Professional services firms offer specialist expertise and advisory services in areas such as audit, tax, accountancy, consulting, law, corporate governance, corporate finance and risk assessment to other business organisations.
Examples of large professional services firms are EY, Deloitte, KPMG and the accountants BDO. Organisations such as these help other businesses comply with various legal requirements relating to accounting and business processes. As IT and data management play a huge role in the strategic and daily operations of most businesses, the services of these organisations can also extend into the realm of technology.
Typical technology services include:
- IT audit: IT professionals review and advise on an organisation’s IT systems, how they integrate, how they are used and how they assist the effective running of the business. They may consider issues such as IT and security risks, as well as the availability of systems.
- IT governance: this focuses on making sure information systems do what they are expected to do and that they comply with legal and accounting regulations.
- IT project assurance: implementing a complex IT project can have significant risks. Advisors working in this area assess success/failure probabilities and advise clients on how to manage and mitigate risks so that projects are successful and provide the expected benefits for the organisation.
- Security and privacy: this specialist area focuses on helping clients understand the risks related to information confidentiality and the integrity of their systems. Advisers will assess the client’s information system for vulnerabilities – internal and external. It can also include advising on crisis management.
An IT career that's likely to grow in the light of increasing regulation in the finance industry
The profile of IT governance has increased significantly following accounting scandals, as well as high profile incidences of large IT projects in business and the public sector getting out of control. Compliance initiatives include Sarbanes-Oxley (USA) and Basel II (Europe). As well as covering internal issues and indiscretions, corporations also have to protect their websites and technology from increasingly devious external attacks. The websites of some of the major professional services firms that offer technology services have plenty of information on their activities including reports on topical issues and assessments relating to IT governance and security for you to find out more.
Working in an IT role within professional services involves extensive client contact – you will be working on live systems within a client’s business. IT professionals tend to work as part of a team from their own firm (which can include colleagues from other areas of the business such as accounting and tax advisory), but you will also work closely with the client’s IT team and liaise with its IT managers.
You may also work with users of IT within the client’s organisation as you assess risks and develop recommendations of how the client can improve or protect their systems.
Applying for graduate IT jobs in professional services
You don’t necessarily need a computer science degree to apply for technology-related roles in professional services firms. However, you do need to demonstrate your interest in technology and how it relates to the operation of a business.
Employers look for graduates with a good degree and evidence of numeracy and analytical skills. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are also necessary. You will work closely with clients to quickly assimilate how their IT systems operate and you will document procedures, write reports and make recommendations.
Other key skills include teamworking, commercial awareness, adaptability and good time management.
How to get into professional services IT and make a career of it
Professional services firms that provide technology services run extensive specialist graduate programmes in this area. You will most likely work on projects from day one as most training is done on the job. Employers offer graduates a wide range of experiences – different types of project or service, clients and sectors.
During the graduate programme you will work towards internationally recognised professional qualifications, for example, certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Depending on your programme you may also train to become a chartered accountant. There are a wide range of opportunities to progress: you might specialise in a particular area or move into roles where you lead teams or work with clients of increasing significance.
There are also opportunities to gain further professional qualifications, for example, PRINCE2 (project management) if you specialise in project assurance for the public sector. Secondments to international organisations are also possible.
Choose this IT career area if…
- You are a team player with an investigative streak.
- You are keen to gain a range of professional qualifications and an impressive string of letters after your name.
- You want to see technology perform effectively in different types of organisation and across a range of sectors.
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