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Old 6th August 2007, 14:59   #1
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Default What do software consultants do?

Hi guys
Sorry if this question sounds a bit lame.
I wanted to know more about this particular field of work: Software consultancy.
What does a software consultant do? How is it different from a Software Engineer? What are the qualifications and other requirements for a Software Consultant? And how is the compensation of a Software consultant compared to a SE?

Looking forward to replies.
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Old 6th August 2007, 15:21   #2
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I dont know if this is the best reply, but till others drop in, let me see if i can add something here.

Software Engineer : Basically is a 'Code Coolie' as my manager at my previous organization put it. They are mostly technical, with emphasis being on coding to develop an application for a specific requirement.

Software consultant : This i am not sure, but based on my understanding, they have a mix of both technical and functional knowledge with the emphasis being on functional. For example, there are certain business software which require good understanding of the functionality involved in order to suggest the optimum configuration required for the same. Technical knowledge comes into play for customizing requests.

P.S. : Based on my knowledge.
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Old 6th August 2007, 15:28   #3
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Do you mean IT Consultancy ?
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Old 6th August 2007, 15:30   #4
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Well, a software consultant has many responsibilities. some of them include
  • Business Development - This is the sales / marketing job that the consultant does. Here, he is responsible for identifying potential customers, contacting them and getting an audience with the "powers-that-be" in a potential client organization
  • Pre-Sales - once the consultant gets an audience, he will make a presentation about his company, their abilities, and their past work to the prospect. If the prospect is impressed, they will issue an "Request-for-proposal (RFP)" - basically stating a problem, and asking the consultants company to respond with a proposal, containing the solution, implementation methodology and costs involved. Also, this will involve the actual deal negotiation and deal signing.
  • Business Analysis - Once a particular company is selected (now called the vendor), the consultant will go to the client, and study the client, the client's processes and the problem in hand.
  • Requirement Gathering - usually a part of business analysis, the consultant will gather, in minute detail, the exact needs and requirements of the client
  • solution Testing - Once a final product/solution is ready, a good consultant will involve himself/herself in testing the product/solution to ensure that it meets the customer requirement.
  • Solution Implementation - Again, the consultant is responsible to ensure that the tested product/solution is properly implemented at the customer's site, and is up and running.
These roles may not necessarily be done by a single consultant. There will generally be different consultants performing these roles. However, the term consultant is a generic or blanket term covering someone who does one or more of these roles.

A software engineer, in the above scheme of things, will come in after the Requirement gathering part. His/Her responsibilities will include
  • Solution Design - once the requirements are gathered, a software architect (promoted software engineer, promotions based on proficiency and experience) will come up with a solution to the clients problem
  • Solution development - This is where your software engineers will do the coding work to actually create the solution. To put it very simplistically, your architect is like a car designer - someone who conceptualizes the car, its exterior and its interior, while the engineer is the guy on the assembly line who actually builds the car. This is not exactly true, but its a very very very simplistic metaphor.
  • Solution Testing - this is where the architect, engineer and consultant sit down with the gathered requirements and test it for bugs and the fact that it meets the customer's requirement
  • Solution implementation - this is where an engineer and consultant will go to the customers site and implement the solution.
These are some of the basic, key differences between a software consultant and a software engineer.
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Old 6th August 2007, 15:30   #5
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Again my understand:
Both SE & SC more or less do same work. But on same pay-scale, SC get more pay because consultants enjoy better tax benefits than salaried employees in Indian tax structure.
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Old 6th August 2007, 15:34   #6
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DCEite, you want to know this, do you?

Ok... see its like this. There are essentially two lines in the IT business. Upto now most indian IT companies were (And still are to the most extent) into what is called services. We execute the requirements from the begining till end. However the essential call is that of the customer. This is the pure bred engineering line of approach.

Indian companies are now realizing that the real cream is at the top, in the consultancy business. What the accentures and IBMs of the world are so good at. So Infy, Satyam and the likes are all now establishing their own consultancy business. This is where the consultant studies the business problem and comes up with a complete architecture to the minutest extent. They even give an execution plan, costs expected etc. This is a real big moolah earner.

