When most people think of the consulting industry, the first thing that comes to mind is giant firms who occupy the top floors of skyscrapers. However, in recent years the consulting industry (and many others) has seen a switch from firms and dedicated teams of people to freelance workers and virtual teams.
One study estimates that by 2020, 40% of the American workforce (a.k.a. 60 million people) will be freelance or contract workers. -And that means some big changes in what companies will be looking for in their consultants.
Another major change that’s impacting the consulting industry is the ease in which people can find valuable information on virtually any subject. Communities have sprung up on the internet that tailor to professional development in every field. Much of the insight that would have been provided by consultants in the past can now be accessed on your phone or computer with just a few button presses – and most importantly, at no cost.
For more on those changes and others that will impact consulting in the years to come, we asked a group of industry experts…
What’s The Future Of Consulting?
Here’s what they had to say…
Jim Morris, President & Owner of The Alternative Board Tennessee Valley
“In 10 to 15 years, the consulting industry will be thriving even more than today. As technology continues to improve, specific expertise will be not only be required but worth more. Newer generations aren’t getting STEM educations as commonly as the older generations at a time where technology continues to increase. This will open doors for those with more relevant educations to specific industries. The qualified consultant brings high value to the table to companies that don’t have specific knowledge, capabilities, or expertise within their company. A consultant can provide this and give the company a competitive edge and the wise leader will not be inhibited in seeking and utilizing specialized help and expertise as needed. The great consultant will be able to articulate the value and quick ROI of their services and keep busy helping propel companies along the way in keeping competitive and growing in what will be marketplaces that will continue to become more technology narrowly defined requiring more specific talent, knowledge, and the ability to please customers with high expectations. This opens the door to those with specialized knowledge that companies can’t afford to employ on a full time basis. The future is bright for consultants with strong specialized knowledge.”
Taylor Larson , Director of Strategy and Behavioral Design at Rêve Consulting
“What’s the future of consulting industry?
– AI Augmented Services – Consultants will use Artificial Intelligence to enhance service offerings, creating proprietary algorithms that extend their capabilities or validate their recommendations with tests/data.
– Cultural Catalysts – No longer will consultants be creating their deliverables in a black box or behind a boardroom door. Instead, consultants will be expected to lend their expertise by embedding themselves in an organization and supporting capability growth throughout their engagement. We have seen the start of this expectation in the tech world with an increasing demand for Agile Coaches and other culturally catalyzing consultants.
– Rounding Out the ‘Full Stack’ – Consultants will increasingly be expected to integrate themselves with client teams to augment an organizations’ capabilities. These consultants will function as an out-sourced but on-site partner that can round out gaps within an organization. For example, a consultant may act as the research capability for an organization, however, due to the increase in agile working environments, it will be increasingly important for consultants to be on-site and integrate with client teams to move at the appropriate pace.”
Bert Martinez, Marketing & Sales Consultant at Bert Martinez Communications
“In the next five years the consulting industry will double in size, reaching half a trillion dollars in sales, due to the massive growth in the technology and artificial intelligence sectors. The big areas to watch for are going to be Medical as well as Defense. Sectors like business and finance will continue to grow at 35% per year.”
Melissa ‘AvaBella’ Ramsey , Founder & Lead Consultant at Assilem Media Group, LLC
“A consultant has to understand how to integrate their service offerings in their messaging and their design. If you are able to communicate your brand story in a creative way that shows you those investing in their business; you’ll have a long career in this industry.”
Kyle Golding, CEO & Chief Strategic Idealist for The Golding Group
“The future of consulting is the end of billable hours, project fees and commissions. Successful consultants over the next 10-15 years will need to forge a deeper relationship with clients in order to solve problems, not just create work for themselves. Results will matter more because digital channels are so easy to measure. No more creative campaigns designed to increase your hourly / project billing and media buying commissions. Also gone will be complex structural planning internal documents without action plans. Future consultants will need to cut right the the problem, offering the best solution to fix it with only the client success in mind. Move fast, know what you’re talking about and be willing to eliminate the need for a consultant at all.”
Ray McKenzie , Founder & Principal of Red Beach Advisors
“The consulting industry will continue to grow, specifically within tech, due to the continuous development of new software, tools, and applications to accomplish strategic goals. The adoption of the new applications and tools will lead to further specialty by consulting firms or independent consultants which will offer their services focused on these tools. The integration of systems and tools in line with business process will help the consulting industry grow, expand, and develop.”
Drew Stevens , CEO of Stevens Consulting Group
“There will be consolidation and the individuals that flood the market with their social media and false promises will disappear. Clients have real issues and seek real expertise to resolve them therefore, clients will appeal more to those with sustainability and brand.”
Melissa Davies, President of Wise Ways Consulting
“Over the next 10 -15 years, organizational development consulting will continue to be ‘high touch’, focusing on human contact and interaction. While the technology and tools utilized will improve, the focus on integrative teams and culture shift will necessitate more face-to-face engagements. In addition, given the growing emphasis on work/life integration, the consultants’ work will extend beyond business processes and technical skills into the world of behavioral skills. Organizations that successfully allow the employee’s ‘whole self’ to emerge as a part of their culture will become more productive and in turn, more profitable. The pursuit for derived meaning from the work that employees do will continue to drive individuals and organizations – and consultants will be facilitating that pursuit.”
