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The UK Consulting Industry

—Introduction to the UK Management Consulting Industry

Management consulting is the practice of creating value for organisations, through improved performance, achieved by providing objective advice and implementing business solutions. In other words, management consultants help take organisations further than they would go on their own.

They do this by solving problems, providing outside perspective, and enhancing business capability. Management consultants bring niche skills and a breadth of experience into organisations, which is often useful for specific projects but not for an organisation to employ full time.

Beginnings of the industry
The origins of the consulting industry can be traced back to the start of the 20th Century, to the ideas of scientific management and to regulatory change in the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash. In the UK, the consulting industry began to grow quickly in the 1950s, fuelled by the arrival of US consulting firms, waves of new technology and management techniques, and increasing demand from clients for highly specialised skills.

The UK consulting industry today
Today’s UK consulting industry is worth around £9 billion and employs more than 80,000 consultants.*

The industry spans a wide array of firms, some of which only undertake ‘pure’ management consulting work, some of which are part of larger firms that also undertake IT systems development, outsourcing, and other activities.

Management consulting firms provide a broad range of services, from help in defining strategies to implementing large-scale IT and change programmes, and from coaching individuals and teams to providing expert advice in specialised fields.

A positive force for the economy
Fundamental to the success of the entire consulting industry is its ability to deliver high quality services that create sustainable value to organisations. To this end, the MCA has a Code of Practice to which all MCA members subscribe.

The MCA also promotes the positive contribution made by the industry to the economy and wider society through our annual MCA Awards.

Changing relationships with clients and competitors
As clients look for integrated solutions to their management and IT requirements, many consultancy firms are entering into alliances with software suppliers, telecoms or communications firms in order to provide a broader range of services and extend their global reach.

At the same time, the consultant/client relationship is changing. Boundaries are blurring. Consultants can become part of the client organisation for periods of time, and may sometimes share the rewards as well as the risks of a project.

Consultancy firms that have historically competed are now working together on client projects and there will be continuing convergence within and outside the industry as firms co-operate and merge in order to better serve their clients.

*UK Consulting Industry Statistics Report 2014