about performance management,” says Mike
Hughes, a Senior Director in West Monroe
Partners’ Operations Excellence practice.
“Our ability to understand interdependency,
the need for collaboration, the role of data
and all of the other components is crucial.”
Many forms of operations consulting are
increasingly difficult to distinguish from
strategy consulting. “You really can’t separate
operations any more,” says Hughes.
“I don’t think that line is even worth
discussing in many cases because the strategy
and the operations are so intertwined,” says
Nathan Simon, Director, Lead for Strategy
& Operations Research with Kennedy
Consulting Research & Advisory (KCRA).
KCRA, it turns out, combined the two for
research purposes a few years ago.
There is, however, much to discuss about the
evolving nature of operations consulting, how
firms have reorganized theses practices, what
challenges they’re addressing with clients and
how they are retooling their teams to strike the
right balance of operational depth and cross-functional breadth that clients need.
A Deep and Wide Balancing Act
The role of operations within client
companies is expanding. Operations generally
has a “wider aperture” when it comes to
managing end-to-end processes, says PwC’s
Strategy& Operations Leader Eduardo
Alvarez. As a result, he adds, “operations is
being asked to integrate
across the enterprise.
This shift, of course, requires
consulting firms and practices to
deliver expertise in multiple competency
areas. But the demand for deep, highly
specialized operations expertise also remains.
Companies still call on consultants for highly
specific help, such as strategic sourcing, or
industry-specific process improvements. These
twin demands create a tension between the
functional specialization and the breadth of
expertise operations consultants must bring to
bear on client work, KCRA’s Simon observes.
“The real reason for a lot of consulting work
is that companies do not work well across
their functional silos,” Simon adds. “The
consulting firms want
to get super-specialized.
Yet a huge part of their
value proposition is that
they can break down,
or work across, those
internal silos … I see
some consulting firms
struggling to strike this
structures represent one
way to address this challenge. Earlier this year,
Capgemini Consulting Group completed an
internal realignment that essentially blended
its strategy and transformation practice with its
operations practice. Capgemini Vice President
Adrian Penka, who leads the new operations
strategy and excellence practice, notes that the
work of the previous strategy practice often
crossed into operations and vice versa. “There
was always a bit of a blend,” he says, pointing
out that the current practice also includes a
group focused on organizational culture, people
and change management. “It was a purposeful
alignment, but it was not done to improve
customer satisfaction, to capitalize on a new
“IF YOU DO SOMETHING
IN OPERATIONS, IT RIPPLES
INTO HUMAN CAPITAL...
YOU REALLY CAN’T SEPARATE
OPERATIONS ANY MORE.”
— Mike Hughes, West Monroe Partners
Time to Shine