Conversations with experts that explore the big trends shaping the professional services industry.
The future of the professional services industry has never been so opaque. As we hurtle along an uncertain trajectory, services from audit to consulting will all need to be radically re-imagined. On this podcast, we explore the changing face of the industry, and what that means for firms that want to compete—and win—in the modern knowledge economy.
The pandemic has acted as a sharp reminder of just how fragile the world’s economy and our global infrastructure truly is. Layer on top of that the new kinds of threats that have emerged—from immediate dangers such as cybercrime, through to long-term, planetary issues like climate change and geopolitical realignments—and it’s easy to see why it’s often argued that we’re living through an “age of crisis”. On this episode, we’re joined by Nicholas Bahr—Global Managing Director for Operational Risk Management and Sustainability at DuPont Sustainable Solutions—to discuss how consultants can help their clients navigate this new threat landscape.
Fiona Czerniawska; Fergus Blair; and Nicholas Bahr
Since the beginning of this year, the consulting market has bounced back faster than many had anticipated—leaving many firms struggling to find the resources to keep pace with client demand. While the so-called “war for talent” is not a new phenomenon in this industry, the problem does feel more acute now than ever before. So, on this episode of the podcast, we’re joined by Amanda Gethin—the Global Talent Leader for Consulting at EY—to discuss how the pandemic has intersected with longer-term factors to produce today’s talent shortages, and what firms can do to solve this crisis.
Fiona Czerniawska; Fergus Blair; and Amanda Gethin
The pandemic has made COOs and CEOs acutely aware of their human capital dependencies, and many have turned to technologies like artificial intelligence and robotic process automation as a means of building more resilience into their businesses. And that’s been great news for the new generation of specialist automation consulting firms and “automation as a service” providers. In this episode, we speak to Roboyo’s Charles Vivian and Nicolass Hess to find out where this field goes next, and what implications that will have for the wider consulting sector.
Fiona Czerniawska; Fergus Blair; Charles Vivian; and Nicolass Hess
Over the past decade, digital transformation has been one of the most important drivers of consulting spend; our latest data suggests that the digital transformation market makes up over a third of the total global market for consulting services. However, the pandemic has had some profound effects on the digital priorities of clients—and, in many industries, has led to a significant acceleration of digital trends. In this episode, we’re joined by Didier Bonnet—an Executive Vice President at Capgemini Invent—to discuss how consulting firms can update their digital offerings for this new world.
Fiona Czerniawska; Fergus Blair; and Didier Bonnet.
For many of us, strategy work is what we immediately picture when we think about consulting. However, like every facet of this industry, strategy consulting has moved on a great deal over the past few decades. Indeed, for many clients, the word “strategy” itself has a very different set of connotations than it once did. In this episode of the podcast, we’re joined by Jonathan Goodman—Chair of Monitor Deloitte and a Vice Chair of Deloitte Canada—as we discuss just how much has changed about strategy consulting, and how the field will continue to evolve over the coming years.
Fiona Czerniawska; Fergus Blair; and Jonathan Goodman.
Thought leadership is a crucial part of the brand-building strategy of the modern professional services firm. And over the past year and a half, it’s taken on a new level of importance; for many clients, it has played a vital role in helping them successfully overcome the challenges of the pandemic. On this episode, we’re joined by Francis Hintermann, the Global Managing Director of Accenture Research, to discuss what firms can do if they want to maximise the impact of the content they produce, and ensure it accurately reflects the priorities of their clients.
As issues of racial justice have taken on a new level of importance in the public consciousness, consulting firms have become more aware of the need to confront the sector’s historical failings. In this episode, we’re joined by Ekow Sanni-Thomas, founder of Inside Voices, a platform dedicated to holding companies accountable for their diversity pledges. We discuss the practical steps that consultants can take if they want to transform their firms into truly anti-racist organisations.
At Source Global Research, we believe in constantly challenging ourselves to do better, and we strive to hold ourselves to the same standards that we believe the professional services industry as a whole ought to abide by. Click here to read more about our commitment to diversity & inclusion in the workplace.
