How BJSS established its growing business consulting offering

04 March 2021 6 min. read
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Since joining BJSS in 2018, Hannah Tharp has played an integral role in setting up BJSS Consulting – which has enjoyed explosive growth ever since. With the practice’s expansion showing no signs of slowing, BJSS’ Head of Consulting outlined its ambitious plans for the coming years.

What drove BJSS to establish its dedicated business consultancy three years ago?

At BJSS, with over 27 years of experience, we’ve always been proud of our ability to implement technical delivery programmes. However, over the last few years, our clients began to talk to us about a broader set of challenges outside of our traditional area of expertise in technology engineering.

These challenges spanned the end-to-end delivery of technical solutions, including their strategic direction of travel, the business strategy they were designed to deliver, the design and implementation of programmes and how they could drive lasting, sustainable change in their business. As we began to help our clients with these challenges, BJSS’ Consulting capability was formed.

Hannah Tharp, Head of Consulting, BJSS

How did you get the Consulting arm off the ground and what has the journey looked like so far?

Since launching the team in 2018, we have grown to nearly forty consultants, and our growth rate isn’t slowing. When we launched our Consulting capability we focused on developing our services based on the challenges we knew our clients were facing and where they were struggling to find partners to meet these needs. We began by working with existing BJSS clients such as the NHS and ITV,  supporting them with delivering business and technical strategies, especially in complex areas where their partner needed to understand both the business and IT elements of the strategy.

We started to build an increasingly influential presence within our existing clients. As demand increased from both existing clients and new ones, we extended the number of services we offer and the breadth of skills we have in the team. Throughout this time, our growth has been driven by one thing – our unrelenting focus on delivering results for our clients. 

Since launching the division, what have you achieved and what have been some of your key learnings?

Two areas of particular success have been developing our portfolio of healthcare and retail clients. Some of our earliest clients were from these sectors. It meant we’ve developed deep experience and knowledge about the challenges the industries are facing. We’ve also been able to grow and develop some exceptionally talented consultants who are working at the forefront of these industries.

We’ve had to grow and recruit quickly during this time. Still, we have maintained a total focus on hiring the best talent in the industry. As a result, I’m incredibly proud of the team we have today and the results we deliver for our clients.

In this short period, the team has worked with some of the world’s largest companies, including a leading optical retailer, to help them navigate their new customer experience. We’ve also supported the NHS in redesigning patient journeys to enhance the user experience and improve accessibility.

As we approach our third year as a team, a highlight for everyone is being recognised by the Financial Times as one of the UK’s leading Management Consultancy firms – something we have achieved for the second year in a row.

What do you see as the key trends currently in Business Consulting?

Agile strategy: The last year has shown more than most that nothing quite goes to plan and a fixed one, three or five-year strategy is unlikely to prepare your organisation for future success. Companies need to pivot and respond strategically to changes in the market, shifts in consumer behaviour or even global pandemics.

Organisations are now looking to develop a more adaptive approach to strategy. This means implementing a plan with familiar, traditional elements, such as a core vision and KPIs alongside business goals. But an adaptive strategy is developed iteratively and delivered incrementally to enable the organisation to course-correct and pivot in response to changes in the market or based on the success of their strategy to-date.

Quick value: Whilst all organisations want to set themselves up for success, more than ever, we are seeing our clients focus on the need to deliver results early and frequently. This again supports the shift away from multi-year strategies and waterfall deliveries that take years to deliver results and a move towards adaptive strategy with a portfolio of smaller initiatives that are tested on a small scale before organisations back them to deliver.

Transformation partners: Clients are looking for consultancies that can support them throughout their end-to-end journey, not just with setting the strategic direction, product development or implementation. This means that consulting teams need a diverse set of skills, including a strong understanding of technology. Our clients don’t want a recommendation report at the end based on best guesses. They want assurance that it is the best approach for them because you have a deep understanding of the recommendation you’re making and you’ve completed similar types of work before.

Collaboration: We’ve seen this from our client's lots over the last three years, and it’s never been more important. Clients want to work with collaborative partners that they can trust. They want partners who work alongside them, build their own capability, and leave them better positioned for success.

BJSS recently launched a whitepaper which you authored, titled ‘A Strategy for Innovation’ How do you implement this approach with your clients?

As part of developing an adaptive strategy, we recommend that organisations develop a portfolio approach. This involves moving away from backing one big idea as a company’s only route to success and instead embracing and testing multiple smaller ideas. When these ideas show promise and begin to deliver results, we then consider accelerating them. When ideas perform unexpectedly or deliver the wrong results they should be cancelled quickly.

This is a big change for many organisations and often requires changes to operating models, governance and culture. We’ve shared a guide to how organisations can operate in this way with the whitepaper.

How are you looking to grow the consultancy over the coming years? 

Our Consulting team has grown hugely in the last three years. We’re proud to have helped well-known organisations navigate complex challenges in times of great uncertainty. The relationships and credentials we’ve developed mean we are in the hugely fortunate position where we have grown substantially in the last year, at a time that has proven to be challenging for many organisations.

We have ambitious plans for the next few years. This includes the hiring of more talented consultants and growing our talent through running our graduate scheme for the second year, and plans to launch a number of new services to the market. We also have our sights set on branching out to some of BJSS’s international locations, including New York.