The management consulting industry continues to boom, reaching $250 billion in 2017. After decades of growth, during which consulting firms proved their worth by providing critical insights, experience, and guidance in every industry, today's management consulting sector continues to play a vital role in moving the global economy forward into an increasingly technological (and lucrative) future. The resulting pressures are also changing how the industry itself does business.
Technology Compels Change
The technological evolution that is now changing the world's industrial matrix is also changing how clients interact with their management consulting advisors. No longer tied to a single support service, companies these days foray into the Internet for additional inputs and directives. As they access these digital resources to evolve their own businesses and embrace new systems of productivity, they are expecting their advisors to flex through that process with them, and those demands are disrupting how the industry responds to those needs. Management consulting firms that don't make the operational changes that are responsive to client demands risk losing both customers and market share.
Why Disruption in the Management Consulting Industry is Inevitable
Simply put: every industry is in the process of disruption as technology provides ever-growing resources and assets to speed function and capture higher values. The consulting professional is not immune to these global forces, but instead may be tasked with bringing the disrupting practices with them to the project as a fundamental element of their service. When viewed from a client's perspective, that expectation isn't unreasonable: why would any 21st Century company hire a management consultant who only counsel’s obsolete processes using archaic tools?
Instead, every company that values the services offered by management consulting professionals will look to these experts to help them embrace and implement the full value of the new technological assets. The consultants must be prepared to offer these services on top of their existing portfolio or risk being supplanted by a more technologically enlightened competitor.
What Will Disruption Look Like?
Within the consulting industry, several traditional practices and elements are likely to be transformed by disrupting forces:
Innovative technologies that change foundational bases are emerging faster than ever. As client companies struggle to implement the new processes into existing systems, they are also struggling to make sense of the permutations and iterations each new technical tool offers. Adding just one innovative program to an existing suite of systems can (and does) change how all the connected programs function individually and as a whole. Consequently, customers may expect their consulting professional to interpret for them the increasingly sensitive analytics pulled from ever-deepening pools of Big Data, and to use those insights to propel even greater gains.
In short: the services provided by the consulting expert will have to evolve to embrace the newly emerging client expectations as those are driven by developing technological resources.
Diversification of the Management Consulting Resource
The population of professionals is also growing, although not in the traditional sense. In the past, consulting services, like other professional services, were provided primarily by firms that had tiers of associates and partners, and that billed according to the career and experience level of the service provider. Today's consulting professional, however, is as likely to be an independent contractor or solo practitioner as opposed to a staffer at a company. Instead of relying on tradition and reputation to attract clients, these freelancers affirmatively market their skills online through the wide variety of skills-shopping networks and websites. Further, their approach is often more nimble and less formal than that of the traditional management consulting firm member, which is attractive to today's growing youth-driven business crowd.
But it's not just other consultants that are diluting the advising resource pool; it's becoming increasingly common to find management consulting resources in non-human form. White papers, articles, and ongoing blog series are proliferating, and many companies are turning to those data sources rather than a human contributor to identify and clarify their next steps.
Changing Billing Models
Not insignificantly, clients who are looking for consulting services today are also often looking for a wider stratification of services than previous generations were seeking. Rather than simply bringing the management consultant on as an overseer/consultant, today's companies may also be expecting more hands-on services, such as managing sub-projects or contractors, or more specific project-based services, such as managing the development of a single element within a larger project.
Additionally, when seeking non-traditional services, many companies also intend to compensate those services in non-traditional ways. "Value" billing is becoming more common as customers pay on a flat rate per project basis or tie compensation to the return on investment of the final product. Consultants will be expected to lay out both their services and their fees to accommodate the new billing expectations.
Disruption from the Consultant's Perspective
If all this disruption looks like a whole new set of hoops to jump through, be assured that it is, according to industry analysts. The disruptions aren't just imploding how consultants help their clients to move forward, it is also imploding how they manage their proprietary business of providing management consulting skills.
Helping Clients Manage Their Evolving Sector...
As noted above, technological innovations are impacting the competitiveness of businesses in all industries. Many of those companies are tapping consulting resources to help them manage the changes while remaining relevant and focused on their proprietary activities. Consequently, the consultants are expanding their tools and resources so they can provide more comprehensive services in areas most needed by their customers:
Even tiny process changes can have a big impact on cash flow, costs and expenses, and margins and profitability.
Many companies still work without an articulated set of KPI's. Without that critical data, they can miss the nuances caused by industry disruption and find themselves well behind their competitors.
Compliance and Regulation Adherence
Any company that does business outside their domestic community is subject to an expanding sphere of rules and regulations. Many companies benefit by retaining a management consultant for compliance purposes, rather than trying to manage that complexity in-house.
....While Evolving Their Own Business Practices
Clearly, to manage the disruptions in other industries, management consultants themselves must evolve to manage the disruptions in their own industry. Not surprisingly, technology also offers the tools to accomplish these goals, too. From the perspective of Beyond Software, a leader in PSA software for management consulting firms, the changing global industrial matrix is also a map for consultants to follow as they convert traditional practices into today's nimble, agile activities. Technology provides the tools that ease those conversions by transforming the consulting firm's existing skills and assets into relevant assets for every customer:
- Technology Embraces Technology
The difference between a client with online resources and a consultant with online resources is context. Clients can read any number of management resources but don't have the experience or insight needed to make them relevant for their particular challenge. Consultants who access those same resources can solve more problems by leveraging their skill base accordingly. They can bill more accordingly, too.
- Technology Enhances Productivity
Consultants that utilize today's cutting-edge technology to keep their business practices sharp and profitable also add value to their customers’ experience. Their inherent analytical skills and management talents are extended and enhanced when informed by the data culled from sophisticated software and databases. Not only does the analytical function add value for the customer, but so do the resulting decision-making capacities. More value usually means better billings.
- Technology Facilitates Flexibility
Today's mobile technology coupled with cloud computing capacities provide consultants with the opportunity to address every client's every need while on the go and in the field. Communications flow effortlessly from client to contractor to consultant to resources. Today's technology connects all facets of every project and collects the relevant data needed for compliance records, billings, and reports.
Management Consulting Technology Tools from Beyond Software
The sophisticated professional services automation suite by Beyond Software was designed to help the management consulting professional master the challenges posed by the industry evolutions of their customers and clients. Built into the suite is all the programming needed to accommodate both their own and their client’s changing expectations and evolving business goals:
- Beyond's financial management and project accounting tools automate many financial tasks while integrating finance and project data into a comprehensive whole.
- Tracking time and expenses is simple with Beyond's dedicated time and expense application. For use from the desktop or a mobile device, consultants use this software to conveniently and accurately input all their time and expenses per project in real time.
- Project resource tracking keeps both consultants and their clients on top of the ebb and flow of project or corporate resources, ensuring that all necessary elements - labor, materials, or others - are available when needed.
- The dashboards and reports features provide the insights and analysis needed to make sense of the ever-changing project scenario, whether it's just one project or a series of ongoing projects.
The ever-changing face of today's industries requires flexibility and innovation from today's management consultant to meet those evolving demands and standards. The project accounting and management suite of digital tools offered by Beyond Software give management consultants the resources they need to rise to and exceed those demands. If you're looking for the tools you need to master today's complex and challenging management consulting sector, look to Beyond Software to help you attain that goal.
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