Fergus Blair; Izzy Aughterson and Ekow Sanni-Thomas.
Over the past few years, the boundaries between freelancers and established consulting firms have become a lot more porous than they used to be. Spurred on by a desire to create more flexible resourcing models, large consulting firms have adopted a much more proactive approach to bringing freelancers into the delivery of their client engagements. And that’s been facilitated, in part, by the arrival of a new generation of “talent-on-demand” platforms, which have made it easier than ever before to source and vet freelance consultants. So, on this episode of the podcast, we’re joined by Charlotte Gregson, Managing Director for the UK & US at COMATCH, in order to take a deep dive into the rapidly evolving world of freelance consulting—and what it all means for established professional services firms and their clients.
Edward Haigh; Fergus Blair; and Charlotte Gregson.
In the modern consulting industry, it’s vital that firms understand how to help clients unlock the innovation potential within their organisations. Increasingly, clients aren’t just looking for consultants who know how to write a compelling PowerPoint deck; they want to find partners who can provide them with the practical support necessary to develop, launch and scale radically innovative products and services. In this episode of the podcast, we’re joined by Frazer Bennett—Chief Innovation Officer at PA Consulting—to discuss the role of innovation in today’s consulting sector. As well as looking at the longer-term trend of firms embracing their role as enablers of innovation, we’ll also be examining the extent to which COVID has pushed this topic up the agendas of clients, and the various ways in which firms have had to adjust their approaches to innovation in response to the rise of virtual working.
Fiona Czerniawska; Fergus Blair; and Frazer Bennett.
Over the past twelve months, the global Black Lives Matter movement has forced businesses in every industry to ask themselves some hard questions about their track record on issues of diversity and inclusion. For the consulting sector, these questions feel particularly pertinent, given the way in which a firm’s success is directly rooted in the human capital it has access to. On this episode of the podcast we’re joined by Susan Haseley—Executive Vice President at Protiviti and the firm’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader—to examine this topic in more detail. We explore why—from a commercial and ethical standpoint—consultants ought to care about diversity and inclusion, and we examine what specific steps firms can take to transform themselves into more diverse organisations.
Whether you’re a leader within a consulting firm or a consultant who advises clients on questions about management and leadership, there’s a good chance you’ve spent a lot of time over the last year thinking about the topic of employee engagement. Engagement might not be a new concept, either for consultants or their clients, but it is one that feels more relevant right now than ever. The pandemic has, after all, had a profound impact on the relationship between leaders and their workforces. So, on this episode, we’re joined by Pamela Hackett—CEO of consulting firm Proudfoot and author of “Manage to Engage” —as we take a deep dive into the world of engagement. We’ll look at what it takes to build an engaged workforce, and we’ll explore the role that consulting firms can play in helping clients take their first steps along that journey.
Fiona Czerniawska; Fergus Navaratnam-Blair; and Pamela Hackett.
Since the very beginning of the pandemic, there was talk in both the private and public sector about the need to “build back better” and ensure a “green recovery” from COVID-19. Now that we’re starting to get a better sense of what a post-COVID future could look like, clients are asking themselves tough questions about what, exactly, a green recovery will mean in practice—and how to balance competing priorities at this critical moment in time. So, on this episode of the podcast, we revisit the topic of sustainability; and more specifically, we examine the way in which client demand for sustainability services has started to reshape the competitive dynamics of the consulting sector. To discuss this topic, we’re joined by Dame Jo da Silva and Carol Lemmens from Arup—the firm’s Global Sustainable Development Director and Global Advisory Services Leader, respectively.
Edward Haigh; Fergus Navaratnam-Blair; Dame Jo da Silva; and Carol Lemmens.
Digital transformation has been a critically important driver in the growth of consulting spend over the past decade. And customer experience has been one of the areas where digital transformation has played the greatest role in unlocking new opportunities for clients. Any business needs to be able to meet its customers where they are; so, as consumers have become more digitally savvy, businesses have been forced to develop their own digital capabilities accordingly. On this episode of the podcast, we’re joined by Quinton Pienaar—PwC’s EMEA Customer Transformation Leader—to discuss how firms can support their clients’ customer transformation journeys, particularly in the context of the changes to consumer behaviour caused by the pandemic.
