Know your client? Know their customer

 

“We’re going through a transformational process at the moment because we need to be driven by our customers to a much greater extent.  But, as we move into new markets and use new technologies, we’ll be asking ourselves if we really understand what our customers need.  We do, and will continue to, use consultants to help us, although we’d like to rely on them less if we can.  The problem with the big consultancies is that you don’t know who’s going to be shipped in or how much experience they’ll have, and they’re often not as good as you expect them to be.”

That’s a senior executive in a media company talking.  Consultants working in the technology, media and telecoms sector face a not just a double, but a triple whammy.  There’s the commoditisation of traditional work around operational improvement, with freelance contractors increasingly encroaching on work historically done by bona fide consulting teams.  There’s technology, now so pervasive an influence right across these three sectors that it’s almost impossible to find a substantial consulting project which doesn’t, in some way, have a technology component to it.  That may have boosted the revenues of technology consulting firms but it’s left more traditional strategy, operations and HR firms scrambling for a new approach.  Finally, there’s the steadily rising bar of industry knowledge: TMT executives are more likely than those in any other sector to complain that consultants’ knowledge hasn’t kept pace with their own.  “We hire a lot of strategy consultants,” one of the biggest high-tech companies in the US told us, “but their knowledge of the market is typically six months behind ours.”

How can consultants fight back?  The key, we think (and it’s the core message of our new report on this sector), will be customer analytics.  Any area of analytics is important because of the bridging role it plays between technology and people; uniquely, then, analytics gives consulting firms which don’t have a strong technology capability the opportunity to work in fields where the latter is usually a requirement.  Customer analytics as an area of interest isn’t new, but TMT companies (telecoms ones in particular) have vast resources of data that’s been largely untapped and a real sense of urgency around how they can be seen as more than a utility service.

It’s no surprise then that we’ve seen an increase in the number of big consulting firms looking to build propositions and/or make acquisitions in TMT/customer analytics space.  Whether you’re a big firm or a niche specialist, proprietary intellectual capital (data, assets that use that data, etc) is going to be central to your success.