The problem is this needs a lot of clout as a successful consultant. Indian companies find that they have an image problem here. While the client is happy to give an execution PO for the thing to them they are not so comfortable to let them suggest them something from grounds up. They would rather pay Delloites and Accentures to come up with a complete study and plan and then call for the bids where they will happily allow the Indian biggies to participate. Thankfully the scenario is now changing to a big extent.

The consultants are of course those who are in this consultancy business. Most of them are very very strong in technical aspects and also understand the business end of it to a good extent. High end solution architects and business analysts find a ready employment in consultancy businesses.

EDIT: To give an example, Malaysia's Multimedia Superhighway is a result of Satyam's successful consultancy efforts and then execution as well (yes, both consultancy and then even execution was won by Satyam). I think the consultancy was shared with another global consultancy, can't remember which one though.

Last edited by Zappo : 6th August 2007 at 15:39.
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Old 6th August 2007, 15:37   #7
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I would say, there are broadly 2 types of consultancy roles in the IT industry - Technical consultants/Architects and Functional/Domain/Business Consultants.

Technical Consultants - work at an Enterprise architecture level to define the sort of technology the organization should adopt. For e.g. whether they should go down the Java/J2EE route or use MS technologies or rely on Mainframes, etc. They are responsible to define enterprise level architecture principles that the organization should follow and what the backbone components of the organization's IT infrastructure will be based on.

They also do work on large software projects to define the architecture and design.

Functional/Domain/Business Consultants -
These people are responsible to translate a business problem into a technology solution. They identify the types of tech available to solve a certain business need. They have a better understanding of the business processes and suggest ways to improve the business process itself.

The depth of roles these consultants play really depend on the organization and the type of assignments they get.

A SE role is the basically about writing software to specifications that have been designed by consultants/architects and Analysts.

Hope this explanation helps.
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Old 6th August 2007, 15:47   #8
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well i guess software engineer is one whos part of a team and deals with all the technical details while a consultant is either an indivudual or a company who offers end to end or other solutions to a client
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Old 6th August 2007, 16:46   #9
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To summarize it

Software Consultant: Does the following....
1. Works with customer. Follows customer perspective
2. identifying the customers problem and describing it
3. identifying solution at conceptual level and dependencies in delivering it
4. identifying risks, best practices, and benefits of doing this
5. Helps the customer to Productionize or Implements the product/solution

Software Engineer: Does the following....
1. Works with the Inhouse Product Engineering Team and customers Engineering team
2. Knowledgeable of Tools to develop the product required
3. Designs and develops the product

The SC is supposed to look at problem/solution from customers viewpoint. However the SE is involved in the structure of the solution/product
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Old 6th August 2007, 18:14   #10
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Well, you tell a engineer what to do, and you pay him for it.
A consultant tells *you* what to do, and he gets paid for it.
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Old 6th August 2007, 18:58   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ballkey View Post
Well, you tell a engineer what to do, and you pay him for it.
A consultant tells *you* what to do, and he gets paid for it.


Loved it!!!

Here is my take the typical questions you will ask both:-

Engineer:-
"Please create a database (with user interfaces) for managing a payroll".

Consultant:-
Version 1. "I want to create a payroll software. What Operating System Database software, hardware, etc. should I use."
Version 2. I have this system doing foo. I think this os going slow. Can you look into it to improve the speed.?
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Old 6th August 2007, 19:01   #12
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Both are mostly seen browsing the net, while pretending to work if their boss is around.
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Old 6th August 2007, 19:23   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spadival View Post
Both are mostly seen browsing the net, while pretending to work if their boss is around.
That of course, takes the cake!!
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Old 6th August 2007, 22:20   #14
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Thanks to everyone for replying.
Some very interesting information indeed!
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Old 7th August 2007, 10:26   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spadival View Post
Both are mostly seen browsing the net, while pretending to work if their boss is around.
That applies to anyone from the IT industry. We have a project manager on our forum too, who used to be quite a regular earlier, while a little less these days.
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