Vanya Babanin, Reputation & Brand Management Consultant at Babanin.eu
“Consulting industry will become more personalised during next 10 years and the scope will be extended into new areas such as typical HR-responsibilities or procurement. This is needed for the consultant to provide end-to-end customised solution – for example (s)he will provide not only the organisational structure but also will be in charge of filling in the contributors (employees, subcontractors and freelancers, part-timers etc.) (S)he will have to build up the project team and coach and train all parties involved in order to assure successfully implementation of the solution.
The consultant will move much more in direction interim management acting as a customer solutions provider with specific expertise. All independent consultants will become part of clusters where the latter provide networking, expert recommendation (for new projects to be assigned) and platforms for knowledge sharing between consultants of the same cluster.”
Christie Summervill, CEO of BalancedComp
“Consulting is a growing market. According to Forrester’s Global Business Technographics Business And Technology Services Survey, 2015, 58% of global services decision-makers reported that they were increasing their 2016 spend on management/ business consultants by at least 5%, and 23% reported an increase of at least 10%. However despite strong growth, we feel consulting is ripe for disruption and see growing evidence that the consulting model will continue to morph and change dramatically over the next decade. Until now we have been able to win new customers and grow by playing the role of “trusted advisor” to executive clients. Clients don’t just want great advice with pretty excel spreadsheets. They don’t want to develop a dependency on consultants. They want a more interdependent ongoing relationship with consultants that understand their business drivers.
Digitally enabled technologies, delivery methods, data, and empowered customers are creating new business models, channels, and products. Digital blurs the line between tech and management consulting.”
Leah Hacker, Head of Research & Business Strategy at Accomplice
“In an era of the connected consumer and integrated consumer experience there is a pressing need for consulting agencies to provide an end-to-end solution in creating, implementing, and iterating customer-centric experiences across touch points. The consulting industry has responded with this demand with acquiring digital and marketing agencies over the last couple of years. Reports suggest this isn’t slowing down. However, jamming the two schools of thought, the traditional consulting and creative digital, doesn’t automatically equate cross-functional results or holistic business strategy. Over the next 10-15 years, we will see the consulting agencies begin to streamline and focus on the brand experience and brand outcomes. The most successful agencies will learn to tie these indices into business strategy. And client companies will learn to expect a more integrated solution from their vendors and partners.”
Muhittin Isler, Founder of GBP TV
“Future of consulting industry is going to corporate entrepreneurship or government entrepreneurship because many corporates and governments are lack of entrepreneurial spirit or do not use their hidden qualities actively. Therefore, these two qualities should be acquired through outsourcing. Because of being hungry to innovation, traditional consulting is not going to work anymore. If companies do not offer new values to their clients, their competitive power is expected to decrease. This is where entrepreneurs come to field. For example, the first government entrepreneur called govpreneur is President Trump. He approached many things from different perspectives, thus, he is elected as President. For corporate entrepreneurship called intrapreneur, companies do not use their hidden power. Of course there are many reasons for that. Consulting industry must offer them to take advantage of hidden power by hiring intrapreneurs in the industry. In my opinion, consulting industry must shape itself according to entrepreneurship because it is also what is going to provide the industry high competitive advantage.”
Griffen O’Shaughnessy, Founder & President of Canopy Advisory Group, Inc.
“Within 10 years, consulting will be the predominant industry in the country, with more than 50% of the US workforce identifying themselves as consultants. Demand for the consulting industry will be at an all time high as companies opt to keep their full-time staff lean and control costs by working almost predominantly with a base of consultants; favoring a workforce that is flexible and nimble enough to adapt to changes in demand.
A common company goal will be to eliminate all employees outside of the C-suite. If a company function can’t be automated or outsourced, it will increasingly be given to a consultant rather than an employee.
Rather than working through the big traditional consulting firms, this large base of consultants will choose independent, entrepreneurial consulting firms that allow them to be in charge of their own destiny. With the help of this new style of consulting firm, the consultants will pick engagements they love and work when and where they choose.”
Ajay Kashyap, Co- founder of Boxx.ai
“The late 1990’s can be considered as the blossoming point of the consultancy industry, driven by an array of factors including a strong global economy, increase in computing dexterity, infiltration of emerging industries, and privatization of organizations along with an upsurge in global outreach. However, with the advent of the new era of technology of 2000’s, data and information has become more freely available and smarter algorithms are augmenting human experience in decision making. Would this lead the consulting firms towards disruption?
We now have a situation where there are two strong competing forces –
- Consulting firms bring to the table thousands of years of experience of business understanding, wisdom of ages on how to best respond to a business problem, and tried-and-tested frameworks on decision making, and
- Technology firms that bring in the new-age weapons of data and algorithms to solve the traditional business problems.
What is needed in this environment is a model that combines the art of the consulting firms with the science brought in by technology.”