You’ll be hard-pressed to find a profession or an institution that hasn’t been affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The same holds true for IT consultants.

In the days and weeks following last month’s tragedies, many clients and potential clients of IT consultants have expressed an interest in subjects like disaster recovery preparedness and business continuity planning. We found that this interest was quite pervasive across the industry when we asked our members about the kinds of work that they thought would increase for IT consultants as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks (Figure A).

Figure A

Of the 171 respondents, 49 percent indicated that disaster recovery planning would increase. Security, which could encompass a wide range of projects and disciplines, was the second-most common response at 22 percent.

Business continuity planning was chosen by 18 percent, while communications contingency planning took 9 percent of the vote. Two percent of respondents chose “Other.”

What do the results suggest?
Consistent with TechRepublic’s poll numbers, several analysts that we interviewed said they’ve found a similar thread in their business.

“We’ve seen about a 150 percent increase in inquiries to our global security and privacy business,” said Tom Bennett, a client executive with EDS. The company has also had a 200 percent increase in inquiries about their emergency management services, a segment of the business which helps provide government agencies with preparedness training and risk mitigation.

But even with the heightened interest in such services, is there any guarantee that the interested parties will follow through on their initial inquiry? Bennett thinks so.

“I think an event like [the terrorist attacks are] something that nobody forgets,” he said. “And I think it does change the way our clients look at the future. I think our clients are probably sensitized, like we all are.”

While Bennett suggests that EDS is unlikely to adjust its overall selection of services to its clients, he anticipates that more security assessments and other reports that help clients determine their readiness for a disaster will be requested.

How do consultants prepare?
So as the need for various types of IT consulting changes, what skills must consultants acquire to meet the greater demand?

Randi Purchia, an analyst with Boston-based AMR Research, suggests that consultants with the greatest understanding of an organization’s legacy systems will be able to best help businesses address new disaster and security planning. One way to work with such businesses is to contract with their IT departments to develop a better understanding of the system’s complexities.

Financial institutions will also need consultants to work on projects dealing with the prevention of identity fraud, money laundering, and the misuse of offshore accounts. In fact, consultants who have worked with financial institutions on projects like establishing multiple databases in geographically divergent areas will likely assist other organizations in setting up similar operations.

It’s also likely, according to Purchia, that the scope of last month’s disasters could lead to IT consultants collaborating more closely with structural and electrical engineers on future real estate development projects.

Discussion: What kinds of work will organizations need?

What will organizations have to do to stay prepared for a disaster? How will consultants be able to meet the demand? What new skills will consultants need to learn? Post your comments below.