Margaret Cameron-Waller; Fergus Navaratnam-Blair; and Quinton Pienaar.
M&A is a crucial engine of growth for large consulting firms. But it also holds the potential to fundamentally reshape the parameters of the industry and the axes along which firms compete with one another; over the past few years, there have been a number of high profile examples of firms buying up companies from outside the sector in an effort to diversify their service portfolios and, in some cases, create entirely new customer propositions. Conversely, there have also been cases of companies from outside the sector using well-placed acquisitions as a way of gaining a foothold within consulting. In this episode, we’re joined by Daniel Schwartmann—Accenture’s Managing Director responsible for inorganic growth activities across their global strategy and consulting business—to discuss what M&A activity today can tell us about the future of the industry.
Fiona Czerniawska; Martin White; Fergus Navaratnam-Blair; and Daniel Schwartmann.
Historically, consulting firms haven’t always been seen as attractive investment vehicles for private equity. As organisations whose success depends primarily on their human capital, consulting firms can be harder to properly value than many other businesses. And the nature of project-based work can lead to unpredictable cashflows—not something that many investors are looking for. But recently, something seems to have changed; private equity investors are taking a closer look at the sector, and that’s led to a number of high profile deals in the past few years. In this episode, we’re joined by Richard Holden—a partner at the investment bank Alantra—to explore the reasons behind that shift, and what it will mean for the future of consulting.
Margaret Cameron-Waller; Richard Holden; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
Questions of brand-building have always been front of mind for consulting firms; but over the past year, those questions have taken on a new level of urgency. At a time when clients are scrutinising their consulting spend more carefully than ever, a strong brand can be the difference between a healthy pipeline and a sputtering one. So, on this episode, we’re joined by John Rudaizky—the Global Brand and Marketing Leader for EY—to talk all things brand: what makes for an effective professional services brand; how you can build one; and how you can put that brand to work as an engine for growth.
Fiona Czerniawska; Martin White; Fergus Navaratnam-Blair; and John Rudaizky.
For the modern professional services firm, thought leadership can be a powerful tool for building a brand and establishing credibility with clients. But since the start of the pandemic, there have been some important changes both to the ways in which clients consume that thought leadership, and to what they’re looking for from it. In this episode of the podcast, we’re joined by thought leadership and content marketing expert Bev Burgess—a consultant, author, and Senior Adviser for ITSMA—to discuss what that all means for the future of firms’ content, and sketch out what thought leadership will look like in 2025 and beyond.
Fiona Czerniawska; Bev Burgess; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
Even before the pandemic, it was becoming increasingly common to hear consulting firms talk about their sense of purpose—the idea that their actions are motivated by something above and beyond a desire to generate profits for their partnerships. And events of the last year have certainly put those claims to the test like never before. So, on this episode of the podcast, we take a look at what “purpose” really means in the context of the professional services industry; we ask why having a purpose matters, how you can figure out what yours is, and what firms can do if they want to make sure their commitment to a sense of purpose isn’t a hollow one.
Edward Haigh; Margaret Cameron-Waller; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
Any consulting firm will tell you that their people are their greatest asset. Talent acquisition and retention have always been topics that leaders in this industry have paid close attention to, in order to ensure that their firms can continue to provide clients with the highly skilled, creative, and motivated project team members they’re looking for. But COVID-19 has introduced some new wrinkles into the talent proposition. With consultants travelling a good deal less than they once did, firms will need to rethink how they sell the profession to young graduates; at the same time, the shift to remote project delivery may allow firms to operate much more geographically distributed workforces. In this episode, we explore the various implications that the pandemic has had on talent—and what firms can do to set themselves up for success in the talent market of tomorrow.
