6 NOVEMBER 2016 Consulting®
Get Ready: A Revolution in Management Consulting
In the age of digital and the empowered consumer,
even traditionally staid B2B service sectors are
speaking the language of customer experience.
Companies are grappling with how to respond to
changing customer expectations, new competitors
with different business models, and new technologies
that afford opportunities to re-envision the customer experience. An oft-cited example is healthcare,
where organizations are adapting to a fee-for-value
model in which providers are compensated based on
the ultimate health outcomes delivered to patients
rather than the number of diagnostic tests or procedures performed.While straightforward in principle,
the implications touch nearly every aspect of organizations’ business models.
Management consultants, among the most vociferous
promoters to their clients of the importance of customer experience, are ironically holding tightest to their
traditional service model, which elevates consulting to
an art form. But disruption is coming, bringing more
science into the consulting process and shifting away
from the prevailing overdependence by firms and their
clients on the “A-Team,” that group of highly experienced consultants who can bring to bear deep insights
and the judgment to be able to deliver the best product
every time. These changes portend significant implications across the consulting business model.
The change imperative issues from a confluence
of developments in the external environment, both
challenges and opportunities, that are laying bare the
limitations of a traditional consulting model designed
to maximize the in-project adaptability of seasoned
consultants rather than an organization’s versatility to
respond to changing conditions at scale. At the heart of
the challenge are the traditional model’s human-centric
process control and related lack of scalability, which
together constrain consultants’ ability to systematically
capture and control for the complexity of the factors
that determine outcomes and thus can yield biased recommendations and incomplete execution.
Some consultants are trying to respond to this challenge through measures such as adding new labor
resources, developing tools and offshoring to improve
the scale and scope of activities, piloting, and launching new products and services such as managed services or as-a-service platforms. But, while useful, these
are incremental changes aimed at doing what consultants have always done, only faster, better, or cheaper.
They either double-down on the adaptability of the
craft paradigm or trade it off for greater reproducibility
or calibration to real-world experience.
Consulting Process Paradigms
A revolution in consulting productivity depends, in
contrast, on operating in an entirely different way that
can yield both greater reproducibility and calibration.
The opportunity is to adopt technology-enabled process control to transform the consulting service delivery model from a craft to a test-and-learn one that
designs in responsiveness to the sources of divergence
between intended and realized client outcomes rather
than consigning that activity to a separate implementation process. Making this transformation happen
will hinge on the application of a lot more science:
both to manage the group agency challenges that can
disrupt coordinated action and understand the complex causal relationships that determine outcomes. It
also depends on client side changes in terms of how
clients engage with consultants, interact externally
and internally within their organizations, and what
BY NATHAN SIMON AND MICHAEL TAYLOR