Research from SourceforConsulting reveals that the Dutch consulting market has had a harder time than most of the other major consulting markets in Northern Europe over the last 18 months. It has not seen the problems that consultants have faced in Spain, Greece or increasingly Italy, but recovery from the financial crisis has been slow nonetheless.
What makes the Dutch market different?
One explanation lies in the spread of consulting work across sectors. Although the financial services industry, like manufacturing, accounts for around a quarter of the market, this is a slightly lower percentage than elsewhere. The banking sector in particular is 15% smaller than the average across Europe and 30% less than in the UK (which has the biggest financial services consulting market). This means that Dutch consultants have had fewer opportunities than their colleagues in the UK, France and Germany to work on the regulatory and restructuring projects which are the continuing aftershocks of the financial crisis and which continue to drive demand from the sector.
To compound the problem, the Dutch market has a higher-than-average dependence on the public sector, which accounted for 17% of all consulting, compared to 13% overall, and which put the Netherlands third in Europe after Scandinavia (20%) and the UK (18%). While public sector consulting has remained strong in some countries, notably Sweden, the Netherlands is one of many countries in which cutbacks are likely to be severe. Much of this can, of course, be attributed to austerity measures, but research points to another worrying issue for public sector consulting in the Netherlands; it tells us that countries where programme management represents a relatively high proportion of public sector consulting, the most vulnerable are to cuts. The level of programme management in the Netherlands is almost twice as high as the European average.
Large freelance market
A unique characteristic of the Dutch market is that there is a large pool of freelancers on the market. Freelancers are make it more difficult for both consulting firms and their clients to recruit, as well as keeping fee rates low even while demand is starting to pick up.
Dutch consulting market innovative
Another interesting conclusion is that the business models of consulting firms appear to be changing faster in the Netherlands than anywhere else. As a result, consulting firms in the Netherlands are experimenting more with different delivery propositions than elsewhere in Europe.
And therein lies the opportunity for Dutch consulting firms. In addressing some of the challenges they face, they may find themselves leading in ways which consulting firms in other countries will eventually have to follow. The Dutch firms may find themselves better tuned to the client needs, what is perhaps the biggest factor for the implementation of change.