These top consulting firms are shaping WEF's Davos agenda

23 January 2019

Every year, the second half of January sees the global economic and political elite descend en masse on a Swiss ski-resort. The extraordinary annual migration of the world’s wealthiest and most influential individuals marks the commencing of the infamous World Economic Forum (WEF). Analysis of WEF’s exclusive list of 100 strategic partners shows that the management consulting industry is playing an integral role in shaping the agenda and discussions.

Having kicked off on Monday, leaders are convening in the snow-bound Alpine town of Davos, to discuss how to best defend globalisation in an age of increasing hostility toward the encroachment of markets into public life and policy. The 2019 event is the 48th forum since the inaugural conference in 1971, which was attended by nearly 450 executives. The WEF has grown exponentially since then, with a total of 2,500 guests expected to attend this year, including 340 global political leaders.

The agenda of the World Economic Forum is shaped by the research and thought leadership of industry leaders. At the forefront of the event’s thought leaders are 100 strategic partners, an elite group of invitation-only partners selected by the Forum. “They represent 100 leading global companies, each providing essential leadership to support WEF’s mission of improving the state of the world. Only the most recognised corporations with demonstrated track records of good governance and alignment with Forum values are invited to join this group.”

Analysis of the 100 partners shows that one-fifth consist of members of the consulting industry, spanning strategy, management, human capital and technology consultancies.

These top consulting firms are shaping WEF's Davos agenda

A.T. Kearney will be front and centre at Davos 2019 as a long-standing strategic partner at the Forum. In this continuing capacity, it will contribute to the multiple discussions that shape the week-long programme. In addition, the firm’s delegates will host a series of panel sessions and fireside chats with thought leaders in Davos at A.T. Kearney’s very own Glass House, just steps from the Congress Centre. The consultancy has also produced three reports for Davos on the matters of improving the future of production, the use of AI, and the gender pay gap.

The world’s leading strategy firms will also be out in force for this year’s WEF. Fellow strategic partner Boston Consulting Group has sent five of its global leaders as part of its delegation, including CEO Rich Lesser, Chair Hans Paul Burkner, and Christoph Schweizer, Chairman of Central & Eastern Europe and Middle East. Among others, they will deliver insights to attendees on behalf of BCG at the forum;meanwhile, the strategy firm has also produced reports on marketising healthcare, cyber resilience, labour market changes and sustainability.

Fellow MBB strategy consultancy Bain & Company will fulfil a similar role in Davos. Since 2004, Bain has been one of the 100 strategic partners of the World Economic Forum, and this year the firm has co-released a study named ‘The Future of Consumption’ for the occasion, explaining how fast-growing consumer markets in China, India, and the ASEAN region are reshaping the global consumer products landscape.

The Big Four is also represented among the strategic partners list. This will see PwC continue its annual tradition of presenting its Global CEO Survey to the conference in Switzerland. Experts from PwC’s global presences will therefore discuss key issues on the agenda and from this year's CEO survey throughout the event. That includes UK Chair Kevin Ellis, and US Chair Tim Ryan. Deloitte will also be represented at the event, with Global CEO Punit Renjen, Asia Pacific CEO Cindy Hook and new North West Europe chief Richard Houston among those attending the yearly meet-up. EY and KPMG are present with relatively large senior delegations, including their CEO and regional managing partners.

Accenture is also among the 20 consultancies enjoying a strategic partnerships at the event. The firm will be represented by Global CEO Pierre Nanterme, US CEO Julie Sweet, and Group Chief Executive for Products Sander van ‘t Noordende. The digital-focused firm will present a host of new dossiers on innovative technologies and how they can be leveraged to meet global challenges such as food shortages.

Marsh & McLennan Companies is another of the Forum’s long standing partners – the company is the parent of Oliver Wyman, Mercer, NERA Economic Consulting, Marsh and Guy Carpenter. Oliver Wyman has collaborated on a range of initiatives of global importance across industries. This has seen the firm explore an array of topics including cyber-risk, emerging technologies in insurance and risk management, and the balance between financial stability and innovation. CEO Scott McDonald and Global Head of Financial Services Ted Moynihan are among those in Oliver Wyman’s delegation. Marsh typically is one of the first companies to catch the spotlight during the event, releasing its annual Global Risks Report in the run-up to the event.

Other consultancies that can call themselves a strategic partner are Heidrick & Struggles, a global human capital consultancy and leadership development firm; Strategy&, a strategic consultancy which thanks its perks to PwC’s partnership; and Willis Towers Watson, one of the world’s larger HR and insurance services providers. Five of the thought leaders come from the IT consulting segment: Hitachi, IBM, Infosys, TCS and Wipro.

Alongside strategic partners, the WEF further has 200+ other partners. Among this group are a handful of consulting firms, including management consultancies AlixPartners and FTI Consulting, engineering consultancies AECOM and Arup, as well as BCG Digital Ventures (a subsidiary of BCG), technology player Cognizant, human capital services provider Egon Zehnder and real estate advisor JLL.

