We often enter new phases of things; the “2.0”s, the “3.0”s, the “4.0”s and in tech we move quickly through these phases. Indeed the world moves quickly, unless, that is, you’re in the world of consulting. We’ve been tempted to write about Consulting 4.0 / new consulting for a while now, as we see new consulting models emerge and as we, as a business mature and come to rely on new consulting tools and techniques. So what is Consulting 4.0? Here’s a quick tour of Consulting Old and New.
Old Consulting allows and supports the dominance of the Big 3, their imitators, the rest of the pack and the idea that when buying consultancy, you should buy a brand with a methodology.
New Consulting on the other hand, allows smaller consultancies to flourish in niche areas. Smaller businesses will be more people led; you’re buying people and personality over brand and methodology.
TEAM SIZE AND SKILLS
Old Consulting delivers a troupe of mainly junior and inexperienced generalists. Consultants are consultants first, and specialists later.
New Consulting delivers a handful of experienced specialists. In New Consulting, consultants are often specialists first and consultants later.
The fact that clients “never get fired for hiring <insert giant global consultancy name here>” means they’re a safe bet, at a price. Even thought engagements might cost millions, hiring a brand is seen as a safe bet, without any indication of what you’ll get. You’re buying the ability to ‘blame it on the consultants’. (This often then happens).
Hiring a smaller niche, unbranded team of individuals would be seen to be much riskier but on a much smaller scale. Smaller consultancies to be hired by ambitious managers looking for something new.
FINDING WORK AS A CONSULTANT
If you want to work as a consultant there’s a clear career path and once the relevant prescribed qualifications are met and you start work, the ladder through the hierarchies is precisely defined. The rather narrow entry requirements means the role attracts a certain type, which is great if you are that type, and not great, if you’re not.
WORK / LIFE BALANCE
“Up or Out” means you stick for 2 years in a role and you’re either up (promoted) or you’re out (one way or another). On the one hand this unwritten rule makes it clear that if they fit, they can thrive in the consultancy. On the other hand it encourages consultants to work extremely long (and rather unproductive hours) to meet often unrealistic expectations. Significant travel is standard with little or no say on the engagements you work on.
If you can source enough work through consulting platforms (and of course your own network) you can set your own hours and pick and choose the projects you work on. You also get to work with a more diverse group of peers and more of the non-traditional style consultant, the specialists, the rebels, even!
THE ROLE OF AI
Much of the leg work in Old Consulting is undertaken by junior analysts and underpins the strategy. This takes time and is a manual process open to various interpretations.
Of course any good consultant is ‘data driven’ to an extent but Artificial Intelligence takes this to the next level. AI enables a chunk of consultancy work, the analysis for example to be shortcut, and automated. This in turn, not only cuts costs but allows consultants to focus on other areas. In turn this changes the shape of consulting teams. Smaller more expert teams will be required.
The consulting giants have their own brands of consulting methodology; their playbooks. If you lost a consultant from a team they could easily be swapped in for another and via the prescribed use of the methodology / toolkit / playbook, you might not notice a change in personnel.
New Consultancy does not stick rigidly to a branded consulting methodology. Sure, any good consultant knows the consulting playbook but new tools and approaches can be used. Management Consulting techniques blend with Design Thinking, Lean and Agile. Consultants are happier leading Design Sprints then making PowerPoint.
Strategy is everything and comes first.
A business is always learning. On a daily basis a business has new information about its customers, markets and products. Consultants who understand this help businesses to continually navigate their path to success.
Of course the good news is that it’s not really so clear cut. All consultancies are starting to work in more flexible ways, both in response to, and in preparation for new market conditions and technological capabilities. Digital tools and practices and Lean and Agile principles are creeping into Consulting and smaller niche consultancies are thriving by serving their client needs in a bespoke flexible way.