Management consulting has evolved and shifted along with the contemporary business environment over the years. Consultancies have played major roles in providing industry-leading counsel and advice on the operations, strategy, and governance of some of the world’s leading companies.
Although management consulting originated from the humble beginnings of simple business organising and management, the field has grown into a powerhouse industry with a firm hand in every sector around the world. Despite the major transformation within the industry in the ‘80s due to the expansion into the Information Technology sector, some of the biggest changes are yet to come.
With the rise of data analytics and artificial intelligence, the future of management consulting is destined for a massive upgrade. Understanding the shift in management consulting is vital in order to prepare for how technology will shape the industry in the future.
The shift in management consulting
For much of the last century, management consulting has been an expansive and growing industry that played an important role in organising and shaping firms and industries around the globe. Management consultants were highly skilled and experienced in crafting and implementing strategies to help improve the efficiency of operations through effective organisational design and modern management techniques.
Consultants crafted entire initiatives based on both academic and experience-based influences to help organisations perform competitively and achieve set organisational goals. In most cases, management consultants were called in to ‘trim the fat’ and provide an external, unbiased view of a firm in order to guide it back to the path of success.
As the business environment evolves, so must the organisations within it. Management consultants are key in helping firms, both large and small, to transform for the modern market. Business transformation has become ever more relevant in recent times due to external pressure on the business environment from a variety of sources. One of the biggest influences that have induced change within the business environment is technology.
Although the consulting industry adapted to the rise of technology in the ‘80s with computers and the internet, new technologies such as automation, data analytics, and other software-based solutions have transformed the way businesses can create strategies to achieve their organisational goals.
At the centre of this technological push is the use of data for accurate and reliable decision-making within firms. In the past, management consultants utilised their past experiences and academic knowledge to justify their interventions. Today, data and analytics can be used to form more accurate forecasts whilst providing ample evidence-based justification to stakeholders on decisions that have been made within the firm.
This also allows for a more specialised approach to problem-solving within the management consulting industry in which consumer and industry data can be used to craft and monitor interventions in real-time. The specialisation and technological evolutions within the management consulting industry have also caused some disruptions to the traditional way of how the industry operated before.
With new technologies being utilised for online, freelance, and data-driven consulting, businesses that are looking for more specialised and agile services can now have that option.
A major shift in the management consulting industry is in their approach to decision making and problem-solving for their clients. Technology, inclusive of software, data management, and data analysis can help businesses transform and remain competitive within the modern market. With the rise and mass adoption of the internet, consumer and business data can be extracted and analysed in order to craft an accurate, low-risk strategy to help solve your firm’s problems in a quicker, easier, and more sustainable way.
Data management and analysis also allow for synthesis in your intervention. With digital, data-driven analysis, a combination of efforts can prove to be more effective than one on its own. The power of technology and data is now being used to craft complex strategies for businesses to maximise their performance within the modern business environment.
Staying competitive within the industry is key to the long-term, sustainable growth of both the consulting firm and its clients.
Because of this, consultancies are doing everything they can to utilise every tool available in order to provide a data-driven, accurate, and holistic plan forward for their clients.
Providing a holistic solution for businesses that are in crisis is a great way to present a complex solution in a much simpler way. Although these solutions are by no means simple, systems thinking can help break down a firm’s operations to understand whatever is going on in a more in-depth way. This method also allows for a better understanding of how a client’s firm will react to whatever your solution may be.
Feedback data of this nature is essential in testing out your interventions even before you present it as a holistic solution to the client. Fundamentally understanding the linkages and interactions within a firm can help prevent mistakes and help create a more accurate solution for the client at the end of the day.
In this way, systems thinking, data analysis, data management, and synthesis form part of the modern toolkit for management consultants in the new business environment. These tools have made way for more accurate, effective, and efficient problem solving within the space.
What does the future hold for management consultants?
Although the management consulting industry has been dominated for a very long time by a handful of experienced and successful firms, this technological shift can change the industry forever. Specialised and personalised services from smaller firms can make use of the same technological advances as larger firms to provide the best solutions for their clients whilst maintaining that personal touch.
In addition to increased competition, some firms may decide to shift their consulting expenses into creating and maintaining their own in-house consulting departments. These include some big names such as IBM and DHL. While digitalisation and business transformation remain important for the future, the rise and dominance of software-based solutions and data analytics will have a huge impact on how interventions are designed and implemented.
Interventions can be forecasted with a higher rate of accuracy and with good data management, feedback can be evaluated in real-time to make organisational adjustments wherever you may need to. Data-driven decision making is great at reducing risk and easing stakeholders through turbulent times. Despite the marketplace disruptions in the industry, management consulting remains a powerful way to build a strategy to help transform the operations of your business.