How positive is the legacy that consultants leave behind?

08 May 2023 4 min. read
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With consulting firms functioning increasingly as partners, rather than simply advisors, there is more pressure than ever from clients to demonstrate long-term gains via engagements. Experts Roy Williams and Juergen Reiner discuss what this means for more traditional operators in the industry.

The idea of leaving client businesses with the right capabilities and systems in place, so they can continue to deliver demonstrable value long after the visiting management consultancy has moved on to the next project, is nothing new. But how easy is it to achieve in practice? 

At a time of significant cost volatility and heightened macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty, businesses are finding it increasingly challenging to forecast levels of market demand. Where Boards may have previously sought advice on one-off projects from their consultancy of choice, they are now seeking to establish a lasting partnership that will equip the business to manage uncertainty and achieve sustainable growth. 

Roy Williams, CEO, Vendigital and Juergen Reiner, CEO, Siemens Advanta

Over the past decade, there has been a gradual shift away from management consultancy firms providing purely advisory services. Some consultancies have evolved to differentiate their service offerings – for example, Siemens Advanta offers client businesses an end-to-end solutions-based service, from advisory through to development and implementation. This shift has accelerated in recent years due to the significant challenges that many businesses have faced, such as restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic, global supply disruption, geopolitical uncertainty, energy and fuel price rises and chronic materials and skills shortages.  

Some management consultancy firms have risen to the challenge by focusing on providing demonstrable value that builds over time, which has been achieved by harnessing the power of data and using it to deliver sustainable benefits and build more resilient systems. For example, one of our clients had a specific problem with sourcing semiconductors to support its plans to industrialise in a rapidly growing market. Working with the business and drawing on our own in-depth industry knowledge, we were able to build a bespoke software-as-a-service solution that gave the business access to new sources of supply, combined with increased supply chain visibility. 

Nowadays, the role of the management consultant is more akin to a creative partner or collaborator than an advisor. The project team is designed to provide the right mix of industrial know-how, combined with digital and process understanding, to develop and implement a value-driven transformation against specific challenges.  

End-to-end goals

For example, one of the most important goals that many industries are pursuing at the current time is decarbonisation; specifically, finding ways to green end-to-end processes. As part of their Environmental Social Governance (ESG) commitment, many companies have set targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner, and internal and external stakeholders are monitoring their progress with interest.  

To support UK industry, some consultancies have developed innovative data-led solutions which can be tailored to the needs of a specific process and used to analyse the carbon cost of each individual product. For example, whilst working with a business in the defence sector, Vendigital found that one of its products was emitting 25 tonnes of carbon. By switching the raw materials and manufacturing location, this was reduced to nine tonnes per product – a reduction of 64%. This shows how reliable data and the right tools can help businesses to make the changes necessary to achieve their decarbonisation goals and report to stakeholders internally and externally with confidence. 

Growing awareness of the power of data-based solutions to inform strategic decisions is driving demand for transformation projects across industry sectors. The speed at which such projects can be delivered, largely due to the application of AI-powered systems and machine learning, is also garnering attention. Crucially, the AI-enabled tools developed by consultancy teams will continue to provide value to the business long after the consultancy project has concluded. In this sense, they have a positive legacy, which extends well beyond the lifespan of the project.  

Leaving a lasting, positive legacy has always been a goal for management consultancy firms and many strive to do this by prioritising internal skills development and training. The rise of data-led problem solving has enabled consultants to go a step further, collaborating with the business to develop bespoke digital assets that are capable of improving operational resilience, optimising revenues and supporting the delivery of ESG goals. 

Roy Williams is CEO of Vendigital and Dr Juergen Reiner is CEO of Siemens Advanta Consulting