Edward Haigh; Edward Edgcumbe and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
Consulting has, historically, always been an industry in which sales were highly relationship-driven; and as a consequence of that, marketing teams within consulting firms have sometimes struggled to demonstrate their ROI to the rest of the business. Now that COVID-19 has created a situation in which partners aren’t able to spend as much facetime with clients, many firms have found that they’ve needed to lean more heavily on their marketing functions in order to continue driving sales. In the long-run, this experience may act as a catalyst for firms to start rethinking the role of their marketing functions, and how they interface with the rest of the business. On this episode of the podcast, we’re joined by Matthew Lieberman—CMO for the US and Mexico at PwC—to explore how one firm’s marketing function has stepped up to the challenges created by the pandemic.
Fiona Czerniawska; Margaret Cameron-Waller; Matthew Lieberman; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
Regular listeners of the podcast will know that we have a longstanding interest in how emerging technologies could shape the future of the professional services industry. So we’re delighted to be joined for this episode by Lorien Pratt—an AI expert with a long track record of pioneering new developments within the field in a commercial context. She sat down with us to discuss how consulting firms could unlock new growth opportunities by incorporating AI into their service offerings; with a particular focus on the comparatively new discipline of Decision Intelligence, and the potential it holds for embedding AI tools and techniques into high-stakes business decision-making.
Margaret Cameron-Waller; Lorien Pratt; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
Even prior to the pandemic, the ambition of becoming truly customer-centric was high up on the agendas of leading businesses across a wide range of sectors—in both the B2B and B2C space. COVID-19 has created a new sense or urgency around those ambitions; many organisations have come to realise that their ability to weather this particular storm will depend, in large part, on whether or not they can successfully close the gap between themselves, their customers, and the end consumer. In this podcast, we are joined by Mike Mickunas, former Global VP for Commercial Insights and Analytics at Kelloggs and current Bain External Advisor, to talk about how service providers can help businesses put the customer at the heart of their decision making.
Fiona Czerniawska; Mike Mickunas; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
It’s fair to say that organisations have never before been more conscious of the critical two way dependencies between themselves and their workforces. On the one hand, businesses are having to think about how they can keep their people safe and do right by their employees; on the other, those same businesses are trying to create the type of institutional resilience that will allow them to continue operating even if key individuals are temporarily unavailable. We could well be on the verge of a complete transformation of the relationship between employees, businesses and society-at-large. So, in this podcast, we explore the nature of that transformation—and ask whether it will lead to a consequent reimagining of the role of human capital consultants.
Fiona Czerniawska; Clarrie Wakeling; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
Regular listeners of the podcast will have frequently heard us address the thorny topic of value in the professional services industry; today, we apply that thinking to the world of audit. Non-discretionary work like audit isn’t always seen as “value-generating” in quite the same way that discretionary spend—consulting services, for example—is. But is that really fair? In this episode, we explore the relationship between audit and value, as understood by clients; and we ask what auditors can do if they want to maximise their perceived value-add.
Click here to download an extract of our recently published report on client perceptions’ of audit firms.
Edward Haigh; Martin White; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
Thought leadership has always been one of the most important weapons in a consulting firm’s brand-building arsenal. And that’s why it’s so important to invest time into making sure that your content output is highly differentiated; not just from the thought leadership that other firms are putting out, but also from all of the other media sources you’re competing against for client eyeballs. In this episode, we explore how clients’ content consumption habits have been affected by COVID-19, and what that means for consulting firms who want to make their material stand out from the crowd.
Zoë Stumpf; Edward Haigh; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
There is no shortage right now of stories in the press about how professional services firms are responding to the pandemic—be those positive stories about companies going above and beyond to protect their employees and their customers, or more negative ones about firms laying people off or failing to deliver on critical public health projects. But is all of that noise actually having an impact on client perceptions? In this episode, we examine how the brands of leading firms are holding up during this crisis, and ask what firms can do to ensure they come out of this period with their reputation in the market enhanced rather than diminished.
