The top 10 global consulting firms by industry and service expertise

18 June 2018 9 min. read

Deloitte Consulting, McKinsey & Company and The Boston Consulting Group are the top three consulting firms with the broadest and deepest capabilities, according to analysis of the service portfolios of over 1,200 firms globally. The top 10 also saw the remainder of the Big Four and MBB, consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton and multifaceted IT firms Accenture and IBM consolidate their reputations as market leaders.

The ranking is based on in-depth analysis from analytics company WhoKnowsAbout, which assessed the consulting capabilities of around 1,200 consulting firms with more than 20 employees across 15 industry and 15 functional topic areas. To come to its verdict, the researchers deviated from their traditional route of assessment, as while rankings typically ask clients to evaluate the services of consulting firms (e.g. FT and Statista) or perform an independent assessment of the breadth and depth of services based on propositions and thought leadership (e.g. ALM Intelligence), WhoKnowsAbout’s authors based their valuation on an analysis of the expertise of consultants.

“In developing the rankings, we assessed more than 500,000 individual consultants against more than 7,000 areas of expertise. The company rankings reflect the collective expertise of the consultants within each firm, basically the rollup of the scores held by the consultants. There is however one important proviso: the analysis has a mechanism that prevents scale from dominating,” explained Christopher McEwan, WhoKnowsAbout’s co-founder.The top 10 global consulting firms by industry and service expertiseAsked why the analysts went for this approach in identifying core strengths, McEwan said “In recent years, we have seen the consulting industry increasingly focused on the development of brands and sales networks, as distinct from capabilities and knowledge. We believe there should be more focus on competences and capabilities.” Adding to this, fellow co-founder Eric Louw said “Research shows that only about 40% of consulting projects actually deliver value for the client organisation and that the specific capabilities of the consulting team are the most important determinant of whether a project meets its objectives or not.”

Despite the unique methodology employed by WhoKnowsAbout, however, the top ten will come as little surprise to industry experts. Based on the assessment of consulting expertise, Deloitte Consulting comes out on top. The firm is one of the three business units of professional services group Deloitte, and has the highest ranked competency in two industry categories – Financial Services and Healthcare – as well as the highest ranked competency in five functional categories – Financial & Risk Management, IT & Security Consulting, Marketing & Branding, Sales & Channel Management and ERP & CRM Systems. Overall, the consultancy received a competency score of 87, from a maximum potential score of 100 in each category.

Deloitte’s top listing does not come as a surprise, as the firm is the second largest consulting firm in the world. It is followed by McKinsey & Company and BCG, however, which both punch above their respective weights, as in terms of revenue they are the number five and six globally. They managed to do so in particular because of the sheer depth of their services, which saw McKinsey ranked second with an overall competency score of 85, driven by best in class capabilities in six industry categories. The Boston Consulting Group is ranked third, with a score of 80, performing best in the area of Transformation & Change, a key segment of the consulting industry amid booming demand for digital transformation consulting.

Having performed particularly well in the Sourcing & Supply Chain segment, Accenture was named the fourth highest consultancy on the list. The firm, which wrote in 2015 that a living wage supply chain could be considered a basic human right, scored a total of 79, and was closely followed by Big Four firm KPMG on 77. While KPMG might not have topped any of the categories, its strength as a performer came from its consistency across multiple fronts – something which clients remain keen to tap into as they seek to maintain value for money in a tightening economy. KPMG is followed on the ranking by fellow Big Four competitors PwC and EY, which similarly did not top any particular segments, but performed consistently enough on all fronts to score a solid 76 and 74 respectively.

Ranking in eighth, meanwhile, Booz Allen Hamilton performed especially strongly in Telecoms & Technology, Media & Entertainment, and Public Sector & Defence. The firm, which last year landed a $200 million contract helping to develop autonomous vehicles, scored a total of 65, and was closely followed by the third member of the MBB of elite strategy firms, Bain & Company. Bain topped the Strategy & Planning category on its way to scoring 62. Rounding off the top 10, IBM collected 59 points from a possible 100, again showing the strength of performing consistently on multiple fronts over topping individual categories.

The opposite is the case for a number of names which do not appear in the top ten. While WhoKnowsAbout did not highlight them for their strength in depth, a number of consultancies were marked out as best in class for their performance in specialist segments. Steer Davies Gleave, which was consulted by Southampton authorities on the locale’s transport overhaul in 2017, topped the Transport & Travel category. DAI was earmarked for praise in the Social Sector & Non-profits sector, while TBM Consulting Group was lauded for its expertise in Operations.

Mu Sigma dominated the Data Analytics & AI field, as did the Korn Ferry Hay Group for its work in Human Resources. The expertise of RBB Economics, which understandably specialises in economic consulting, saw the firm celebrated for the Economics & Regulatory category, while FTI Consulting was named as the leader in expertise for Corporate Affairs & PR. Finally, ICF was named as the leader of expertise in Sustainability & Environment issues.

Names which do not appear in the top ten

An overview of the top performing consulting firm by industry and areas of expertise:

Industry knowledge

Primary Industries: McKinsey & Company
Energy: McKinsey & Company
Power & Utilities Sector: Accenture
Chemicals & Basic Materials: McKinsey & Company
Manufacturing Industries: McKinsey & Company
Transport & Travel: Steer Davies Gleave
Retail & Wholesale: The Boston Consulting Group
Consumer Goods & Services: McKinsey & Company
Pharmaceuticals & Biotech: McKinsey & Company
Healthcare Sector: Deloitte
Financial Services Sector: Deloitte Consulting
Telecoms & Technology: Booz Allen Hamilton
Media & Entertainment: Booz Allen Hamilton
Public Sector & Defence: Booz Allen Hamilton
Social Sector & Non-profits: DAI 

Area of expertise

Strategy & Planning: Bain & Company
Transformation & Change: The Boston Consulting Group
Operations: TBM Consulting Group
Sourcing & Supply Chain: Accenture
Sales & Channel Management: Deloitte
Marketing & Branding: Deloitte
Data Analytics & AI: Mu Sigma
IT & Security Consulting: Deloitte
ERP & CRM Systems: Deloitte
Human Resources: Korn Ferry Hay Group
M&A: The Boston Consulting Group
Economics & Regulatory: RBB Economics
Financial & Risk Management: Deloitte
Corporate Affairs & PR: FTI Consulting
Sustainability & Environment: ICF 

Related: The consulting firms with the most differentiated offering in the market.