The World is On-Demand —Why Not Consulting, Advisory & Change Management?
Has Consulting failed to change-manage their own existence?
How do we rethink, reinvent, and reimagine consulting?
In a never-ending do-it-yourself, mass-customization, on-demand world, is there really a need for “Consulting” anymore?
The frustration is palpable; the strategy of consulting is, ironically not very strategic. It’s getting lost in the push to make all important services in-house.
The irony of change management is that consulting is not changing over the years the industry has existed.
The biggest opportunity is looking at the expectations and changes in the market that we are seeing today. Consulting is at an existential crisis point, driven by the paradox of its inability to look at how it needs to evolve and adapt, while expecting every organisation it touches to do just that.
The Problem with Consulting?
The consulting industry has failed to change-manage its own existence. This has happened for a few reasons.
Paradoxically, consultants are embedded in the world as it is, not the world to come. It’s very difficult to give advice that would lead to the system which favors you as an incumbent being disrupted. This means that one point of pain for customers of consulting services is that the consultant gets paid, no matter what the outcome of their engagement is — limiting shared incentives.
Whatever type of consulting work that a firm does, at its core the business model is based on leverage. The more junior people you can staff at a client relative to more senior people, the more money it’s possible to make. This means that the digital-enabled productivity gains which have revolutionized other sectors have not been brought to bear in consulting. This also relates to the type of work a consultant is centered on.
The effect of those two issues on the consulting industry are easy to see:
1. Declining confidence in consulting
2. Need for speed
3. Trust is important, loyalty is declining
Did Change Start Consulting, or Did Consulting Start Change?
To systemically address those issues we need to understand the origin of business consulting.
Generally speaking, business consulting is an outgrowth of the accounting industry. In the early 1950’s the accounting industry expanded as a function of business environment, and consulting as an outgrowth started, as a process of improvement.
Accountants live by the “recurring revenue” model. Since accountants were involved in their client’s core financial matters it was a short step to advise executives on how to enhance recurring revenues by increasing the efficiency of operations.
The question for the accounting industry was how to de-risk the inherently risky revenue provided by consulting work. The answer came in “land and expand” model developed for consulting. The thin edge of this model came by leveraging accounting partners to uncover non-financial needs within their established accounting base. These needs could then be developed by adjacent consulting partners based on the firm’s credibility within its client base.
Drawing on the firm’s credibility reduced the risky business of consultants needing to constantly look for new work in emerging markets. Over time the consultants develop new business relationships within the firm’s client base — they had landed. The next step was to evolve a project into phases and then into a journey — this was a natural use of the consultants analytic and relationship expertise — they readily filled the ever expanding scope of work with detailed processes and staffing pyramids to execute them — they had expanded.
By the 1990’s this duality practices had reversed power positions, consulting had become the behemoth; often accounting firms split out their consulting practices into owned subsidiaries — and spawned an industry unrelated to accounting.
The Hungry Consulting Model
If consulting can inhabit its vulnerabilities, the opportunities begin to reveal themselves.
At Cygnus Sprints, we don’t question the quality of work by professional consultants: what we do question and want to disrupt is the “why.” Why does a lot of this work get done? Why do clients need processes with questionable value? Why is the work built on pyramids of newly minted consultants?
In the consulting world the on-demand button is rarely available. Why not?
The Next Big Evolution of Consulting?
Consulting needs to be on-demand and optimized for transformative change, not singularly transactional. But how do we get there?
1. Learn from Design
If you want to do something that is truly new, you need the tools of design. Some management consultants understand this, and are experimenting with design. But it is not enough to add journey maps and post it notes to an analytical process.
Analytical approaches kill ideas too soon, but worse than that, analytical approaches are usually too constraining to generate truly radical ideas. If you start by seeing the world as a given, you inevitably end up simply tweaking it a bit. This is the mindset that benchmarks its way to mediocrity.
2. Leveraging Decentralized Tactics & Talents
We need to envision dynamic capabilities. There is the competitive advantage of simply executing your existing strategy better than anybody on the planet, that’s one game. The second game is exploring into the unknown futures. We need to embrace and demonstrate how to deal with paradox and inconsistency.
3. Looking at Outputs and Inputs
While clients may want a “brains” type of outcome, it’s often been difficult to get a lot of leverage out of an engagement that is intangible. However, as innovations, technological shifts, and sources of competitive advantage change faster than ever, we can expect the proportion of traditional consulting work to move more into the “brains” space.
What we can anticipate is that firms able to offer specific expertise in an area, even if their individual consultants are pricey, will begin to capture some business that might have previously gone to an established consulting firm.
We can also anticipate that smart firms will continue to build strategy capability internally to wean themselves away from a dependency on long-term consulting relationships.
The Consulting Shift & Reinvention
The big shift is that now we can also anticipate a market opportunity for an entirely different kind of consulting “firm” or capability — an on-demand one which uses digital technologies to do to traditional consulting what upstarts such as Dollar Shave Club, Wayfair, and SoFi have done to the incumbents in their industries.
While there will always be a market for high-end consulting, we’re looking for a rising number of technology-infused alternatives which offer a combination of expert “brains at scale,” and more clearly-aligned incentives to put pressure on the traditional model, which is what Cygnus Sprints is defining in going forward.
The Change of Change
On demand consulting is simply, the client’s way, when they want it, how they want it now. This is the future built around a client’s immediate needs.
From our own internal analysis, we at Cygnus Sprints have seen “on-demand” is a top eight business model of the future, and one that we are embracing and delivering, now.
We think there is a better way consistent with 2022 and beyond — it all leads to on-demand.
We’ve embraced this new model with these a few guiding principles:
We need to give customers the ability to select their desired product or services.
Accessibility is all about being available all the time to fill our customer’s need. Bridging the gap to reduce delivery time is an essence of our on-demand business model.
On the other hand, zero compromises are the differentiating factor for our consulting model. We provide personalized services to cater to our customer’s demand.
It’s an approach to consulting that we believe is long overdue. Consulting designed expressly to identify and solve a client’s problem in the shortest time span possible. This is the future of consulting, and it’s on-demand.
This article is part of an ongoing thought leadership series developed by Cygnus Sprints — On-Demand Solutions for a Complex, Sped Up World and powered by the Grey Swan Guild.
Doyle Buehler is a world authority on digital transformation, a best selling author, podcaster, teacher and entrepreneur. He has consulted, coached, taught and inspired many in the areas of digital leadership, marketing, social selling, social media marketing & strategy. He designs, develops & deploys high performing digital foundations & models for businesses to transform how they deliver their value in this disruptive, digital economy.
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