Virtual consulting platform fast-tracked in response to Covid-19

18 March 2020 4 min. read
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Travel restrictions and the ramping down of clients in anticipation of a recession present a double challenge for consultants amid the Coronavirus pandemic. As is always the case in times of crisis, however, some operators see this as a window of opportunity. In this case, demand for virtual and flexible working to help solve complex business problems has seen Australian group launch a virtual consulting platform.

The global outbreak of Covid-19 has seen the infectious disease – which can progress to pneumonia and multi-organ failure in the most vulnerable – cause a wave of panic to travel around the countries afflicted so far. With the number of global cases now close to 200,000 and the death-toll around 7,000. The consulting industry has already been noticeably impacted by the global pandemic in a number of ways.

Consulting is renowned as one of the most travelled facets of modern business – with some professionals in the trade spending as much as 80% of their working lives away from home. Experts from top firms often jet across the globe to assist clients with a variety of advisory matters, leaving consultants particularly exposed to picking up viruses such as Covid-19. After Big Four professional services firm Deloitte became the first major UK consultancy to report a case of Coronavirus earlier in March, the representative body of the UK’s consulting sector announced its annual awards ceremony will be postponed until November.

Virtual consulting platform fast-tracked in response to Covid-19

Beyond the direct impact on the health of consultants that Covid-19 could have, however, the sector also looks set to be heavily impacted by the economic effects of the virus as well. With growth in the sector already notably slowing, consultants are likely to see a decline in client activity in 2020. In the year leading up to an economic collapse, revenue growth in the consulting sector tends to dip – with clients looking to tighten their belts by cutting back on ‘non-essential’ spending, and fears around the Coronavirus look like they will exacerbate this.

In the aviation sector, for example, a number of the world’s largest airlines are already plotting to stabilise their bottom-lines with a cull of their external advisors. Illustrating this, a letter to Air France management from CFO Steven Zaat announced a tightening of “discretionary” expenses such as travel and receptions, while limiting hiring and the use of consultants. Similar plans have also been announced by Delta Airways, KLM and Virgin Australia.

While many established firms will regard both these trends as highly problematic, however, new challenger firms are already looking to leverage the situation as an opportunity. The latest example of this comes from Australian consultancy Bendelta, which has launched Reach. The new virtual arm of the firm provides its clients with a range of consulting and training offerings aimed at problem-solving, professional and individual development and knowledge transfer.

A digitally centred approach means the consultancy can offer its usual services at a lower cost, due to its elimination of travel expenses. This will help it attract clients looking to reduce spending while still finding innovative solutions to complex business problems – and at the same time, avoid the spread of the Coronavirus as it minimises the amount of movement consultants need to commit to for their work. This combination of attributes means Reach has been fast-tracked for launch in recent weeks.

Anthony Mitchell, Chief Potential Officer of Bendelta, commented, “We’ve always used the latest in technology to complement our services, so Reach was a natural development for us… The Coronavirus pandemic has the potential to cripple organisations of all sizes, across all industries, because their operating rhythm grinds to a halt without face-to-face contact. Yet it doesn’t have to.”

According to Mitchell, despite the fact that the offering is 100% virtual and digital, Reach can “deliver the same high-impact outcomes” as physical consulting and training. Alongside supporting continuous development, Reach can also provide the technology and organisational backbone for facilitating events, spanning from 25-minute problem-solving events or two-day leadership and strategy events up to mass events joining up thousands of people at a time addressing topics such as Covid-19 mitigation.