Another interesting decade ahead: future challenges in consulting

As I look back over the last two decades of working in strategic consulting for companies and government, I can highlight a number of minor changes, but two major changes stand out, namely: the enormous impact of ICTs; and the evolution of our clients' knowledge of management, and management tools.

Firstly, although to some today it might sound incredible, but back in the day, when I started out, we used libraries and a landline telephone to do research and find information. And perhaps even more incredible, is that to keep in touch, we actually used to send each other faxes and letters by regular post, as well as making phone calls. Indeed, in just a few short years, the internet has revolutionised not only the way we work, but also how fast we do so. This dizzying change has been fuelled by the rapid access to a great quantity of information and a new method of worldwide communication.

Secondly, another major change was as the sector matured over time, our clients’'knowledge of management, and management tools, also increased, along with their knowledge of consulting. Today, the cycles of thinking and action are getting shorter and shorter leading to more frequent use of 'trial tests', and to company strategy changing direction more and more often. Adapting to this challenge will demand novel ways of providing consulting services, along with new tools and dynamics, and possibly in billing as well.

From a strictly personal, albeit imperfect point of view, if I were to turn my eyes to the future, what would I see? Well, for one thing, ICTs will continue to play a key role in sector changes, bringing more tools to both search for, and handle greater quantities of information, 'feeding' better analyses. Another thing is that in the future, consulting will have overcome the challenge of adapting to the quick pace of change in many client sectors. It's quite likely that professionals with new skillsets will emerge, professionals who are specialised in ICTs, and that we’ll see the triumph of new lines of consulting business linked to opportunities presented by big data in the company.

As we move into the future, networking will take on greater relevance with each networking node contributing specialised knowledge and value for the client. Indeed, with the internationalisation of companies and the interest in combining multi-disciplinary knowledge (technology – business – design – people) to achieve better solutions, the need for increased collaboration will grow. As consultants, we like to preach the virtues of networking and collaboration to our clients, yet in day-to-day internal management dynamics, we find it hard to practice what we preach, so to speak.

Last but not least, I envision a consulting sector which returns knowledge to its rightful place as the cornerstone of our service. But I'd like to remind some of my colleagues of something: in all its various forms (technical, methodological, comparative, etc.), consulting is the transfer of knowledge which helps a client to resolve a problem, or to take a management decision. Sadly, though, we seem to have lost sight of this goal.

How did this happen? Amongst other reasons, there was a certain rush 'to deliver' that existed during the bonanza of the pre-crisis years. During that period, clients in numerous public administrations and large private companies purchased on price, or by the appearance of 'new players'. In my opinion, the net result, in some cases at least, was that consulting ended up being given a 'bad rap'.

In order to shake that negative reputation, I feel it will be imperative to invest in training and in developing new tools and methodologies. In this manner, we would return to the concept of knowledge as the backbone of consulting, as well as defending its value to clients.

After 20 years of intense professional development in consulting, when I look to the future I sense that the decade ahead will be an exciting one for those of us in the sector. My conclusion is simple: we shall have to innovate, at least to the same extent, if not more so, than which we ask of our clients.

Read the original article at Estrategia Empresarial (Spanish)

Beatriz Tejedor

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