Are things really OK? Or is this just a “phoney war”?

When we carried out our global survey of clients in December last year, we had a good idea that we knew what they would say. With the world looking like a less certain place than it did only a few short months ago, we thought that they would be more tentative about increasing consulting spend, and less likely to be committing to new projects.

It’s a good job that we didn’t put any money on the outcome, because we were quite wrong. Clients were overwhelmingly positive–more so than they have been for the last few years–both in terms of their plans to kick off new initiatives and to use consultants to help them.

This feels like it should be good news–and certainly proves the resilience of clients who are clearly prepared to continue to pursue their agenda in the face of a series of shock votes and resulting uncertainty. Another factor is the undeniable fact that clients have an awful lot on their collective plate right now–with constantly changing technology, demanding consumers, digital disruption, global competition, and a more complex operating environment all forcing change upon them if they are to keep pace with the market.

But the big question, of course, is how long this positive situation will last.

Our big concern is that what we’re in right now is a bit of a “phoney war” situation, since nothing much has changed–yet. Trump has only recently been sworn in as President, and Article 50 has yet to be triggered. Economic indicators are also looking good: According to the latest figures, Britain was probably the fastest-growing G7 economy in 2016, and some forecasters are predicting that Trump’s protectionist stance could help to double US GDP growth by 2018. So as things stand at the moment, there is simply no great disaster for clients to deal with and it makes a lot of sense for them to carry on with, and even increase, their investment agenda.

But at the same time, there is a lot we could all be worrying about. Global growth is still sluggish, a US trade war with China is not completely out of the question, Brexit could cause major upheaval–not just in the UK–and there are concerns about the future of the euro, and indeed of the EU itself, given the opportunities for further shock votes in the coming months. Of course we can all hope fervently that none of these–or any other major upheavals–will come about. In the meantime, perhaps the best thing we can do is make the most of clients’ current confidence and willingness to hire consultants, as detailed in our upcoming report on Forecasts for 2017, based on all our research including our recent client survey. This will be published shortly: please register your interest here.