Whether growth is a distant yet entirely realistic dream or whether your firm is already benefiting from the ‘green shoots of recovery’, one thing is certain: Firms are starting to feel that things in the consulting industry are on the up.
After one of the worst financial meltdowns in living memory, there are encouraging signs that we’ve finally turned a corner. In fact, research conducted by IDC on behalf of Deltek found that consulting firms are upbeat about the future. Some of the leading consulting firms in the UK, US and across Europe told us that the opportunities for growth were now ‘obvious’. They reported revenues up by 42%; the size of projects won up 30%; the number of proposals won up 27% and that they have seen an increase in resource utilisation of 22%.
New climate, new challenges
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the next few years will be a fee-earning free-for-all. Rather than an excuse for complacency, the changing market conditions simply require firms to adopt a different set of actions and attitudes.
So what are today's challenges in the consultancy arena - and how are firms meeting these challenges? For 34.8% of firms 'increasing revenue' is deemed the biggest issue facing consultancies today and 45.1% are making it their top priority in the future. Furthermore, 'maximising profits' is a top challenge for 27.3% of consultants, with 29.2% wanting to focus on their project execution to meet it.
The three core lifecycle processes of a consulting firm
How good your firm will be in increasing revenue, maximising profits and improving project execution all depends on how good its visibility and insight is into its key operating metrics. IDC research tells us that successful modern-day businesses have a clear view and a high level of control over the customer-project-employee lifecycle. It also tells us that the 'best of breed' consultancies are using industry-specific systems that assist with these three core lifecycle processes by helping identify and retain new business, manage project proposal to completion and assist with employee hire to retire.
Modern IT systems that provide a real-time picture of each component as well as an integrated picture of the firm as a whole will deliver the visibility and control required to improve margins and improve profits - and they have project management capabilities built into every process.
But despite these benefits a surprising number of firms do not have industry specialised systems in place according to IDC. The report indicates over 80% are missing out on the advantages of improved management, visibility and centralisation brought about by a system that will help with the customer-project-employee lifecycle.
Heading for the Cloud
However there is evidence that firms are preparing to take a positive stance on IT with 73% of consulting firms preparing to move to the 'Cloud'. Cloud based solutions are designed around industry best practice to bring a flexible, lower cost system for integrating and controlling project, finance and resource management. Further to that, Cloud solutions provide the ability to move scarce resources into business-critical areas while solving business visibility challenges. It also helps address a firm's priorities by providing ways to more effectively manage the core lifecycles.
How do you become a modern consulting firm
With a willingness to invest in new processes and systems, it could be said that we are witnessing the evolution of the modern consulting firm. Using industry-specific enterprise resource planning platforms and Cloud based management systems modern consulting firms are readily turning to IT to improve visibility and control across a spectrum of disciplines. The objective is to attract and employ the right people, boost client satisfaction and maintain healthy profit margins. This makes them stronger, more robust and better prepared for whatever lies ahead.
With the economic tide changing, it may be the right time to ask if your firm is ready to take a fresh approach to its future - an approach that will set your firm apart from your competitors, take advantage of project growth and ultimately increase your bottom line.
Fergus Gilmore is Managing Director of the Deltek UK and Central Europe Professional Services organisation. He has over 20 years’ experience of working in the ERP software industry with extensive experience in both the Private and Public sector.