Demand for consulting growing, but changing rapidly

20 November 2015

Demand for consulting is growing, but is also changing rapidly writes Phil Dunmore, Head of Cognizant’s UK Consulting business.

Today’s clients are increasingly focused on the strategic execution of new technologies to take advantage of digital opportunities in their markets. As a result, there is ever greater demand for the right people with the right expertise, but this is becoming more challenging for consulting firms to achieve and traditional business models are being strained.


We are now clearly at a stage where strategy without technology is no strategy at all. Many companies are heavily focused on planning and implementing their digital transformation, which is accelerating this change, and we are seeing a more iterative and agile approach to delivering strategic transformation.

Traditional management consulting businesses are challenged to effectively respond to the demand for real depth and experience in digital. “Partner led consulting pyramids”, which have been fundamental to big consultancy consulting firm’s growth and profitability, are coming under strain and are unlikely to continue in a way we recognise today. So how do consulting businesses need to evolve and respond to these challenges?

The first thing to acknowledge is that digital is pervading all parts of our clients business. We would go as far as to say that every client of ours is investing in digital at the moment. This is driven by the need to understand how digital tools such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC), in addition to sensors and IoT, can transform their externally-facing business and engagement with customers, as well as evolving internal operations to drive effectiveness, efficiency and employee engagement.

Digital is pervading all parts of business

These changes demand a different consulting engagement and delivery model: no longer do clients accept consulting teams going through a classical structured, methodical analysis and design process. They want a different culture, approach and team capability. This translates into developing a consulting team ethos and approach that brings innovation and insight, in an agile, iterative approach which rapidly develops and delivers solutions to market.

Ultimately this all translates into a different individual consultant profile. They need to have both good business domain knowledge and understanding of the opportunities digital technology can provide, as well as the classic consulting engagement and process skills. This combination is difficult to find in potential recruitment candidates; many will talk about having digital expertise but, in most instances, their experience is relatively limited. We look for some direct relevant experience combined with digital DNA – the insights, thinking and approach to be successful in digital consulting. This is where the future of consultancy lies, in providing the expertise to help our customers navigate the often complex world of digital transformation, as they weave together legacy systems, new technologies and new employee skills.

The art of consulting is therefore more challenging than it has ever been before, with client expectations and demands increasing at an ever greater pace. As well as the different culture, approach and team capability, they are demanding assets and accelerators that can fast track implementation of digital solutions to either realise benefits or “fail-fast”, together with deep domain and technology experience to drive execution across the client organisation.

Phil Dunmore - Cognizant

Despite these challenges to the consulting industry, as clients respond to growing economic and competitive opportunities, demand for external consulting continues to increase. This is demonstrated by the growth we are seeing in our global consulting business, which is growing above company average (Cognizant growth guidance is at least 20% for 2015). The need for clients to adapt to remain competitive in the digital arena is now crucial. With client expectations increasing, we as external consultants have to be able to bring not only insightful solutions but also implement them successfully for clients to realise the benefits.


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Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.