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Project management industry adds £156 billion of value to UK economy

15 April 2019

Project management has grown into one of UK’s largest areas of business over the past decade, amid the increasing ‘projectification’ of work. With the gross value added to the UK economy by project management estimated to be £156 billion, this trend is likely to continue in the coming era.

Despite the huge success of project management in recent years, until now there has been relatively little data available on the size of project activity. As a result, there has been a great deal of debate on things like the number of people involved in the sector, the number of projects, and how it contributes to economic output. Due to this need for clarity, APM, the UK’s professional body for project management (the largest organisation of its kind in Europe, with 28,000 individual members) commissioned economists from PwC to shed light on the industry's economic impact.

The research concluded that the profession makes a more significant contribution to the UK economy than the financial services sector. 2.13 million full-time equivalent workers (FTEs) were employed in the UK project management sector, generating £156.5 billion of annual gross value added (GVA). In comparison, the financial services sector contributes £115 billion, and the construction industry adds £113 billion.

Gross value added to UK economy

Commenting on the discovery, Debbie Dore, Chief Executive of APM said, “Project management runs as a ‘golden thread’ through businesses, helping to develop new services, driving strategic change and sector-wide reform.”

Who is a ‘project manager’?

To reach these estimates, PwC’s researchers used detailed models to map out the value of project management activity. They ultimately defined relevant ‘projects’ as “temporary, non-routine endeavours or rolling programmes of change designed to produce a distinct product, service or end result… [with] a defined beginning and end, a specific scope, a ring-fenced budget, [and] an identified and potentially dedicated team with a project manager in charge.”

Building on this, they then went on to define what the act of project management actually is. The job consists of applying “processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience” so that clients can meet their objectives and bring about planned outputs or outcomes. The analysts added that this includes “initiating the project, planning, executing, controlling, quality assuring and closing the work of an identified and dedicated team according to a specified budget and timeframe.”

Importantly, it should be noted that the profession is not exclusive to only roles explicitly labelled as ‘project manager’, but to any role where specialist project management skills are used. This means that across sectors these roles can have very different titles, from the self-explanatory contract managers of procurement, or the campaign managers of advertising, to the likes of festival co-ordinators in the events sector, and many more. The roles in question also span all strategic levels of the profession, from strategic to tactical and operational positions.

Gross value added of project management profession

From a sector perspective, the financial and professional services, construction and healthcare industries make up almost two-thirds of the total project management GVA. At the same time, understandably, the UK Government has a huge project portfolio, which further drives the size of the GVA the sector contributes, thanks to megaprojects like HS2 and Crossrail.

Commenting on this to the report’s authors, Oliver Dowden, Minister for Implementation remarked, “Project delivery is at the heart of all Government activity, whether it’s building roads and rail, strengthening our armed forces, modernising IT or transforming the way government provides public services to citizens. Getting these projects right is essential if we are to ensure that we build a country that works for everyone.”

Throughout 2019, 26 major government projects were delivered, representing a fifth of the overall Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP) of 133 projects. According to the IPA annual report 2017-18, these represented a whole life cost of £423 billion. In addition to this were a plethora of smaller scale projects, and those in early development.

Elsewhere, with the increasing digitalisation of the economy impacting entities of all shapes and sizes, IT and digital transformations tended to dominate the projects of the UK scene alongside new product development projects, with a respective 55% and 46% of organisations in the research sample having undertaken these types of project in the past year. At the same time, this varied across sectors, and unsurprisingly, in the construction and local government sectors, fixed capital projects were the main project type undertaken.


Looking to the future, 40% of business leaders expect project management will grow in the coming years due to the increased use of projects – or the ‘projectification’ of the UK. In a trend that has been witnessed elsewhere, organisations have to rapidly and continuously change in the digital age of business, driving the need for project management.

Outlook for project management services

An increased focus on value over cost – especially in the construction sector – and a forecast increase in the number of international projects are predicted to be key drivers of growth, according to the expert contributors. However, this will not happen in the absence of challenges; more than half of organisations expressed concern over the perceived impact of political uncertainty in the UK. Skills and capability shortages were also cited as a potential barrier by a third of organisations.

With regard to budgets, meanwhile, a third of those surveyed by PwC said they expect the size of project budgets will increase in the coming three years, while 40% anticipate a growth in project size. As the profession continues to mature, and as the recognition of the importance of good project management grows, it is expected that a greater proportion of project work will gain more distinct attribution to the profession itself, giving more recognition and appreciation to the role of the project manager.

Speaking on the findings of the study, Sandie Grimshaw, a Partner at PwC, concluded, “The project management profession is relatively new compared to some other professions, such as lawyers, teachers and doctors. However, as project management is a core competence vital to organisations in the UK, the profession is critical and will continue to grow in stature.”