The Disruption Of The Consulting Industry Is Here

CEO and Managing Partner at Infosys Consulting, a leading business and technology consultancy.

With the world of work having experienced massive disruption over the past several months, a return to normalcy has slowly begun. However, in my view, the new normal ahead is yet to be fully defined, but it’s destined to look much different as companies and employees navigate unchartered territory. This unknown working model also includes us as consultancies and advisors — those who have been challenged as an industry to keep work going virtually without the in-person environment we have anchored much of our existence to.

The consulting space has long been an industry with a heavy reliance on large in-person teams traveling to client locations every week. It’s also been critical for us for networking with client stakeholders and building strong personal relationships. On any given Monday morning, you can bet every third seat on a flight might be a consultant traveling to his or her project location for the week. 

I predict our industry is ripe for long-term disruption as traditional working models are upended and new ways of working expand. High-end management consulting will not be immune to this dynamic.

Enter A New World Of Work

The global business world is fast-evolving. Speed and agility are at a premium to adapt in real-time to ensure business continuity. Cost pressures are greater than ever to optimize the bottom line. The flexibility of staff to work and collaborate anywhere, any time is now paramount. And, the pressure on the C-suite to deliver immediate game-changing results is enormous. In the near future, I envision an environment where large-scale programs and consulting engagements need an “anywhere, any time” team operating model in order to be effective.

Where people are physically located will no longer be a critical success factor, and in fact, the opposite could become a differentiator as more and more work will be done with the best talent whenever it’s needed. All of this without the burdensome overhead of travel and its related cost and time impacts.

Upending Traditional Working Models

For us as consultants, this will upend our model of work. Old-school relationship-building — built on informal hallway networking and spontaneous coffee room introductions — won’t be as achievable as it once was. Deep, meaningful relationships will become ever more critical to thrive in the future, as will the need for personal branding to create a strong persona in the market.

The results we are seeing from these early days of new working models from a number of large organizations are powerful and real. This change is driving an acceleration around organizational thinking of traditional models of work that were once considered fixtures of large-scale technology programs (e.g., in-person/in-office teams from both the client side and vendor side). A number of firms have proven during the crisis that large-scale work can continue to be highly effective (if not more effective!) when people are forced to work virtually. 

In a number of discussions I have had over the last few months with top company leaders, it’s clear organizations have taken acute notice of this and see these incubated success stories as new models going forward where vendors like service integrators and consultancies continue digitally centric, remote working models for the long-term. Why? Because it’s clearer than ever that hyper-productivity at scale and efficiencies and benefits can be realized through elements like:

• Virtual teams and working models with significantly less reliance on travel.

• Whiteboarding, planning and prototyping with teams collaborating online.

• Innovative and engaging conferencing capabilities to empower teams at all levels.

• Access to the best talent and skills around the world anywhere and at any time.

• Hybrid staffing models with more experts located offsite.

The Consulting Firm Of The Future

I predict the best-in-breed firm of the future will have an even stronger mix of local, near-shore and offshore talent where blended pricing will be ever-more important during these times of cash flow and budget challenges. Having access to top digital skills will no longer be driven so much by location but simply empowered by the latest technologies and collaboration tools to “transport” individuals into a project in almost real-time. This will significantly reduce travel costs for client projects, thus becoming a nice add-on benefit. It will even have a sustainability benefit through a lower carbon footprint.

And finally, companies will continue to demand more value for less (and they should!). This means the resiliency and efficiencies so many firms have displayed during the crisis to keep the momentum going around client projects will need to be amplified at scale and incorporated into a new “business as usual” approach going forward. I believe this is a challenge for our industry as a whole and will shake up traditional consulting models going forward. 

Who wins and loses is impossible to predict at this stage. But I see this as a tremendous opportunity for firms like mine (and many others) to transform and innovate as our new normal ahead solidifies itself. I look forward to the challenge!

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