Alison Huntington; Edward Haigh; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly transformed the way that clients think about risk, and how they evaluate the risk management practices of their own organisations. So what does that mean for the risk consulting market? In this podcast, we explore how the market for risk services has held up through the pandemic; what changes could be on the horizon for how risk services are delivered; and what firms can do today to set themselves up for success in this market.
Zoë Stumpf ; Martin White; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
Getting the right balance between breadth and depth in your service portfolio is one of the perennial challenges for consulting firms. Many clients greatly value the ability to buy multiple services from a single vendor; but spread yourself too thinly and you risk becoming seen as a jack-of-all-trades. So in this episode, we look at what firms need to consider when developing their service portfolio, and how they can find that sweet spot between doing everything under the sun and becoming single service providers. We also explore how the size of your firm helps shape client expectations for what services you’ll be able to offer them, and how you can best take advantage of those expectations.
Fiona Czerniawska; Martin White; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
Regulators in the UK recently announced the details of a plan to reform the audit industry, in response to a series of high profile business failures where auditors took a large portion of the public blame. And these UK proposals may well end up as the template for reforms in other markets. So, in this episode, we examine the role that regulation will play in shaping how audits are purchased and delivered over the coming years—and examine the relationship between regulation and other critical factors that will shape the future of audit.
Fiona Czerniawska; Martin White; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
Sustainability is a topic that’s moved up and down the client agenda for a while now—but around this time last year it felt to many like we’d reached a turning point — spurred on by Greta Thunberg, the global climate strikes, and the new wave of media focus on the issue. And while COVID-19 has certainly impacted client priorities, and perhaps led to a bit more of an emphasis on the social side of the ESG equation, it doesn’t seem to have much dampened interest in the topic. Today on the podcast, we’ll be examining the role that sustainability services play in today’s professional services market—and what role they could play in the future.
Consulting firms have not been shy these past few years about making acquisitions; in fact, there have been several high-profile recent examples of firms buying businesses that fall well outside the traditional definition of consulting, in an attempt to augment their service portfolios or create entirely new customer propositions. In this episode of the podcast, we ask whether M&A energy has been diminished or magnified by COVID-19, and explore how the pandemic may change what firms look for in potential acquisition targets.
Margaret Cameron-Waller; Edward Edgcumbe; James Beeby; and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair.
A firm’s brand is always one of its most important assets. Not only is it a critical part of getting your foot in the door with new clients, but it also sets the limits of what work you can and can’t feasibly bid for; like it or not, brand is one of the key factors that clients look at when deciding who to work with and who to avoid. So in this episode of the podcast, we explore exactly how your brand shapes the work that clients are willing to buy from you, and we look at how COVID-19 may reshape what it means to have a great brand identity.
Edward Haigh; Alison Huntington; and Fergus Blair.
Investing for organic growth as a professional services firm is rarely straightforward, even in times of relatively stable background economic conditions. There are a myriad of factors that go into decisions about which markets to enter, what new services to launch, and how to invest in talent. In periods of crisis and uncertainty, those decisions become orders of magnitude more complex. In this episode, we explore what smart investing looks like in the time of COVID-19.
Fiona Czerniawska; Margaret Cameron-Waller; and Fergus Blair.
We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a special live Q&A episode, in which we answer the burning questions on the minds of consulting leaders. This is a recording of an online panel discussion we recently hosted, for which we invited firms to submit questions on the theme of how COVID-19 has changed professional services. In this episode, we go through those questions and explore how different facets of the industry have been impacted by the pandemic.
Fiona Czerniawska; Margaret Cameron-Waller; Alison Huntington; and Fergus Blair.
COVID-19 has rewritten the rulebook for consulting projects; firms have had to adapt, virtually overnight, to a world in which the vast majority of their work must be done remotely. In this episode of the podcast, we take a closer look at the challenges and opportunities that firms are facing right now, and we explore the potential longer-term implications of the current crisis on project delivery.
Fiona Czerniawska; Edward Edgcumbe; and Fergus Blair.
