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Future of Consulting in the Era of Digital Disruption

By Renu Rajani, VP, Capgemini

In 1990’s when I passed out my MS in Management from one of the top B-Schools in the USA, I considered Management Consulting as the top choice for my career.  Being a woman, I was cautioned by several friends and well-wishers that consulting career meant living out of suit-case and globe -trotting job to be a true partner to the clients.

While I was trained in top ERP products and supply chain consulting, in a big-5 consulting organization, we focused on meeting the vision of the engagements, aligning our involvement to steering the program, and having a partner organization to actually implement ERP products. Driven with the desire to involve deeper in IT, in early 2000, I moved to IT service provider industry.

1. Digital Driving A Shift In The Way Consulting Worked

Digital transformation is making the consulting firms rethink their models and services to better cater to client needs. Today lines between business vs IT have blurred - Customer Experience, Agile/Continuous Integration/DevOps, Social Media, Mobile & Channels, Analytics, and cloud are leading the paradigm shift in consulting.

2. The Digital Age Consultant

As the market moves towards customer experience based services, organizations are looking for ‘do it all’ category of consultants. As the business grows and transforms companies are also not certain on the best approach and way forward, this makes a consultants role all the more important and in demand.

Expectations from the consultants is to be more adaptive and delivery oriented with following key drivers -

• Complete Integration

• Faster Delivery

• Knowledge of the Customer

3. Future of Consulting

The expectations from technology consultants have already started to change and moving towards customer experience delivery and niche areas such as analytics, big data, artificial intelligence, devices and data security.

Emerging trends that will define the next round of change in technology consulting would be –

• Asset based Consulting - This trend is analytics and predictive technology driven. It encompasses ideas, methodologies, frameworks and IPs together to deliver consulting services through packaged products and tools.

• Collaborative Consulting - In the Digital & agile era, the appetite for large transformational projects is shrinking and there is growing preference for more iterative and new technology driven projects.

• Specialized Consulting - Currently cloud migration and legacy modernization projects are consuming good number of technical consultants, five years from now demand for technical consultants will diminish.

• Quality Assurance Consulting - As organizations will adopt DevOps it will significantly change role of Quality Assurance.

4. What would I do differently as a consultant now?

All my years of consulting, I saw consulting engagements saw Kick-off, Planning, Analysis & Design, Report Back, Execution phases.  While our engagements involved working closely with clients in kick-off and fact gathering stage, working with clients diminished in analysis, design phases.  Often Report back/recommendation phase was with CXO level.  Often the stakeholders whose inputs were taken at initial phases found themselves eliminated from the entire process. 

If I were to re-do the consulting methods again:

(i) Engage With My Clients More Through The Life-Cycle

In today’s digital world need for transparency across consulting phases is very high. (i) Clients would more and more prefer the consultants who align and closely work with their businesses with transparency.  (ii) Discretionary spends are limited and scrutinized, there won’t be too many big-ticket consulting engagements (iii) Information is more open, there would be fewer buyers of “black-box” insights.

(ii) Don’t Drop A Bomb Of Travel Costs

Best consultants are not always in same location.  Traditionally consulting industry has seen high travel costs associated.  While travels are still essential, technologies such as skype, GoogleDoc, Microsoft Lync, GoToMeeting, etc have offered virtual collaboration at low cost and have changed the way consultants operate.

(iii) Solving Consultant “Utilization” problem with “Crowd-Source”

Consulting firms are often pre-occupied with “Utilization” issues.  Bringing learning from IT services industry where billable utilization has been in range of 90 percent (as against 60-70 percent in consulting industry), I believe consulting industry can benefit from core/flex.

(iv) Flexible Operating Model of Consulting Firms

The consulting firms traditionally had industry verticals (Manufacturing/Retailing/Distribution, Banking), and core practices e.g. Business Process Improvement, Information technology, ERP, Supply Chain, etc.

5. Conclusion

Considering the paradigm shift industry is seeing in adapting to digital evolution, need for support from consulting partners would see a rise.  To deliver industry expectations consulting firms need to adapt as per market requirements, expand their horizons, build reusable assets and garner expertise and niche skill sets. Digital has reached the doors of consulting and firms need to do a seismic shift from traditional to continuous, collaborative and comprehensive way of consulting. 

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