The impact of Covid-19 has reverberated globally across every industry, forcing companies to rapidly digitalise internal operations, personalise customer interactions, and transform supply chains. Disruptive technologies have played a large role in this. These developments are in turn redefining consulting industry models, writes Andrew Duncan, CEO of Infosys Consulting in the UK.
In response to disruption, clients are increasingly turning to consultants that can help fill gaps for digital talent, enhance innovation, and develop sustainable and ethical strategies for emerging technology.
At the same time, the old paradigm of consulting work is shifting; traditional models of work that were once considered fixtures of large-scale technology programmes, such as in-person teams from the client and vendor side, are no longer possible in the newly disrupted world of work.
Here are five trends I expect to see develop in the consulting industry to create sustained change and unleash business potential in the next normal:
The biggest factor for transformation success is people. However, we’re about to see a major digital skills gap emerge over the coming years as a result of Covid-19. With a critical requirement for reskilled and upskilled employees, organisations are looking for a consulting partner that will complement their current talent and amplify existing capabilities.
In response, we will see consulting firms develop offerings that augment, rather than replace, client teams. This will include value-driven repeatable and explainable approaches, executive dashboards to monitor KPIs, best-practice training for future use cases, handover of fully documented code, and a robust transition period for continued training.
By partnering with clients from the inside out, consultancies will ensure sustainable change that will support their teams in a turbulent business climate.
The move to remote working has offered organisations a unique opportunity to tap into a new pool of consultant talent, which may have previously been inaccessible due to location and geography restrictions. This will continue in the next normal, with consultants expected to deliver transformation projects with seamless multi-geography launches using a hybrid model of near-shore and off-shore teams.
Without the barriers of time zones and travel limitations, traditional models will shift to on-demand consulting services at scale – deploying staff from any location into any project based on skill needs and availability. In conjunction, we will see digital delivery go beyond video conferencing and collaboration tools; programmes are becoming immersive and interactive, utilising avatars and disruptive technologies for virtual breakout sessions, one-to-one interactions and management connect.
Large-scale digital transformation will be a critical enabler for businesses to run smoothly and to drive continued value in the future. However, leadership will have to find the balance between positioning their business for long-term growth while also remaining reactive and agile in a rapidly changing market. In response, organisations will require traditional transformation projects to be broken down into smaller, bite-size engagements that prove value early on.
This will see more agile, sprint-focused offerings based on proof-of-concepts and microservices in both technology engagements and change management. At the same time, businesses require a partner that can share both the benefits and risks of a programme. ‘Consulting as a Service’ – embedding consultants at pace within client teams from day one – offers this ‘de-risking’ element that businesses expect post-Covid-19.
To be digital, companies today must work at lightning speed to deliver individualised offerings that result in fanatical levels of customer satisfaction – all with laser-focused cost control. This will be reflected in consultancy models of the future, with a shift towards outcome-based and fixed price engagement allowing greater accountability and transparency.
Consultants will have to build ideas and business cases with clear and definitive ROI in mind – demonstrating clear cost take-out, savings and real measurable value creation – in order to meet the exacting specification of businesses.
Consultants will complement this with the development of self-sustained offerings and assets, from sales and delivery collateral, to pre-existing tools that calculate specific value potential, and an array of pre-tested prototypes that can be deployed within a very limited amount of time.
A “digital-first agenda” is now the number one priority for businesses, and organisations will look for a partner that can showcase their own innovations and translate savings to the project. Inevitably, a large portion of administrative consulting work will be automated in the near future, enabling teams to focus on higher value and customer facing tasks.
But with increased automation comes the need for self-regulation, and consultants will also be expected to lead on the ethical considerations of these new technologies: how to deploy smart AI while ensuring privacy safeguards, preventing bias in algorithmic decision-making, and meeting guidelines in highly regulated industries. Consultants of the future will deliver tools to employees, customers and partners for developing and using AI responsibly, accurately and ethically.
Business-as-usual no longer meets the challenges of the post-pandemic world. The uncertainty unleashed by Covid-19 reinforced that a new model for consulting industry is needed more than ever. From ideation and strategy, to execution and delivery, consultants will be expected to help businesses solve their most complex challenges leveraging the power of disruptive technology – with sustainable and lasting change coming from within the clients themselves.