Wanted: Consultants, NOT Contractors

Ask every management consultant in the world what the most common question they get asked is and they will come back at you as one – ‘what do you actually do’?

While it’s not as bad as estate agents or cabbies, consultants get a bit of a bad rap. The (generally misunderstood) feeling is that they parachute in for a few weeks picking up two grand a day, commandeer an office, take a series of condesecending meetings with the infantry and tell you very little about your business you didn’t already know.

Even if they do make recommendations for improvements, they don’t stick around long enough before they have made any sort of operational impact.

So then, why are so many companies, especially in the Statistical Analysis Software-sphere, looking to us for experienced, capable consultants with first-hand knowledge of how complex businesses work rather than Prada-suited upstarts who’ve never done a day’s work in their lives.

Our clients want career soldiers who have done tours on the front line and aren’t afraid to say it like it is, not middle-class Media Studies grads with Apprentice-level bullshit reading from a playbook.

What Makes A Good Consultant?

There’s a bit more to it than age, corporate experience and an in-depth knowledge of business (especially in the digital and technology sector), but not much. The rest comes down to detail, and that’s where the differences lie, subtle they may be, but they’re there.

According to John Halamka, an exceptionally-well credentialed consultant who, amongst other titles is CIO of CareGroup Healthcare System, Associate Dean for Educational Technology at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network and Chairman of the national Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel, a good consultant will:

  • Provide actionable recommendations without creating a dependency for follow-on work
  • Train the organisation to thrive once they leave and empower the client with specialised knowledge that will benefit them in operational or strategic activities
  • Bring teams together, enhancing communication through formal techniques that add processes to complement existing organisational project management approaches
  • Provide recommendations are data-backed, are prioritised by relative value (cost x benefit), reflect current community standards and consider competing uses of the organisation’s resources and time
  • Consider the environment in which they are working and balance their project against other organisational priorities. In this way, organisations can adapt to change caused by the consultant while not significantly disrupting other work
  • Deliver innovative, proactive and customised solutions representing original work based on significant effort, due diligence and expertise
  • Have honesty, transparency and openness characterise all stakeholder communication

That notwithstanding, the money’s decent…

The Stats Bit…

Year-on-year to the end of 2016, the UK consulting industry grew by 4.76% to around £9 billion*. It’s true to say that close on half of that money (£4.46 billion)* is generated by PwC, Deloitte and KPMG but there’s plenty left in the pot.

*Source: Management Consultancies Association (MCA), ‘Annual Industry Report 2017’

What’s most interesting and actually predictable given the age of digital disruption we live in is that globally, fee income in the digital transformation consulting sector is now worth a staggering $23 billion with a 28% share of the market compared to 1% for sales, marketing and communications.*

*Source: Management Consultancies Association (MCA), ‘Annual Industry Report 2017’

Consultants in the SAS Industry

Major digital disruption has arrived and not everyone is equipped to deal with it. Sometimes it’s OK to ask for help. As we mentioned at the top of the article, the general opinion of consultants isn’t great (see this scathing article from 2010) but today, it’s not just a case of going in, telling the bosses to drop 30% of the workforce, charging £14,000 for the privilege and going to see the next mug.

Now it’s about providing recommendations and advice on long-term digital strategy, the implementation of AI, automation and robotics, data analytics, the adoption of the Internet of Things, and, so says www.consultancy.uk, ‘the implementation of disruptive techniques in order to fend off new market competitors across all sectors.’

MCA Chief Executive, Alan Leaman, said, ‘Consulting firms are reinventing themselves to help their clients reinvent and rise to the challenge of the disrupted digital economy.’

Why Should You Become A Consultant?

In a hypothetical scenario, Kate is 45 and has been in the corporate finance sector since she left university. She’s the VP of Operations at a well-known merchant bank in the City and earns, let’s say, £180,000 with a hefty annual bonus on top of that. She is out the house at 6.30am and is rarely home before 7.30pm. She’s very happily married to David, a corporate lawyer at a big firm and he brings home similar money working similar hours.

They have three kids at private school and they live in a six-bed detached house in Blackheath. She’s just bought a 911 and he drives a Range Rover. They have substantial savings, their money is very-well managed and all in all, there are no complaints – she’d like a cleaner, Federer-esque backhand down the line and his short game has gone to pot recently, but other than that, this particular applecart needs no disrupting. Or does it….?

We’re in a period of what can charitably be described as fiscal turbulence. Bankers are at a daily risk of redundancy and there’s more uncertainty than there has ever been, meaning more pressure to perform.

During a recessionary economy, consultancy is often seen as a stepping-stone until the corporate gig offers come back but start on the road and it’s hard to come back. Here’s why:

  • You don’t have to put in 15 years to start working on high-level, company-wide strategy
  • The companies you help vary wildly, from sport, energy, transportation and almost any industry you can think of
  • Multiple clients and associated stakeholders grows your network faster than years of meetings
  • Your speed of learning and expertise is exponentially faster than it would be as an employee
  • You get to take your kids to school

If that hasn’t twisted your arm, we’re not sure what will. Consultancy isn’t something you should start doing, it’s something you should end doing.

To talk more about our daily requests for capable, experienced consultants especially in the digital and SAS sectors, call Chris Morris on 01582 742 682 or email chris.morris@assetresourcing.com today.

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