IBM produces according to analyst firm Source the best thought leadership in the consulting industry. Yet the global IT giant is feeling the pressure of Capgemini Consulting, which is rapidly boosting its research capabilities, and Deloitte. The top is concluded by Big Four firm EY and strategy consultancy BCG.
As a result of the changing dynamics in the consulting industry, ‘differentiation’ in business models and services has become paramount for the success of consulting firms. Besides the traditional differentiation that inherently follows from a firm’s strategy – along the lines of for instance its operating model, industry/client focus or service portfolio – thought leadership is regarded as one of the key factors for creating a distinguished branding and positioning in the marketplace. A recent research from PR firm Man Bites Dog for example reveals that nearly 90% of partners and marketeers in the industry view thought leadership as the #1 most important channel for differentiation vis a vis competitors.
The importance of thought leadership, however, is by no means a new phenomenon to the market – ever since the 60’s, when McKinsey & Company for instance launched its acclaimed ‘McKinsey Quarterly’ magazine, consulting firms have acknowledged the importance of thought leadership, a trend that has since rapidly accelerated, to the point where it currently stands at the heart of a consulting firms strategy.
Thought leadership effectiveness
For firms, the key question is: how well is our thought leadership performing? To help consultancies gain insight in the effectiveness, and ultimately ROI, of their research reports and white papers, analyst firm Source Information Services (‘Source’) in 2008 launched a methodology aimed at quantifying and benchmarking the impact of thought leadership. The overall effectiveness is based on 4 evaluation criteria:
The latest benchmark, which is released twice a year, reveals that IBM still leads the pack, mainly the result of the firm’s successful low volume/high investment approach to content creation and systematic follow-up on leads. Although it has moved second to third place, Deloitte continues to lead the Big Four, according to Source co-Managing Director Fiona Czerniawska, the result of a “publishing mind-set” and high quality content from Deloitte University Press, the global research arm it launched in 2012. EY has leaped from tenth spot to #4, with The Boston Consulting Group completing the top 5.
Fastest grower is Capgemini Consulting, that witnessed a spectacular rise in the ranking: 1,5 years ago the consultancy unit of Capgemini was ranked #15, currently it holds the #2 position. “Capgemini Consulting’s approach to thought leadership is delivering good quality material,” explains Czerniawska.
Source vs TTCSP
Earlier this year another large thought leadership ranking was released – the so-called 'Best For Profit Think Tanks’ ranking of TTCSP*. Its ranking of the top 30 global Think Tanks includes 9 consulting firms, of which the #1 consultancy player – McKinsey & Company – is even regarded as the second best research unit of the globe, after the Economist Intelligence Unit. An overview of the 9 consultancies that have made the TTCSP ranking**:
See the article ‘9 consulting firms in best Think Tanks of the globe’ for more information.
* The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP), one of the leading global institutions that monitors the quality of impact of publications.
** Note that Booz & Company has since been rebranded to Strategy&, while The Parthenon Group has been acquired by the Advisory practice of EY.