WOOF! Newsletter

August 12, 2021

What Does an IT Consultant Really Do for Their Customers?

"I hear the term, 'IT Consulting' all the time, but I don't know exactly what it means." You're not the only one. It’s a broad term covering various roles, services, and specialties. Read on for guidance on how to pick the right one for your company.



The term "IT Consulting" can mean one thing to you, but something totally different to your competitor. Why?

The term is so broad, encompassing so many potential products & services, that it winds up confusing almost everybody!

Let's clear up that confusion once and for all. Here's the simplest definition of IT Consulting we can give:

The practice of providing one or more strategic IT solutions to a business need.

Do you have time to familiarize yourself with the tax code? Of course not. That's why we have CPAs. How about the time to examine local/state/federal business law? Not at all! That's why we have lawyers.

These are both "consultants," in that we pay them for their expertise, so they can help us achieve our business goals and avoid missteps.

The same is true with IT Consultants. Their expertise helps you identify the best technology your business can use, and how to incorporate it.


The 4 Types of IT Consultants

Just like "IT Consulting" has an open-ended premise, so too does the term "IT Consultant."

IT Consultants come in different types. It's important to know those types, so you know you're using the right consultant for your company.

In general, 4 types of IT Consultants exist. They are:

  1. Advisor – Brought in to help make day-to-day IT decisions, but does not provide hands-on technical support
  2. Strategist – Brought in to help chart the future IT course, but does not implement the strategy
  3. Implementer – A systems/network engineer, who implements technical solutions given them by an in-house IT resource, an outside Advisor, or a Strategist.
  4. Hybrid IT Consultant – An expert in all of the above categories.


How to identify an IT Advisor, Strategist, Implementer, or Hybrid

Almost anyone in the IT field can call themselves an "IT Consultant." But which type are they? Oftentimes even they wouldn't know if you asked.

So let's clarify. You can identify the type by the consultant's specific services, and/or fields of IT expertise.

  1. ADVISOR: They advise on 'everyday use' technical aspects. Examples:
    1. Software or hardware selection
    2. Choosing cloud service providers
    3. Finding Implementation partners


  2. STRATEGIST: They offer their services as a "decision-maker" or "expert advisor.” Examples:
    1. Network reviews
    2. Creating 3-year IT plans to match corporate goals
    3. Developing cybersecurity plans to protect the
    4. Acting as the company’s Virtual CIO and attending Board Meetings to offer expert opinion

  3. IMPLEMENTER:  They take directions from an-house IT role or another IT Consultant, and implement it. In general, they are expert at what they do, but do not advise or strategize.
    1. Installing network hardware
    2. Software upgrades
    3. Deploying cybersecurity solutions
    4. Cloud migrations

  4. HYBRID IT CONSULTANT:  The Holy Grail of IT Consultants. They match business needs and objectives with IT solutions, bringing the business process perspective into the conversation (sometimes overlooked by Implementers). These professionals have skill sets from all of the other types and can work hands-on with the technology.  Examples: 
    1. Devises a cybersecurity strategy, identifies and procures the hardware/software solutions, and implements the security solutions with their expert team.
    2. Effectively becomes a company’s Head of IT, covering high-level IT strategy, day-to-day network and desktop support, and management of the tech team.


Which Consultant Should You Hire? Choose By Your Business' Need

If you wanted to build a house, you wouldn't ask a plumber to make blueprints. You'd ask an architect. They're the right type of expert to suit the present need.

In the same vein, since IT Consulting is a strategic-level practice, your business' needs should determine the consultant type.

How do you match up business need to consultant type? Here are several examples to guide you:

  • If you have junior to mid-level in-house IT support, and you want a second set of eyes on their IT solution choices and implementation plans, get an IT Consultant who is more of an Advisor.

  • If you’ve been “winging it” on your IT and it’s time to get an IT plan in place – one that focuses on cybersecurity and business growth – get an IT Consultant who is a Strategist. They can help you chart a solid path for the next 3 years. You can use in-house IT and/or Implementers to execute the plan.

  • If you have a senior IT leader in-house who is stretched too thin, get an IT Consultant who is more of an Implementer.  This is typically a systems engineer or network engineer, who can take a load off your IT leader's schedule.

  • If you have zero interest in running an IT department and want to completely outsource the day-to-day Advising, Strategy and Implementation, find a Hybrid IT Consultant whose team “becomes” your IT Department. PlanetMagpie should be your first call.

Which IT Consultant is Right for You?

Hiring an IT consulting firm makes sense for most businesses. Outside experts provide great value because they see so many different solutions and can tailor IT solutions to your company’s needs.

The important thing to remember is that not all IT consultants are the same. Identify which type suits your current needs, and then look for the consultant who matches.  That way you avoid hiring someone who is in over their head or doesn’t have the hands-on experience you need.


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