What Technology Consultants Do
Management consultants, or those who help companies solve their biggest challenges and overcome obstacles to growth, often hone in on a single sector to specialize in. Technology consultants fulfill this role for the tech industry, including companies which focus on software, the Internet, computers, networking, entertainment/ media, clean technology, semiconductors, and similar technologies.
Tech companies only call in consultants when they don’t have the expertise necessary to handle challenges internally, so it can be a prestigious position which includes access to execs, travel, and high salaries. In return, the consultant must provide unique insights and solutions that are based on a mixture of data, outside-the-box thinking, and best practices. They may help companies establish internal controls, perform audits, attract talent, identify spending issues, raise capital for growth, and more.
The role technology consultants play is becoming increasingly important as startups are often formed by people with innovative ideas who are visionaries when it comes to creating novel products, but often lack the business acumen to take their companies to the next level. With the help of experienced consultants, the businesses can thrive and expand into the well-developed companies they deserve to be. Large established corporations also bring in technology consultants who have honed in their skills even further, and may specialize in a specific area, such as getting funding or arranging employee benefit packages for tech firms.
Individuals on this career track often aim for jobs at consulting firms which are known for employing the best technology consultants, such as IBM, Deloitte, Accenture, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Microsoft, and McKinsey & Company, but they may also work for boutique firms or independently.
It’s worth noting that there is another field referred to as information technology consulting, which employs experts on technology who can help businesses of all types integrate tech into their business operations. They do this to help companies become more agile, so the IT department is better poised to support the needs of the company and its growth. It’s a different career path than the one outlined here, as the focus of this type of technology consultant is on the business aspect of technology firms.
Who would enjoy a career in Technology & IT Strategy Consulting (Accenture or this)?
First and foremost, consultants must have a business mindset and keen understanding of effective business operations and growth. Analytical thinkers and those who love problem-solving do well, but a great deal of the job requires outside-the-box thinking too.
Understanding the specific needs of businesses in the tech sector is essential as well, so many consultants come from a background working directly for startups and mature tech companies. Lastly, interpersonal skills are important, as consultants must listen closely to the needs of company leaders and then communicate strategies in an effective manner.
Who mightn't like the career?
Consultants don’t have much say in the hours that they work and are often bound to a timeline established by the client, meaning the hours can be particularly grueling while managing a project. Whilst consulting can be marketed as strategic, a lot of the work is Excel and quantitative-based, so those who aren’t fond of applied maths or data analysis should consider other careers. Travel is also involved from entry level consulting roles right through to the more advanced stages of the career. For this reason, it’s not a good choice for people who require lighter or dependable schedules.
Strong software skills, like PowerPoint and Excel, are absolutely essential in the entry-level positions. Advanced positions usually require an MBA, and top consulting firms generally look for an elite degree at a prestigious institution in their local market. Those seeking entry-level positions serving the tech industry may also get in with degrees related to information systems or computer science.
Large firms specifically target the best of the best as they emerge with undergraduate degrees. For this reason, it’s important to begin with a polished resume. Appropriate attire, befitting of the corporate upper echelon, is typically expected.
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Moving into Technology & IT Strategy Consulting (Accenture or this) from another career
Anyone who has had strategic business involvement with successful outcomes at a technology company can transition into a technology consulting role. Alternatively, those who work for management consulting firms can also gain enough tech sector experience to specialize in the area, so people coming into the field with a finance, corporate law, or business background may be able to make a slow transition into technology consulting via management consulting.
Accenture’s Communications, Media, & Technology Consulting page explores the stories of several technology and media consultants. For further reading on how to get into consulting via a non-traditional path, see “How to Get Started as a Paid Consultant to Companies,” “A startup is disrupting the consulting industry,” or “Doctors at McKinsey.
Associate Consultant / Analyst
Role: Most people beginning their careers start as an analyst, as the bare minimum educational requirement is typically a bachelor’s degree. Analysts spend their days supporting senior staff, gathering data, and doing research that will be used to propose solutions to clients. They are also often responsible for building financial models in Excel when necessary and for creating PowerPoint presentations. It’s common for professionals to work across a broad spectrum of industries until they reach an upper level, such as manager or partner/ principal.
Role: Generally speaking, people move into a consultant position after obtaining an MBA, although some firms will promote favorite analysts without the degree. Although consultants do much the same work as associate consultants do, they may be entrusted with a higher tier of clients or with handling more research solo.
Role: Engagement managers oversee a project and manage a team of associates and analysts. They also work closely with the partners and may be involved in coming up with solutions. It’s also at this level some firms begin offering positions specific to serving the tech sector.
Associate Partner/ Associate Principal
Role: By the time individuals reach the partner or principal level, they are usually adept experts for the tech sector. They often meet with prospective clients and demonstrate how the firm can help, securing the organization as a new client. Travel is required frequently. Progressing up the consulting food chain typically requires good sales and business development skills, even at the principal level, as the nature of the role chances from “doing” to managing others and to eventually winning and retaining new clients and business.
Partner and Director
Role: Many firms offer higher levels for associate partners who have proven themselves in the industry. The positions tend to be coveted, only being offered to those with large client portfolios and effective teams. Partners typically are responsible for winning new business or relationship managing clients who have worked with their firm, so sales and relationship skills are required to progress to this level.
Entry-level positions can involve significant travel, but people in advanced positions travel often to meet with clients and close deals. Whilst at a graduate and junior level the travel can be exciting, consultants often report that the joy of catching planes and commuting has been said to considerably wear off over time.
Entry Level: According to data from PayScale, those beginning their consultant careers have salaries of approximately USD$75,000 in the United States, £39,454 in the United Kingdom, CAD$67,874 in Canada, and AU$70,920 in Australia.
Mid-Career: USD$101,085, £58,371, CAD$83,550, AU$102,025.
Experienced: USD$120,467, £75,542, CAD$99,916, AU$138,849.
Late Career: USD$132,422, £85,023, CAD$137,532, AU$160,000.
Bonuses, profit sharing, and commission may all be included in the pay a consultant receives. These may begin at a few hundred dollars each or add as much as 25% onto an individual’s salary.
Why Technology Consultants move on
Consulting can become a lifelong career, but the hours and stress may take their toll, making some start to look for new positions after a period of time. Some people view a two or three-year stint in technology consulting as a stepping stone to other internal strategy, tech finance or even entrepreneurship roles. Technology consultants may get picked up by the client they are working for if the relationship is strong and the client has an ongoing need for the skills and expertise of the consultant.
Given the broad skills acquired by technology consultants in solving business problems for a spectrum of different clients, exit opportunities are vast, though many aim for entrepreneurship or work for tech startups in an in-house strategy position. For more information, see “Insider’s Guide to Working in Consulting” and “How I left my consulting career behind and broke into tech.”