The state of the art in IT processing has changed dramatically over the years, and with
it, so has IT consulting. The changes in technology and computing style have forced this evolution in IT consulting, and this post will take you through some of those changes, and why you need to consider using IT consulting in your business.
In the early years, IT consulting was focused around simply getting basic job processing
setup and run. I doubt if any of you were around in the punch card days, but in the 60s, programs were keypunched onto 80 column punch cards, one programming line per card. These cards were then sequentially fed into a card reader to enter the program for compilation, and then execution by the mainframe computer. It was not uncommon for a COBOL program to take 2 full boxes of punch cards (2000 cards per box)! God help you if you dropped your card boxes and he spilled on the floor! Now you have a better idea why consultants were needed then, especially for the smaller companies that could not afford to hire their own programming staff.
In the 70s and 80s when the CRT era was the norm, programming got much easier since it could be done online and programs could easily be saved to disk for edit and update as needed. At this point, IT consulting started to diversify and specialize. It was not just programming assistance that was typical of the consultant, it was database setup, communications optimization, screen design, implementation and roll-out assistance, and many other things.
An additional area that started to become popular, is consulting for the selection of the brand and type of system. This led to the formation of major consulting firms like Gartner, Forrester, and many more. This form of consulting has become so prevalent now, that there are dozens of well-known firms that follows dozens of areas within the IT industry, and this makes perfect sense.
No matter what size company you work for, NO ONE can (or would want to…) keep an expert in every part of the IT industry on staff. There is so much to know and so much that can be done with IT hardware and software, that it only makes sense do depend on the experts to guide you in some, if not many areas. For example, virtually all companies retain some form of legal assistance, even if they have in house legal staff. This is because the law is vast, and it would be unrealistic that and in-house staff could be experts on all of it. Sound familiar? This true, although to a lesser extent, with accounting, insurance, many other areas.
So where does that leave us with today’s IT consultant? High quality software tools have increased the number of things that can be completed by the customer. Take building your own website for example. 10 years ago, you needed to understand and be able to build the entire site in HTML. Not true today. There are a number of good website building programs that the novice user can employ and build some darn good and very sophisticated websites. The same is true in many other areas. Even though this is true, the bar has just been raised. The customer can do more themselves, but there is even more available with today’s technology that they will need help with.
This has caused a real change in the makeup of the IT consultants of today. The typical IT consultant is now much more specialized and technically advanced. IT is such a powerful tool for business that there are many more people in the IT consulting business. This too, has led to increased specialization.
So what’s the bottom line? IT consulting has changed dramatically over the years. It has also increased exponentially because of all the specialty areas, and the value they can bring to your business. It is crazy to think that any company can be an expert, or even reasonably aware of all the areas of IT that could benefit them, so it only makes sense that all companies need to employ IT consulting at some or many levels. If you don’t, your competitors will, and you can be left in the dust.