Published on December 22, 2021 by Jigyasa Arora and Meera Hans
The pandemic has forced a number of sectors to adopt new ways of working. Even the primarily client-driven consulting sector has had to adapt to new methods of service, structure, technology and operation. This article summarises trends to look out for to ensure continued growth.
Digital disruption using artificial intelligence and automated tools
The significance of technology was highlighted amid the pandemic. The business consulting sector used to be labour-intensive, but it is now being digitalised in order to forge ahead. Tools such as Looker, Tableau, Microsoft Power BI, Qlik, SAS and Domo help consultants process and analyse large amounts of data. They help save time and provide more accurate results, for example, in terms of sales, customers, operations and supply chains.
Artificial intelligence (AI) would also play a major role in automating administrative consulting work in the near future, enabling teams to focus on higher-value-add and customer-facing tasks. Consultants of the future would deliver tools to employees, customers and partners for developing and using AI responsibly, accurately and ethically. This transformation would in turn help find new opportunities and develop business strategies for clients. Consultants would be expected to help businesses overcome complex challenges by leveraging the power of disruptive technology.
Risk sharing through strategic partnerships
The pandemic has reinforced the need for strategic thinking and contingency and scenario planning. Clients are now planning to share their risk through strategic partnerships with consultants, in an effort to deliver an exceptional service to their customers. Such partnerships would require consultancies to build customised business models, moving the focus from billable hours to operating a scalable business model, such as a subscription service. This would enable consultancies to provide more flexible and customised offerings to clients.
Moving from big projects to bite-sized sourcing
The management consulting sector continues to move towards a multi-sourcing model, not wanting to limit itself to a single consulting firm. Companies break their large projects into small ones, entering into partnerships with multiple firms, including niche firms and smaller consultancies. Multi-sourcing could take many forms: large generalist firms partnering with small niche specialists; management consulting firms partnering with consultants outside the industry; and consultancies partnering with academics, digital agencies and technology companies. Multi-sourcing also intensifies the competition among consultancies.
Since specialised resources are costly, there is a growing trend to internalise the consulting function. The major companies have significantly increased their fees per consultant. With increasing pressure to reduce operational expenses, executives must find alternate ways to obtain the support of consultants at lower costs.
Internal consultants may leverage knowledge and experience much faster since they work with just one client in a single sector. They also make up for their inability to make external comparisons by having a deeper connection with the firm, its business and its culture. Additionally, for some projects that require a high level of confidentiality, working with internal teams would be the best way to maintain information security.
Skill-based value delivery using hybrid working models
The move to remote working has offered organisations an opportunity to tap into specialised pools of talent, previously inaccessible due to geographical restrictions. Traditional models are likely to shift to on-demand consulting services, and consultants would be expected to deliver projects using a hybrid model by staffing a project with employees from different locations, based on skills required and availability.
Digital networks can be used to handle consultancy projects and collaborate with teams in different locations across the globe. This would drive new forms of resourcing and offshoring, increasing demand for advanced and professional corporate consulting services.
Environmental sustainability has become a global issue, with the top five business risks linked to environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges across industries and functions. There is increased need for businesses to go green and adhere to the changing regulations if they are to improve their social image. Governments and society expect organisations to be more environmentally friendly. All this increases the need for consultants to help companies ensure more socially and environmentally responsible business operations.
The year 2022 will be all about going digital. AI would be used to process, handle and analyse huge amounts of data efficiently and faster. Consultancies would add value to their clients by using analytical tools and offering quantifiable results, combining the domain knowledge of SMEs with technology to provide products and solutions.
In addition, the structure of how consultancies provide services will likely change with the cascading effects of using internal teams, task-based outsourcing and leveraging partnership models. Some of the new focus areas such as ESG consulting would further prompt the industry to devise new solutions for the ever-changing marketplace.
How Acuity Knowledge Partners can help
Our product offerings are based on technology, research and data expertise, ensuring the research we provide is technology-backed, based on exhaustive data points and driven by the best insights. Leveraging our proprietary technology solution, Business Excellence and Automation Tools (BEAT), and highly qualified professionals with deep expertise who work with more than 200 global data providers, we not only make sure the interests of the biggest names in the consulting world are well guarded, but also equip them to stay a step ahead of the curve in this era of transformation.
About the Authors
Jigyasa Arora is a Delivery Lead within Private Equity practice at Acuity Knowledge Partners, and has about 9 years of experience in analyzing and executing research projects. She is proficient in different aspect of research such as research planning, secondary research using public as well as paid source. Her previous experience includes tenure with one of the Big Fours, where she assisted in business research, development of the search strategy, including researching potential target industries and construction of company target lists across different industries and geographies.
Meera Hans is a Delivery Lead within Private Equity practice at Acuity Knowledge Partners, and has about 9 years of experience in business strategy and research vertical. She oversees project execution and delivery for Fortune 500 clients and other key ad-hoc projects. She is highly adept at understanding business issues and translating them into research priorities. She has hands on experience in managing projects on market insight, competitive intelligence, industry insights and go-to-market support using public as well as paid source. Her previous experience includes tenure with a data analytics and consulting company where she was involved in creating syndicated reports for their consumer packaged goods and retail division