We are recruiting a new managing director. With our Jobs recruitment system, applicants can tell us their view of the kind of changes that the consulting business should prepare for in the coming year. The applicants for the managing director's position include business managers, HR professionals and consultants. All of them have personal experience of consulting, either as providers or users of services. Their responses provided quite an interesting cross-section of the future of consulting.

Economic outlook, social changes and the revolution in work, as well as an overall crumbling of old structures, are present in the overall tone of the answers. Some reflect concerns, but most respondents view the changes as opportunities. They all agree that bystanders are already on their way to oblivion.

Changes in the operating environment

The general economy is still in the mood of slow growth. At the same time, economic trends are more difficult to foresee than before. Companies that provide consulting services either seek benefits of scale through consolidation or focus and specialize in their core services. There have been both mergers and acquisitions and focusing in the Finnish consulting market recently, associated with narrowing down the distribution network, among other things.

Visible trends include digitalization and utilization of data, and its impact on the change in content and functions. As a result of digitalization, some jobs disappear, but new ones also emerge. However, the new jobs will not replace the disappearing ones. With the increase in the amount of information available, a part of consulting may disappear, as it is more easily available than before. An example is the change in executive search – candidate data is increasingly available to everyone.

Changes in customer requirements

Customers that purchase consulting services have become more capable, and the ownership of development projects is increasingly focused on the customer. This means that consulting might be necessary for implementing only a specific part of the development project, perhaps to meet a specific need, or even simply as additional resources for the project. At the same time, more detailed specifications of assignments and tighter delivery time requirements cause price pressure and make the competition tighter. In this case, bulk services, for example, should be produced digitally, i.e. cost-efficiently.

How much room is there for large consultant organizations? Should consultants rather focus on their special expertise and building an agile network for responding to specific customer requests better than before?

Changes in demand

From Psycon's point of view, it is naturally interesting how the trends in HR impact the demand for services. Based on the applicants' views, it seems that the significance of HR is emphasized in the operations of organizations. The overall profile of personnel is undergoing a strong change, and the underlying factors include the increase in the number of atypical employment relationships, decrease in workforce due to aging, and changing competence of the workforce entering the labor market.

Digital natives and the extremely capable Generation Z become frustrated under rigid line structures. This will provide new challenges to the development of management and, e.g., career planning.

Who will continue to thrive?

Amid changes, the consulting companies prepared to

  1. improve their service agility and ability to react will thrive. This requires tailoring the consulting services into compact and modular interconnected services, making it possible to provide customers with high-quality solutions.
  2. make their deliveries more efficient and faster. The opportunities provided by digitalization assist in this; some services are already implemented location-independently, as self-service and distributed in virtual operating and learning environments. However, a lot remains to be done with the utilization of Big Data, for example.
  3. develop the management and leadership of their competence. In this respect, it is necessary to invest in training your own core people and open-mindedly seeking additional competence through networks and partnerships.
  4. pay special attention to providing a superior customer experience. Not only is it a good idea to monitor measurable impact, attention should also be paid to monitoring the customer's emotional experience and build agile correction models if the customer experience plunges.

Consulting will not go anywhere – there will always be needs, but the ways of responding to them change. I interpret the applicants' answers so that a consulting office's formula for success could consist of four things: foreseeing, specializing, standing out and providing experience.

Thank you to the applicants for their fine views!