The modern consulting partnership looks very different from those of ten or even five years ago. Not only have more firms recognised the importance of diversity–both in terms of demographics and in terms of professional background and thinking style–at the partner level, but the skills required to be a successful leader in the consulting industry have changed dramatically. In this episode, we’re joined by Ben Richardson, of executive search and talent advisory firm Sheffield Haworth, to discuss the ongoing evolution of the consulting partnership.
Fiona Czerniawska; Edward Haigh; Fergus Blair; and Ben Richardson.
Most consulting firms care a great deal about the quality of the thought leadership they put out into the market; but even so, there are still plenty of sub-par pieces that get published. In this episode, we discuss the impact that good thought leadership can have on a firm’s reputation, what makes some pieces stand out from the crowd, and what firms can do if they want to ensure consistency and quality in their thought leadership output.
Fiona Czerniawska; Alison Huntington; and Fergus Blair.
Top graduates entering the talent market today have more options open to them than ever before. At the same time, career paths for consultants are more fluid than they’ve ever been, with mid-career professionals happy to move around between firms, go in and out of industry, and spend time as freelancers. All of this means that attracting and retaining top talent is becoming increasingly challenging for many firms; and on this podcast, we explore some of the different ways firms are trying to meet that challenge.
Fiona Czerniawska; Edward Haigh; Fergus Blair; and Richard Longstreet.
It’s clear right now that we’re in unprecedented times for the global economy. Across the world, professional services firms are trying to understand what impact COVID-19 will have on their own ability to continue operating and on their demand pipeline. In this episode, we explore the potential impact of the pandemic on the professional services sector, and talk about what we’ll be doing to support listeners of our podcast through this challenging period.
Consulting is, to put it bluntly, not an easy industry to navigate. The dizzying array of firms out there – all offering jargon-laden, overlapping bundles of services – make it hard for even seasoned industry-watchers to accurately describe the landscape of the sector. But what if there was a better way to talk about consulting services?
Fiona Czerniawska; Edward Haigh; Edward Edgcumbe; and Fergus Blair.
A recurring theme of our podcast has been the way in which professional services firms are becoming increasingly complex and difficult to navigate. But as a consequence of that shift, the role of the account manager has become more important than ever. In this episode, we explore how firms are reinventing the way they manage client relationships, and what that means for you.
Professional services firms live and die by the strength of their brand. But there is precious little consensus about how to develop and protect it; different companies have taken very different approaches to brand management. In this podcast, we explore the pros and cons of different brand strategies.
The prevalence of discounting is one of the consulting industry’s biggest open secrets. For many firms, the rate card is more of a useful fiction than anything else. Should firms be wary of the long-term impact of discounting too much? Or is it all part of playing the game?
Fiona Czerniawska; Edward Haigh; and Fergus Blair.
Nobody likes getting audited. But does that have to be the case? By asking what a discretionary audit would look like, we can better understand the opportunities for auditors to use new technology to make their services more attractive to clients.
Fiona Czerniawska; Edward Haigh; and Fergus Blair.
Consulting is an industry with a perennial value problem; because the work that consultants do can often be relatively abstract and strategic, it can be difficult to prove the value created by a given project. Is there anything that firms can do to help make their unique value-add more concrete in the eyes of clients?
Fiona Czerniawska; Edward Haigh; and Fergus Blair.
The stereotype of consultants is that they spend all their time jet-setting around the world; George Clooney even made a film about it. But in an age when all of us are having to think more about our environmental footprint, is it time for consultants to become a little more grounded?
Fiona Czerniawska; Edward Haigh; and Fergus Blair.
The managed services model has historically been associated more with technology outsourcing than with high complexity advisory services. But in recent years, an increasing number of consulting firms have appropriated this model and begun offering continuous support to their clients in critical business areas. In this episode, we examine this trend, and ask whether it represents the inevitable future of management consulting.
Fiona Czerniawska; Edward Haigh; and Fergus Blair.
The trusty time and materials pricing model may have served consulting firms well for decades, but is it on its last legs? In this podcast, we look at the growing appetite for linking project fees directly to outcomes, and ask whether this really is the future of the industry.
Fiona Czerniawska; Edward Haigh; and Fergus Blair.