Consulting, and especially the business consulting sector, is undergoing a transformation towards ‘disruptive’ models which foresee a sector based on more technology and a hybrid strategy-design, with networks of experts who are presenting a challenge to traditional consultants.
Over my 12 years working as a consultant, I have both witnessed, and actually survived, several attempts to transform how we provide our services. I have had to think about and debate how to improve what we do in order to better serve our clients. In my time, I have also suffered the attempts of some multi-national generalist consulting firms to fit any consulting project (regardless of client needs) into a huge methodological framework originally intended for large projects.
Nonetheless, I recall with satisfaction the efforts of so many colleagues to add value to our work: reviewing methodologies; structuring market surveys; or transferring existing models to new applications. Naturally, I am still very mindful of the countless ideas which have been debated in my own company. Albeit not always explored, these ideas were the result of a search for how to effect profound changes to our market offer, and to our internal processes as well. Despite all these endeavours though, I see that precious little has changed in how we undertake our work in the consulting sector.
While it is true that theoretical developments continue to appear in our sector (in general analyses are more rigorous; new approaches are being introduced; and new services are being launched), we unfortunately seem to be stuck on rehashing the same old methods. Furthermore, the minimal client input into the transformation process of consulting services is symptomatic of what’s not working correctly. Do we make our work so complex, or even so opaque, that we’re incapable of getting our clients to suggest, or even to demand of us, clear improvements?
Yesterday, I read an article by Clayton Christensen who foresees the ‘disruption’ of the consulting sector. In it, he speaks about applying technology to the analysis of complex problems, about hybrid strategy-design models, and of the networks of experts which are beginning to challenge the leading consulting firms.Although I should be concerned by this, the truth is that I find it both hopeful and encouraging. Why, you may ask?
First of all, because I can see first-hand that the disruptive models mentioned above have already come up in our own thinking processes, which proves that we weren’t too far off the mark. Secondly, I see with this, the opportunity for opening up the market, especially if we take into account all those companies who don’t purchase consulting services simply because they don’t believe in them. Finally, out of an honest desire to deliver true service, I also see this as a chance to help our clients to become more self-sufficient. This way they’ll be better equipped to better analyse and resolve their own complex problems, thereby reducing their dependency on our consulting services.
Does this render our work worthless? It may well reduce the value of our present activities and methods, but not what we’re able to do. In fact, I can think of a thousand ways of refocusing our skills towards the new consulting models which are emerging.
So, I’m starting to formulate a plan. If we truly are going to implement these new models, I wish to participate in developing them, helping make the traditional consultancy a thing of the past. If, what Christensen states is true, that disrupting a sector is a 20 to 25 year process, then I want to give my boss the perfect excuse to retire whenever he chooses to. Furthermore, he’ll be able to do so with the peace of mind that a breath of fresh air is arriving to replace the stale atmosphere that has permeated the traditional consulting field he has worked in for so long.
To that end, I require the help of colleagues, clients, designers, IT and communication experts, in short, anyone who sees opportunities with this change. Who’s up for the challenge?