Demand for consulting is growing, but is also changing rapidly writes Phil Dunmore, Head of Cognizant’s UK Consulting business.
Today’s clients are increasingly focused on the strategic execution of new technologies to take advantage of digital opportunities in their markets. As a result, there is ever greater demand for the right people with the right expertise, but this is becoming more challenging for consulting firms to achieve and traditional business models are being strained.
We are now clearly at a stage where strategy without technology is no strategy at all. Many companies are heavily focused on planning and implementing their digital transformation, which is accelerating this change, and we are seeing a more iterative and agile approach to delivering strategic transformation.
Traditional management consulting businesses are challenged to effectively respond to the demand for real depth and experience in digital. “Partner led consulting pyramids”, which have been fundamental to big consultancy consulting firm’s growth and profitability, are coming under strain and are unlikely to continue in a way we recognise today. So how do consulting businesses need to evolve and respond to these challenges?
The first thing to acknowledge is that digital is pervading all parts of our clients business. We would go as far as to say that every client of ours is investing in digital at the moment. This is driven by the need to understand how digital tools such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC), in addition to sensors and IoT, can transform their externally-facing business and engagement with customers, as well as evolving internal operations to drive effectiveness, efficiency and employee engagement.
These changes demand a different consulting engagement and delivery model: no longer do clients accept consulting teams going through a classical structured, methodical analysis and design process. They want a different culture, approach and team capability. This translates into developing a consulting team ethos and approach that brings innovation and insight, in an agile, iterative approach which rapidly develops and delivers solutions to market.
Ultimately this all translates into a different individual consultant profile. They need to have both good business domain knowledge and understanding of the opportunities digital technology can provide, as well as the classic consulting engagement and process skills. This combination is difficult to find in potential recruitment candidates; many will talk about having digital expertise but, in most instances, their experience is relatively limited. We look for some direct relevant experience combined with digital DNA – the insights, thinking and approach to be successful in digital consulting. This is where the future of consultancy lies, in providing the expertise to help our customers navigate the often complex world of digital transformation, as they weave together legacy systems, new technologies and new employee skills.
The art of consulting is therefore more challenging than it has ever been before, with client expectations and demands increasing at an ever greater pace. As well as the different culture, approach and team capability, they are demanding assets and accelerators that can fast track implementation of digital solutions to either realise benefits or “fail-fast”, together with deep domain and technology experience to drive execution across the client organisation.
Despite these challenges to the consulting industry, as clients respond to growing economic and competitive opportunities, demand for external consulting continues to increase. This is demonstrated by the growth we are seeing in our global consulting business, which is growing above company average (Cognizant growth guidance is at least 20% for 2015). The need for clients to adapt to remain competitive in the digital arena is now crucial. With client expectations increasing, we as external consultants have to be able to bring not only insightful solutions but also implement them successfully for clients to realise the benefits.