Should you be scared of…Gigster?

Today’s clients are faced with a dizzying variety of options when it comes to buying professional services. While the industry is still dominated by a handful of big firms, they are no longer the default option they once were. This is the final blog in the ‘Should you be scared of…’ series that explores some of the newer businesses and platforms seeking to turn the industry on its head—and whether your firm needs to worry about the new competition. Click here, here, here and here for previous blogs in this series.

Who is Gigster?

When we interviewed some of the key players at Gigster late last year, they described it as a company built on three things: a technology platform; a global talent network; and a philosophical approach to how projects ought to be delivered.

At its heart, Gigster is a platform business that helps facilitate the delivery of software and technology projects for its clients, through the use of geographically distributed teams of high-quality independent developers, designers, and project managers.

We’ve discussed before on this blog some of the “talent marketplaces” that have cropped up over the last few years; companies like COMATCH or Catalant that exist to connect clients to freelance professionals. And to a certain extent, Gigster shares some DNA with those companies. Like them, a key part of its value proposition revolves around its ability to staff client projects with freelancers from an extensive talent network that has been carefully curated over time.

But Gigster is far more than just a talent network. A typical Gigster project will be made up of team members working remotely in different geographical locations. Once a project team has been assembled, the Gigster platform provides the customer with a virtual environment in which to manage that team. As well as facilitating interactions between team members, and between the project team and the client, the platform gives customers real-time visibility of project progress. It also acts as a feedback channel, allowing developers working on a project to continuously improve the quality of their work.

Ultimately, Gigster’s promise is that, by removing the physical barriers to working with geographically diverse teams, clients can work exclusively with the people who are the very best fit for the job at hand. And it’s important to note that “best fit” doesn’t just mean “smartest” or “most qualified”. One of the advantages of the Gigster approach is that, by expanding and globalising the talent pool that clients have access to, it becomes possible for those clients to find people to work with who have a genuine passion for the specific project at hand. A sports team might staff a project exclusively with talented developers who also happened to be passionate fans; or a food brand might prioritise working with people who were avid home chefs.

Why do you need to know about them?

Given the nature of the projects that the Gigster platform is used for, most consulting firms—with the possible exception of technology-focused firms that do work with a heavy software component—are unlikely to ever come into direct competition with it. However, that does not mean that those firms can afford to ignore Gigster, or the wider trends in project delivery that it represents.

Software development often acts as a leading indicator for other categories of client projects; trends that originate there have a habit of eventually making themselves felt elsewhere. Agile delivery, for example—incidentally a concept at the heart of Gigster’s own approach to project management—originated as a set of software development principles. And yet, now, many clients want almost everything—transformation work, strategy projects, even audit—to be delivered in an agile way.

Gigster might represent a window into the future; a glimpse of what the consulting project of the future could look like. There is, at least in theory, no reason that the Gigster model—i.e. integrated teams of freelancers and full-time client resources working together remotely, interacting with one another through a single technology portal—couldn’t be applied to, say, a piece of strategy work.

Indeed, present circumstances have, in a very short span of time, brought that potential future a lot closer to fruition. With a few rare exceptions, consulting firms have had to embrace “virtual project delivery” in order to keep projects going through COVID-19 lockdown (a topic we explored in more detail in a recent podcast). Anecdotally, a fair number of clients and consultants alike appear to have found that the transition to remote working went much smoother than they had anticipated. If this becomes the new norm post-COVID-19—or, at least, a viable option for a wide range of projects—then the possibility that we might one day see the emergence of a “Gigster for consulting” looks a lot more likely.

How can your firm stay competitive?

The “Gigsterification” of consulting would be a double-edged sword for today’s leading firms. On the one hand, a firm that developed a Gigster-style platform for project resourcing and delivery could find itself with a significantly enhanced value proposition. The message to clients would be simple: “Since we’re all adapting to working in geographically distributed teams anyway, let’s use this as an opportunity to move our work together into a platform environment—allowing our consultants to work more effectively with your staff, and giving you unparalleled project visibility”.

In the long-run, large firms might use the Gigster model as a way of making the transition to a truly globalised and interconnected model of project delivery. A Gigsterised firm could make a clear promise to its clients: “We will staff your projects with the people in our organisation who are the absolute best fit for the job—regardless of where in the world those people are located. Whether they’re in New York or New Delhi, we know how to make global project teams work together effectively, unconstrained by the boundaries of distance, time zones, or culture”.

The downside, though, is that clients might start thinking even bigger than that. Getting your pick from a global talent pool of thousands of consultants might be appealing, but why stop there? Why work with a distributed team made up of consultants from a single firm when you could instead tap into the millions-strong global community of independent professionals? 

Of course, by doing so, you’ll miss out on the methodologies, assets, and institutional knowledge that a consulting firm brings with it to its engagements. But for a certain category of projects—those for which the raw talent of the consultants matters more than the intellectual property they’re working with and the brand name they bring with them—that trade-off may be worth it. There’s a real risk that if consulting firms do start to make themselves look more like freelance networks, then clients may just decide that they prefer the real thing.

Perhaps there’s a start-up out there already quietly working on bringing the Gigster model to consulting or to other types of professional services. Or maybe large global corporations will simply choose to develop their own Gigster-style platforms in-house. But whatever happens, one thing is clear: Clients are only going to become more comfortable working with virtual project teams. And consultants who want to know what that means for the future of their industry could do worse than take a leaf out of Gigster’s book.