value of consultancy in Service Management projects

For many organisations, expenditure towards IT is often a sticky subject – there never seems to be a big enough budget for IT related projects. This is especially true when these concern Service Management. Whereas it is easier to justify spend for hardware or software that needs to be updated or refreshed, Best Practice has always been more difficult to sell to the CFO.

This hasn’t always been the case. A few years ago, before the credit crunch, many organisations invested in ITIL training and qualifications for their own internal personnel. It was ‘the thing to have’ – but things have radically changed now. With tighter IT budgets and an increasing need for improved efficiency in this unstable economic climate, a great number of organisations are nowadays less interested in buying Service Management training for their in-house staff.

Putting staff through Service Management training is not only expensive and time consuming, but also not particularly effective on its own: even with the best qualifications, they would still lack that real-world experience that is so important for a successful outcome. In the same way, ITIL is being seen as  self-obsessed and often being thought as a mere money machine. There is an increasing awareness that Best Practice frameworks need not to be taken as a step-by-step guide – there is a growing necessity for the common-sense principles to be tailored and adapted to a specific IT environment.

What organisations are looking for is not to have the whole ‘knowledge pack’ but rather direct access to relevant knowledge and experience – an expert that can analyse their environment and tell them what aspects of ‘Best Practice’ would benefit their company. They don’t want to buy books, they want to buy expertise – and this is where Service Management consultancy comes into the picture.

An external Service Management professional will have both the knowledge and the experience, often more extensive than any in-house staff could have. This is because they will have worked with different clients, and therefore seen various environments and shared several experiences. They can compare an organisation with others with a similar or completely different system and give them advice on what would work for them, what kind of improvements they should make and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

In a world where everything within IT is becoming ‘on demand’ – software, platforms, databases – it seems Service Management couldn’t avoid following the trend, which has become a necessity for organisations living in constant fear of a double dip recession. Consultants can help by offering direct access to their knowledge base and the appropriate guidance for specific projects. This way, organisations will only ‘buy’ the knowledge and experience that is relevant to them and only for the necessary length of time to complete their project.

In particular, organisations now want a collaborative approach. They want an expert that can help them understand if their ideas are feasible, convenient and efficient and how best to achieve the results they aim at. They can show them what to do, train their staff and support them every time there is an issue, but without the financial burden of being there all the time.

Although very current, this ‘Cloud Consultancy’ is not anyone’s cutting-edge invention. It can instead be seen as the result of the current economic climate: organisations need on-demand resource, knowledge and experience with built in flexibility. It is a natural development to suit these times of economic uncertainties, and provide organisations with the necessary tools to grow and pursue success.

Sharron Deakin, Principal Consultant

5 reasons to employ an IT consultant

May 23, 2011

Have you ever found yourself in that situation where you look all over the place for your glasses, until someone tells you they are on your head? When it comes to IT, it can be difficult to see what is wrong with the system you are using and how it can be improved when you are directly involved in it. In these cases, an external view would be helpful – and it is also beneficial when you don’t have the time or resources to maintain up to date knowledge of your sector’s latest developments or have little experience of alternative environments and IT systems and the benefits they may bring. There are many reasons why the use of an external consultant for IT projects covering infrastructure, service management and even security will bring advantages. Here are five reasons why it is beneficial to use an IT consultant for making improvements to your IT Service Desk:

1 – Unbiased view

An external view can be more objective than an internal one. People directly involved with the IT Service Desk may not want to admit that the Desk is not delivering well, fearing it might be seen as being their fault; that their latest project wasn’t managed or delivered correctly or was a waste of money; or even that some roles, perhaps theirs, might be unnecessary. Some Service Desk managers are protective about how well their department is doing to avoid losing their job or reputation, and prefer to be creative with figures to give the rest of the business the impression their Service Desk is generally doing better than it actually is. As for consultants, it is in their own interest to be completely transparent in the results of their assessment and to make the appropriate recommendations in order to improve service levels and overcome existing issues, demonstrating evidence of the results to the organisation who hired them.

2 – Diverse experience

Normally, an experienced consultant will have worked with many other organisations from different industry sectors and with different solutions for their IT, and they can compare your solution with others, noticing differences and similarities. They might also have experience of new technologies and processes that you are thinking of implementing. Having seen what worked and what didn’t in other contexts, they will be able to suggest the adoption of processes, tools or management systems already in use in other environments that may be suitable for yours. Thanks to this experience, the risk of implementing the wrong solution is minimised and so are the chances of losing money, time and efficiency.

3 – Similar experiences

Consultants may also have experience of environments that are similar to yours, either because they are the same type of company, from the same sector or are using the same IT system. This can obviously bring some advantages – consultants can compare your system to others in use in similar environments and recognise where improvements can be made and pitfalls avoided quickly. Based on this analysis, they can easily make recommendations relating to changes that are quick and easy to implement as they already have proven results. Consultants’ experience is a precious instrument to add value to your IT projects.

4 – Professional skills

With certifications on top of their experience, consultants are usually more prepared than in-house staff. Since their work involves helping people make the right decisions, it is part of their job to keep up to date with the latest technologies, processes and case studies and be able to suggest the right choices, tailored to each individual environment. Obviously, certification alone does not mean a person is able to put theory into practice, therefore it is very important that you choose your consultant carefully, checking if they have already worked with organisations that are similar to yours or have experience of similar environments to be more certain they will be able to meet your particular needs.

5 – Cost savings

Hiring a consultant for your IT projects is less expensive than training your Service Desk manager for every new tool, technology or process, not to mention perhaps taking them out of their day job and having to back fill. For instance, you may want to implement a new tool set and align that to a couple of ITIL processes, those that are relevant to your organisation, without putting your managers through the whole training. An external consultant can perform a short assessment of your environment and from this will make specific recommendations for service improvement, process design and Implementation as well as clarifying requirements for toolset evaluation and selection. This is an advantage of having previous experience: this way, it is easier to understand if it fits the company’s structure and aims – and avoid wasting financial resources on dead-end projects.

External help for your internal needs

Investing in your in-house IT staff, keeping them up to date with the latest innovations within IT and educating them to Best Practice and the culture of constantly changing and adapting will surely have a positive outcome, but the skills your organisation has internally might not be enough if you want to reach maximum efficiency, cost savings and keep innovation risks down to a minimum. For every improvement needed, the use of a consultant trained and experienced in that field can be a less expensive and more effective choice that can ultimately improve the success of your IT projects and add value to your bottom line.

Sharron Deakin, Principal Consultant