The Future of Management Consultancy & the Challenges Ahead

Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb and Uber are regularly cited as examples of major disruptors. However, there are many more examples on the horizon. Electric and driverless cars will soon disrupt many industries including automobile manufacturing, rental, leasing and motor insurance markets, while the growing popularity of robo-advisors already threatens the existence of traditional financial advisors. For […]

Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb and Uber are regularly cited as examples of major disruptors. However, there are many more examples on the horizon. Electric and driverless cars will soon disrupt many industries including automobile manufacturing, rental, leasing and motor insurance markets, while the growing popularity of robo-advisors already threatens the existence of traditional financial advisors. For most large companies today, it is a question of when, rather than if, digital will upend their business. Jonathan Wyatt, Managing Director and Global Head of Protiviti Digital, talks to Finance Monthly about the future and direction of management consultancy worldwide.

Management consultancies tend to thrive during periods of rapid and significant change. Many consultancies flourished in the years following the financial crisis as financial institutions struggled to comply with new regulations and needed advice on dealing with more intense regulatory scrutiny. A decade on, the global landscape is facing a more pressing strategic challenge: to innovate and develop solutions that meet consumer and business demands for efficiency, convenience and ease-of-use. The top strategic risk identified by Protiviti’s Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018,[1] is the rapid speed of disruptive innovations and/or new technologies that may outpace an organisation’s ability to compete and/or manage the risk appropriately unless it makes significant changes to its business model.

Tellingly, the second risk highlighted by survey respondents relates to the overall resistance to change within the organisation. Respondents were concerned that their organisation might not be able to adjust core operations in time to make the necessary changes to the business model to keep the company competitive. Even when executives are aware of the disruptive potential of emerging technologies, it is often difficult for them to envision the nature and extent of change, and have the decisiveness to act on that vision. Management consultants are, therefore, positioning their businesses in terms of expertise and skillset to meet the demand from companies looking to conquer those internal and external digital challenges.

To date, the digital experience of many companies has been focused on the digital “veneer” as organisations look to launch and grow digital channels. This is often restricted to customer-facing products, such as websites, apps and payments channels. Often, they have not made the same progress with the digital transformation of their internal processes, even when this has a direct impact on these digital channels. For example, in the mortgage market customers can apply online for a mortgage in minutes. At many of the established banks, the digital mortgage application remains analogue, with traditional credit review and approval processes that take many weeks to complete. Surprisingly, these traditional processes often include regular communication by post rather than embracing digital signatures.

Organisations are gradually realising that core digitalisation, as well as a cultural change to embrace the digital mind-set, is necessary to compete on the new digital stage. To achieve this, some organisations must advance beyond the use of legacy technologies and systems, and they can sometimes be averse to implementing new policies and ways of working. Consultancy firms advise these organisations on modernising their security policies and demonstrating the advantages of using the advanced technology tools that are now available. This will help with the execution of certain cyber-security and digital projects and the development of proof-of-concepts, thereby improving an organisation’s overall security profile.”

Misunderstanding regulations is often given as an excuse for not innovating. Organisations think the new regulations are more complex than they really are and that by innovating/changing their systems, there is a greater chance of falling out of compliance. But digital leaders are more flexible; they look for solutions rather than excuses and are embracing advanced technology to their advantage.

The advancing tide of demand for digital services will fuel current and future business for consultancy firms. Consultancies are ramping up their expertise and skillsets to provide advice on digital strategies and change management programmes as well as implementing core digitalisation projects. Although there will be no shortage of consulting work, the move to a more digital focus will impact the traditional consulting business and pricing models. As a result, the management consultancy industry is not immune to the wave of disruptive change.

To succeed in the digital race, legacy firms need to put digital at the heart of their business, which encompasses a cultural change to think digitally first. Consultancies should challenge their teams and clients to change their mind-set, put digitalisation at the forefront of all projects and think like a technology company – using technologies such as robotic process automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive efficiencies for the company and consumers. Consultancies also need to be at the forefront in digital thinking to ensure they offer the brightest talent, expertise and experience to help their clients embrace the digital challenge and face the future with confidence.

[1] Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018, Protiviti and North Carolina State University’s ERM Initiative, December 2017, available at www.protiviti.com/toprisks.

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