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.”
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Taylor Larson , Director of Strategy and Behavioral Design at Rêve Consulting
- 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
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
Kyle Golding, CEO & Chief Strategic Idealist for The Golding Group
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
Drew Stevens , CEO of Stevens Consulting Group
Melissa Davies, President of Wise Ways Consulting
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
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
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
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
Therefore, these two qualities should be acquired through outsourcing. Because of hunger for innovation, traditional consulting is not going to work anymore. If companies do not offer new value 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.
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
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.”