IT Consulting

Consultants in the IT segment advise clients on how technology can be leveraged to develop their business strategy or overcome particular challenges. Technology consulting is entirely distinct from the field of IT services, which concerns how to implement or code specific IT programs or architecture. By contrast, consultants advise on what technology should be used, with the key constraint being the client’s pockets, rather than a specific toolkit of IT solutions.

IT consulting stands out among the other consulting segments as it is becoming harder to pin down with narrow definitions. The rise of digital technology has blurred the traditional lines and forced consultancies of all persuasions to jump on the IT bandwagon. Technology consultants are paid to find the right IT solution for clients, and, depending on the project, this will almost certainly involve a strong strategic or operational element.  

What does an IT consultant do?

As consultants in one of the most dynamic and quickly evolving fields in the corporate world, the work of an IT advisor transcends popular conceptions. Far from working with computers and code, IT consultants bridge the gap between a client’s senior management and the multi-dimensional field of technological evolution.

They develop strategies, advise on crucial technology-related decisions and help the client achieve a defined digital goal. While they may oversee the implementation of IT architecture or micromanage the operational development of a new application, consultants are not programmers or software engineers, even if they possess those skills.

IT consulting services

There are eight major disciplines which together comprise the larger IT consulting services market. Given the pace of digital evolution these are subject to change but presently consist of IT Strategy, IT Architecture, IT Implementation, ERP services, Systems Integration, Data Analytics, IT Security and Software Management.

IT strategy - Defining corporate IT strategy to help achieve particular goal, may include formulating business case for adopting particular technology. Example: Designing a set of robust cybersecurity mechanisms.

IT architecture - Longer projects which tackle existing IT architecture, may include outlining efficiency-oriented changes. Example: Overseeing outsourcing to third party

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) - Supporting clients with the choice, design and establishment of ERP systems. Example: Implementing SAP services.

Systems integration - Maximizing efficiency by linking separate systems together to create holistic whole. Example: Tinkering with ERP systems to ensure easy interaction.

IT security - Provision of expertise on questions of IT risk, security and compliance demands. Example: Ensuring client’s IT systems comply with privacy regulations.

IT implementation - Designing and implementing projects based on new technologies. Example: Implementing digital transformation of HR department.

Software management - Managing, maintaining, and deploying software applications to achieve business targets. Example: Optimizing software procurement process.

Data analytics - Leveraging technology to transform data into information that supports client’s decision making. Example: Using Big Data to help client understand new market.

IT Consulting Market

The era of IT focused consultancies occupying a niche field in the consulting economy has been overtaken by the prodigious client demand for digital technology services that continues to gather pace. Global consulting firms, famed for their strategy and operations services, have built large and handsomely funded digital practices to not only stay ahead of the disruptive curve, but simply survive.

Strategy and operations consulting are virtually impossible without deep expertise of emerging technological trends. AI, Blockchain, Crypto-currencies, Industry 4.0, Robotics and IoT are just some which have quickly migrated from the realm of futuristic concept to becoming key influencers of corporate strategy and revenue streams. Regardless of whether they are billed as a specialist IT consultancies, clients expect their advisors to possess detailed, inside knowledge of the emerging tech sphere.  

While the Big Three management consultancies, and Big Four of professional services, throw their considerable weight behind investing in state-of-the-art digital innovation labs and sign up to Blockchain alliances, the sector remains ripe for disruption by small insurgent consultancies with deeply specialist knowledge. The sector’s traditional giants, IT consultancies with a global reach, are developing their own capacities to combat competition on all sides and continue to thrive as client demand for digital transformation soars.

The rise of digital is not only reshaping the client services provided by consultancies across the board, but also altering the DNA of large consulting firms, particularly the strategy specialists. Many are hiring developers instead of MBAs and revamping the company image to present themselves to clients as tech savvy upstarts that personify the new big data-driven era of cloud technology and digital ecosystems.

Technology has transformed the industry by changing its most valuable asset from industry knowledge, to the ability to smartly leverage technology in a manner that helps clients’ achieve their goals. Yet the IT market segment accounts for roughly 20% of the global consulting market — or around $50 billion — when services are defined as having a predominantly IT focus, rather than falling within the orbit of management consultancy. 

If a more liberal definition of IT consulting were employed, expanding to include implementation, systems management and all tech-based strategy solutions, then the segment would automatically become one of the industry’s largest. The ‘mega-segments’ of IT and management consulting would be of roughly equal stature and the line between them increasingly blurry.

Regardless of definitions, the narrower market of strict IT consulting is on the path to buoyant growth. Technological change has set an exponential pace that will keep IT consultants in hot demand while clients grapple with digitalization, cloud computing, robotics, AI and other technologies just around the corner.

Technology consulting firms

Broadly speaking, the major consultancies operating in the IT segment can be broken down into three categories.

The first are the traditional titans of IT consulting, firms such as Accenture, Capgemini, and Cognizant, that enjoy a global impact. Second are generalist firms which boast distinct IT consulting practices. Many, like Deloitte and McKinsey, have developed especially strong reputations in the field. Making up the segment are specialist or niche players, which may be subject to acquisition or perhaps in possession of a game-changing ability to leverage disruptive new technology.