Client’s needs are pushing us to new terrain

James Rodger, Partner and Regional Leader for the UK and Ireland at BearingPoint, describes the last 12 months positively. “We continued to grow in the sectors and main client groups we focus on. Indeed, we drew strength from that clear focus. A pretty good year.”

James believes that the future for consulting is a mix of strong advisory capabilities, delivered by great people, supported by proprietary technology solutions and accelerators. “This approach plays very strongly in digital. Consulting methodologies have always been an asset. But by combining our insights with our technology assets, we can provide tailored and blended solutions for clients.”

Though this is relatively new terrain for consulting firms, James suggests that BearingPoint has adjusted quickly. “In some ways it’s a natural evolution for our business. After all, we are essentially responding to client requirements. For example, given the appetite clients have for understanding their data, our Hypercube big data analytics solution is an integral part of meeting their needs.

“Of course these solutions require a combination of research and ongoing maintenance on the one hand, and applied use on the other. For example, we have a number of proprietary solutions to help financial services companies comply with regulatory reporting challenges. These solutions need to be maintained and developed as regulatory requirements change. So we have people in our business who do just that. But they in turn work closely with our client-facing consultants. The result will be that our business becomes an evolving mix of people and skills, some devoted to research, development and maintenance of our solutions and accelerators, some concerned with their practical application. But these different parts of the business will need to work together closely, since the primary focus remains traditional and unchanged: the client need.

James says the outlook for 2016 seems broadly positive and he anticipates growth to remain on a broadly comparable trajectory to recent times. “Of course our clients have certain issues that worry them – the state of global demand, uncertainties around Brexit and so forth. So we’re not taking anything for granted. But we are confident that we can adapt to meet whatever needs our clients have, helping them cope with the uncertainties they face.”

That adaptability, James believes, will be key to the delivery of Consulting Excellence going forward. “Fundamentally consulting is still a people business. Clients buy our people and they buy from our people. Good people will always be the hallmark of excellence. But adaptability is key. Consultants have to move readily and at speed to respond to what clients want. They need to recognise client needs – ideally even before the client does. And then deliver to a consistently high standard.”

Meeting client demands is, as James acknowledges, trickier when those demands and needs are emerging, changing and uncertain. It is also sometimes challenging to develop the appropriate commercial frameworks. “Some clients are very clear on what they want. But with more complex requirements, what is needed is a sound relationship, based on trust. We prefer to work in long-term relationships with clients, as trusted advisors, a valued part of their ecosystem. This relationship is agile, allowing us to respond much more readily to client requirements and to work with them on creating value.

“And I stress it is value that both we and the client are seeking. The transactional nature of consultant/client relations can lead to a preoccupation with the wrong things – day rates, and commoditised bodyshopping. But if you work with a small number of clients and engage deeply with them, you can move beyond transactional engagements

into something lasting and transformative. Indeed in the context of a long-term relationship of trust, even a short assignment, with a small team working for 4–6 weeks, can be genuinely value creating, tailored for the needs of the business, rather than a commoditised solution.

“For us, that embedded long term partnership relationship, which the client bene ts from as much as we do, is a central feature of our business model.” 

James Rodger, Partner and Regional Leader for the UK and Ireland at BearingPoint, was interviewed as part of The definitive guide to UK Consulting Industry Statistics 2016.