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Automation Consultant

What They Do

Computer User Support Specialists Career Video

Insider Info

Computers used to be monstrous, slow and cumbersome. Big mainframes took up entire rooms. For every simple calculation made by the computer, someone had to flip a switch. To enter a single piece of data, someone else had to slip a punch card into the computer.

But that's not all it took to maintain the machine. Someone had to find and sort the punch cards. A filing clerk would receive a list of cards that were needed to enter data. The clerk would spend five days pulling out all the cards. The cards were used and the clerk would then spend the next five dreary days re-filing the same punch cards.

Computers don't require people to do these humdrum jobs anymore. They're being used to get rid of all kinds of repetitive, manual tasks that people used to do in the workplace.

Automation consultants introduce computers into offices to help people do their work more efficiently. This might include selecting the type of computer the workers will need, selecting what kinds of programs will be helpful or actually designing a program.

"Whatever clients are doing manually, I make a suggestion to do it using the computer system," says automation consultant Greg Seo.

This could mean helping with their accounting, setting up a new system to check inventory or setting up a system to help serve customers.

Automation consultants inspect the site to find out how to make it operate more efficiently and to make the work more enjoyable. Sometimes they figure out how to implement an idea the boss has. On other occasions, the company won't have any idea of what needs to be automated and asks the automation consultant to design a complete plan.

"I talk to people, trying to find out what wastes most of their time and develop something to match," says automation consultant Mark Fleeson.

Although most workplace design and programming is done at the consultant's office, automation consultants visit many different places while working. They travel to the offices that they're going to automate. If it's a big project, the consultant could go to this building several times.

Consultants also travel to meet with potential clients. And if the job involves selecting new computers or software, the consultant makes trips to computer dealers.

Automation consultants have to have a good understanding of computers and enjoy learning about new software as it hits the market.

You also need to be able to work with people. "You need a good understanding of people and their work practices," says Fleeson.

And it helps if you're a quick learner. "You need the ability to pick up new technology very quickly and be able to teach others how to use that technology," says Fleeson.

Being a good consultant means being able to make tough decisions. "It takes a lot of time before you receive a penny from a client, so you have to make a judgment in the first meeting," says Seo.

You have to decide whether you think this person will be an agreeable client and will pay you for your service. In order to maintain a good relationship with your client, it's important to write every request down on paper.

Make sure your intentions are clear. Being organized will go a long way in helping your clients see what great changes you could bring to their office.

Consultants generally work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Independent contractors can set their own hours.

"I sometimes come in late or go early, but it evens out," says Fleeson. "If I have an urgent requirement, then I sometimes work overtime."

Automation consulting requires more than sitting at a computer designing software programs. "You have to be able to climb around the catwalks and so forth at a manufacturing plant," says automation consultant Asa Williams. However, this doesn't mean that a physically challenged person can't do the work.

"An individual could work with a consulting firm as a subcontractor who would only do office development," Seo says.

At a Glance

Figure out new ways for business and industry to do things more efficiently

  • Knowing what the options are for your client takes a lot of knowledge in many areas
  • Many consultants work as independent contractors
  • A degree in applied computing is a great starting point


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