Information technology is another term for computing, which is the use of computers and other devices for exchanging, retrieving, storing, and networking of electronic data. Information technology consultants advise companies of all sizes, from startups to large international corporations, on the fastest, most efficient, and cost-effective information technology systems for their business. The specialty areas that information technology consultants may focus on include hardware, software, networks, communications, and Web design, among others. The IT consulting industry consists of large companies that offer IT consulting services as well as other business services to other companies. IT consultants may also work independently.
The general consulting industry has origins in the early 1900s, when manufacturers sought advice on how to increase worker productivity and maximize profits. Consulting businesses were established in the United States to help companies solve these and other problems. Information technology consulting businesses first emerged in the 1980s, after the personal computer was introduced to the mass marketplace. Since the 1990s, the evolution of the Internet and social media have contributed to the growth of the information technology consulting industry.
In May 2015, there were more than 4 million people employed full time in computer and mathematical occupations, including information technology jobs, in the United States, as reported by the Department of Labor. The industries with the highest concentration of employment in computer and math jobs are computers systems design and related services; software publishers; data processing, hosting, and related services; computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing; and other information services.
According to the market research group IBISWorld, the U.S. information technology consulting industry is a $376 billion business. There are nearly 433,000 information technology consulting businesses in the United States, employing more than 2 million people. Application design, development, and integration services account for almost 25 percent of total IT consulting industry revenue. A growing number of small and medium-sized companies are hiring IT consultants to help them develop and create custom software or fine-tune their existing software and hardware applications to improve their business operations.
Information technology consulting firms offer various services to clients. Depending on their specialty, IT consultants may plan and design integrated hardware, software, and communication infrastructure. They may also write, test, and support custom software. IT consultants also help clients with computer network security. Other services they may provide include helping with search engine marketing and providing strategic advice regarding social media issues. They also work on site with clients to help manage the company’s computer systems and data processing facilities. Job titles in the industry vary depending upon specialty and experience; some examples include information technology manager or director, information technology consultant, project manager information technology systems, health information technology consultant, information security risk architect. The specific products of the IT consulting industry are computer systems design, development, and integration; computer application design and development; information technology technical support services; IT network and infrastructure design; and IT technical consulting services.
Vault included the following companies in its 2016 list of the best firms for information technology strategy consulting, by order of rank starting with number one:
- IBM Global Services
- Deloitte Consulting LLP
- McKinsey & Company
- PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services LLC
- Oracle Consulting
- The Boston Consulting Group Inc.
- Booz Allen Hamilton
- Cisco Systems Inc. (IT Consulting)
- Gartner Inc.
- SAP Services (IT Consulting)
- Bain & Company
- KPMG LLP (Consulting Practice)
- Chief Information Officers
- Computer Network Administrators
- Computer Systems Programmer/Analysts
- Computer Trainers
- Digital Agents
- Information Assurance Analysts
- Information Security Analysts
- Information Technology Consultants
- Information Technology Project Managers
- Information Technology Security Consultants
- Solutions Architects
- Systems Setup Specialists