Consulting in 2017: Seven reasons to take control of change
Thursday 16th Feb, 2017
By Fiona Czerniawska.
“Change doth unknit the tranquil strength of men,” wrote the nineteenth-century English poet Matthew Arnold.
2016 tested even the most optimistic consultants’ mantra that all change is good for the industry. To be fair, the year’s two biggest changes–the election of Donald Trump and Brexit–have so far done little more than create huge uncertainty, making it hard for clients to decide where to focus their limited resources. That hiatus in corporate decision-making may be brief in the US, given the number of executive orders flying out of the White House, but the nature of the UK’s post-Brexit world is no clearer now than it was six months ago. So it’s tempting to hunker down and wait for the fog to clear.
Here, though, are seven reasons why you shouldn’t:
1) Resilience: Against the odds, clients show no sign of slowing down their expenditure on consultants. It’s as though they’re saying that they have to get on with things, that they can’t wait for the world to sort itself out.
2) Complex growth: None of the primary opportunities we see in the market–transformation, data & analytics, and risk and cybersecurity–will be straightforward. Each requires a rethink of some of the core aspects of consulting. Transformation work involves delivering both strategy and implementation in a single coherent whole. Success in data & analytics will be determined by the clarity with which you decide what part of your business will be replaced by algorithms, and which part will be enhanced by them. Risk and cybersecurity issues can only be resolved by offering more than just a short-term consulting fix.
3) Platforms: The easy solution to complexity is to break it down into its component parts, offering point solutions to specific problems. There’s still an appetite for the latter among clients, but market dominance will belong to firms that can knit together not only their existing services, but non-traditional offerings, and those that embed technology in their delivery process.
4) Propositions: Consultants deliver great work, but fail dismally when it comes to explaining that to potential clients. 2017 should be the year in which, as an industry, we get better at saying what’s inside the tin, and why our tin is different to anyone else’s.
5) Automation: A year ago it felt like pie-in-the-sky, but artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, and robotics–whatever you choose to call it–now feature in every conversation we have with clients and consulting firms. Change may not happen overnight, but it looks set to happen much faster than expected.
6) Ecosystems: Big consulting (and other types of) firms have been gobbling up smaller specialists and technology firms, but the focus now is on building a network of alliances with different types of firms.
7) Evidence: In a world in which politics appears to be increasingly based on opinions and focused on protectionism, we predict that business leaders will need more data than ever, in order to explain and even defend their decisions. Consulting, founded on the ability to gather facts and dispassionately appraise them, can play a central role in creating calm and informed debate.
The future isn’t going to go away, so we may as well turn and face it.