IT Contractor Versus Consultant – What’s the Difference?

Is a computer consultant or IT consultant just a contract programmer or software engineer who uses a fancy title and charges a higher rate?

The short answer isĀ no. Each is valuable for the right type of engagement. But putting one into an engagement where you really need the other is a mistake–and you can’t always tell who is who by the titles on their business cards.

Find out what they do. That will tell you what category is the true one, and in turn will tell you what roles are appropriate to consider them for.

What Contract Technical Workers Do

Contract technical workers focus on exactly that–the technical skills in which they specialize. It’s up to you to tell them what to implement. For a software designer, you say what the software has to do. For a programmer, you provide specifications for the software.

A good contractor is a self-starter with superb technical skill, and can produce excellent technical work with less need for supervision and motivation than most regular employees. immigration consultant in canada When your project is done, the contractor leaves without fuss. Your employees carry on with maintenance of whatever the project built.

Here is an example of using contract technical workers wisely. Let’s say that you have decided to build a new XYZ system to fit in with a radical change in business procedures. You’ve done the business analysis in-house and have specified exactly what you want to build. Your IT team is competent in most of the programming skills needed. However, they have not designed and built a major database before. In fact, all of their previous design and programming projects have been small. The tools and techniques needed to build and maintain a large system cost effectively are new to them.

You bring in technical specialists as the team leads for the project. They do the ‘heavy lifting’–the core of the database design and construction, software design, source code control, and quality assurance tools and procedures. Your IT employees work under their guidance, being mentored by the contracted specialists along the way.

Your project is finished faster than if you used only your IT team. The design, implementation, testing and deployment avoid the types of mistakes that happen when everyone on the team is new to the tools and techniques they are using. When the specialists leave, your entire IT team’s expertise has expanded and they are capable of carrying on with maintenance and enhancements.

What IT / Computer Consultants Do

Many contract technical workers focus exclusively on the technical work. One of the best contract programmers who once worked for me said bluntly that he didn’t want to have to understand what the equipment was supposed to do when our software sent commands to it. If I would just tell him what software I wanted, he would write it, but he didn’t want to have to pay attention to anything else. He certainly didn’t want to have to interact with other people to find out what they wanted. He wrote fine software, and I let him concentrate on what he did so well. That’s the big difference between a contractor and a consultant.

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