There are few things businesses do today without technology. Technology consulting helps them make the most of it.
The pace of change in technology is daunting. It doesn't matter whether you're looking at the number of websites online, connected device growth, or big data — tech is growing exponentially.
This is where technology consultants come in. These technology specialists offer a unique, objective, and specialized approach to technology. Then they use those skills to improve business results.
In this article, we’ll talk about what technology consulting is, why it's valuable, and how to get started as a technology consultant.
Keep reading or jump to the section you're looking for:
- What is technology consulting?
- Why technology consulting?
- What does a technology consultant do?
- Why do businesses need tech consulting?
- How to Become a Technology Consultant
What is technology consulting?
Technology consulting is the process of advising businesses on how to best use technology and software to benefit their business. It can refer to the design and development, implementation, or management of new technology.
There are many names for technology consultants:
- IT consultants
- Computer consultants
- Software consultants
- Business and technology advisors
- Digital consultants
This short list is just the beginning. It highlights the importance of this role in the vast modern technology industry. It also shows people new to the industry just how many things technology consultants specialize in. These consultants can work for large consulting firms or start their own consulting businesses.
Why technology consulting?
Technology is a critical part of business success. With its rapid growth and expansion into virtually every industry, tech consulting is more in demand than ever, and the truth is in the numbers. The IT consulting industry grew by over 30% between 2012 and 2022, with a market value of over $620 billion.
As of this writing, over 2.5 million people are employed as technology consultants and this role has a good outlook for continued growth. Tech consultants continue to offer value by helping businesses understand how to use and make the most of new technologies.
What does a technology consultant do?
Technology consultants work to solve a variety of business problems with technology. A tech consultant works with clients on specific projects or systems to improve the results they deliver to the business.
For example, someone offering these services might help a company install software for remote work. Then, that consultant could also help make sure that software doesn't impact other business systems.
This role could also include:
- Custom software development
- Infrastructure planning
- Security analysis
- Risk assessment
- Scaling issues
- Manage and advise on technology tools
- Competitive tech analysis
Tech consultants often work with a business’s executives, leaders, and senior managers. They might also advise on the strategic or financial sides of technology and software. For example, talking about how to invest in cost-efficient systems or how to integrate the Internet of Things across departments.
Why do businesses need tech consulting?
As businesses grow, technology becomes more important. Tech consulting experts help these companies transform their technology usage. This can help to:
- Reduce costs
- Drive corporate strategy
- Streamline business processes
- Develop new talent
- Inspire innovation
- Boost productivity
Some technology consultants fill holes in a current team, while others offer advice on best practices. Either way, tech consulting helps businesses prepare for and respond to the rapid pace of digital transformation.
How to Become a Technology Consultant
- Earn a degree in IT or computer science.
- Gain some experience.
- Narrow your focus.
- Get some certifications.
- Work on your soft skills.
- Follow technology trends.
- Grow your network.
If you’re interested in a career in business technology consulting, here are a few tips to help you get started.
1. Earn a degree in IT or computer science.
Employers and clients alike prefer technology consultants with professional education. Think about focusing on a field like IT, computer science, or computer engineering. A degree can also give you a unique experience with expertise that could come in handy for future clients like:
- Software development
- Data Science
- Web design
Some consultants choose a business minor too, as consulting needs as much business skill as it does technology know-how. Marketing, business management, and communication classes can help hone these skills.
2. Gain some experience.
Both internships and jobs can help give you the hands-on experience it takes to start your technology consulting career. Consider interning with or shadowing a technology consultant to get relevant field experience. Other internships in IT or software development can help, too.
After (or instead of) working in an internship position, apply for entry-level IT jobs. Employers and clients prefer technology consultants with experience. While working in these positions, test your skills in different projects. This can help you figure out what parts of technology consultation you like and can specialize in.
These experiences will also help you hone your networking, communication, and problem-solving skills.
3. Narrow your focus.
While many tech consultants are generalists, consultants are often more effective with a specialty. A focus can also help you connect with the right clients and employers quickly.
Whether you choose to focus on virtualization, mechanics, or security, this focus will show clients the depth of your knowledge. It will also make your skills more valuable to businesses.
To find your focus, test your skills on a range of projects. Then, connect your unique skills and interests with client needs.
For example, startups may need more help with software development and planning. But enterprise businesses are more likely to need tech stack updates and troubleshooting. As you learn about your chosen specialty, don’t forget to think about who you want to help with these skills.
4. Get some certifications.
While a degree is useful for many tech roles, most consultants will also need certifications for relevant tools and software. This list includes some popular certification examples.
The right certifications for you will depend on your chosen area of focus. For example, if you're interested in cloud computing, you may want an AWS solutions architect certification. If you're more interested in project management and agile frameworks, a Scrum product owner certification might be a better fit.
Up-to-date certifications will show clients that you're keeping up with new software releases and updates. Certs will also highlight your level of knowledge and experience.
Another continued education in tech is in-person or online boot camps. These sessions let you learn and complete certifications at the same time. Support forums are also a great choice, and these can help you learn from real-life situations before you get your first consulting gig.
5. Work on your soft skills.
Technology consulting is about more than understanding technology. To excel as a tech consultant, you must be able to communicate complex concepts and processes to new users.
There are many ways to develop these skills. Some may need to build skills in public speaking and sales.
Others will want to learn visualization tools like Visio to create process documents and workflows. Flowchart template mastery can help too. These process mapping and diagram skills make it easier to share tech knowledge with non-tech users.
You can practice your presentation skills with these helpful templates for consultants.
Other soft skills for great technology consultants include:
- Attention to detail
- Analysis and logic skills
- Grace under pressure
- Problem-solving abilities
- Time management
And if you plan to start your own business, you’ll want to learn how to get consulting clients.
Context-switching and relationship-building are also useful skills. Most consultants work with a range of clients that have different needs and goals. This means that you may need to quickly switch between tasks to complete your work.
It also means that your ability to quickly connect to clients will add value. This skill can smooth some of the challenging situations you'll find in your consulting jobs.
6. Follow technology trends.
Technology is an ever-changing industry. So, the best technology consultants keep up with the latest trends.
Not only does this keep you informed, but it meets your client’s expectations of you as a technology "expert". This most up-to-date expertise will also help you stay competitive.
Read research reports and subscribe to technology newsletters and publications like TechCrunch and Recode. Watch relevant videos from sites like The Verge and WIRED.
If your focus is on a specific software or branch of technology, those companies often have resources for tech consultants. For example, Microsoft Learn includes technical documentation, videos, and code samples in its vast library of tools.
It’s also helpful to keep up with the open-source community as they’re the first to test and adopt new technology; visit sites like GitHub to check out trending and starred projects.
7. Grow your network.
Get to know other professionals in the IT and technology business consulting industries. This will help you create relationships that could lead to new clients or colleagues.
Attend events in your internship, job, or community to expand your technology network. Find ways to stay in touch with past clients and colleagues and support their updates on social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. Join local professional groups in your area and take on leadership roles when you can to expand your tech consulting network.
Offer Value as a Technology Consultant
Technology consulting is a valuable and lucrative industry, and technology consultants are major assets to the clients that hire them.
As a tech consultant, you offer incredibly useful skills to businesses large and small. Your efforts can help a company retain top talent, improve its products, and grow the business.
It takes skills, knowledge, and drive to succeed in this industry. But if you follow the steps above to start your career in technology consulting you'll be in a good position to add value as a consultant.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.