industry. They’re all undergoing
massive changes and they need us;
they need consultants. I feel very
good about the firm; it’s a healthy
firm that I’m handing off to Alex.
We’re debt-free except for working
capital and not a lot of firms can
say that, by the way. So, that means
there’s lots of room for continued
investment in those areas I’ve talked
about, which is still needed. The
world is changing.
Consulting: Where’s the industry
going? Do you see consolidation?
Could A. T. Kearney acquire another
firm? Or, perhaps, be acquired?
Aurik: Well, when it comes to
consolidation, I just don’t see big
mergers among equals—from a
change management perspective, it’s
virtually impossible. What about the
big tech companies? Will Amazon
move into this space? Will Google?
That’s certainly a possibility.
Will consulting firms continue to
buy start ups? Yes, that I think is
very likely. There will be smaller
acquisitions and tuck-ins to meet a
specific solution, for instance. That’s
where the biggest movement will be
taking place, I think. If tomorrow
we get an offer from Google, would
we look at it? Of course we would,
but I don’t think it’s the right way
to go. Partners want to be owners;
they want to have ownership of the
business. That was my big learning
from the EDS debacle.
Consulting: As for the industry, do
you think we’re at a tipping point?
Aurik: Yes, I think we are. At least
in terms of the work we need to do.
Every industry needs to transform;
every company needs to transform;
every CEO is overloaded with
too many priorities. Every CEO
knows that if they haven’t delivered
results in two years, they are out.
They are all overwhelmed; and if
I’m cynical for a moment, that’s
good for consultants, especially
the firms that are focused on
transformation as we are. That’s one
reason our growth has been so good.
Consulting: How is that client
Aurik: What we sell to clients
and how we sell to them is also
changing… rapidly. I started in this
profession in 1988 when there were
no computers at the firm. I doodled
on a piece of paper, gave it to an
assistant, they typed it up and we put
on an overhead projector. That’s how
I started. Computers came along
and now 90 percent of what we do
is e-mail, PowerPoint and Excel
and that’s still the way the business
world works, but it’s not how our
private lives work. Our private lives
are more social, sharing, connected.
I think there’s a huge opportunity to
bring those two worlds together… to
digitize consulting—both externally
with clients and internally. So,
we’ve launched “Next,” a digital
platform designed to change the way
we work. No more Excel, no more
PowerPoint, no more e-mail. When I
started there was no e-mail and when
I leave I’m aiming for there also to
be no more e-mail. It’s a drastic shift.
Everything is on the platform—both
for consultants and clients. So, all
the knowledge we have as a firm
is online and constantly updated…
that’s such a different way of
working. We launched this about
two years ago it’s really starting to
take hold. In two years, I think 75
percent to 80 percent of our projects
will run this way. That’s a big shift.
Consulting: How do you see that
impacting the talent you bring in?
Aurik: More than one-third of our
people are specialists. In a few
years, that will be more like 50 or 60
percent. As for talent… well, a good
portion of the work will be done by
machines and bots and human beings
will focus on what human beings
are good at. This is a fascinating
time. What an amazing time to be a
consultant, but talent is still a huge
issue. The capabilities that we’re
looking for are not easy to find. In
fact, it’s almost impossible. You have
to grow them rather than try to find
that. It still takes 10 years or more to
grow a really successful partner.
Consulting: What are clients
demanding? How is that changing?
Aurik: When I started, consultants had
many advantages: We were better
communicators than our clients;
we had more information than our
clients; and, we provided analysis
our clients didn’t have. None of
that is true anymore. Today, the big
premium is on making it happen
change management… that’s the
value we add today. That’s a very
different model than even just a few
years ago. We are getting closer to
the executive suite because there’s
so much change and uncertainty
among executives. Instead of a
partner being 30 percent utilized,
it’s much higher. They are focusing
more heavily on fewer clients and
those relationships are becoming
stronger. That’s a good thing. That’s
really the way it should be, after all.