The Age of Digital Consulting

Digital used to be just an adjective. There were digital TVs, digital radios, digital experts and more.

But now digital is clearly also a noun. We are living in the age of digital.

For digital is proving to be huge. Almost everywhere we look in our working and personal lives, it is changing the way we conduct ourselves, carry out our business and engage with each other. New businesses are being created, almost overnight. Others are fading and being undermined, just as fast. Retailing, manufacturing, financial services, government – all are feeling the impact.

And we sense that we are only at the beginning of this new wave of change. Most experts believe we are at the start of a prolonged period of unpredictability and transformation, as significant in its impact as the Industrial Revolution itself.

What could be the effects? Here are a few examples:

  • Empowerment of the consumer and, perhaps, the citizen.
  • Massive savings in processes and the cost of communications.
  • A scramble for new products and routes to market.
  • The explosion of data and information that can make or break commercial ventures.
  • Increased cyber-crime, together with costly measures to defeat it.
  • Even, outsourcing advice and implementation will change.

And, again, we’ve hardly scratched the surface.

Management consultants are right at the heart of many of the agendas that flow from digital. Indeed, the MCA’s industry data earlier this year showed that more than a quarter of all management consulting activity is now digital-related. It is the largest and fastest-growing part of our industry. When it comes to outsourcing, consulting firms are using digital as an opportunity to complement pure cost savings with advice on how clients can innovate and push transformational change. This can include using the cloud, social media, mobile and big data to drive change across the organisation – in operations and business models.

These high levels of digital consulting activity is one reason why the MCA has launched our Year of Digital

And it is also why we recently got together with the buyers of management consulting, represented in our Consultancy Buyers Forum, to discuss the challenges of buying digital effectively. After all, in a recent survey conducted for us by the research company Research Now, 94% of business leaders rated digital as a top priority for their business.

Many participants observed that scoping and evaluating digital advisory services can be trickier than dealing with more traditional consulting services. The buying process itself may need accelerating. And the collapsing of old boundaries between industry sectors that is being driven by digital puts a premium on understanding the impact on skills requirements and organisational design, including in the buying process.

Digital may itself be disrupting the established buying practices in other areas of IT spend. It will be important for those who are buying the important expert advisory support to be early at the table, often drawing on the interdependencies for clients and their consulting firms.

Many organisations know that they need to ‘go digital’. But many more understand that this is a ‘known unknown’ for them. Some of the leading digital management consultants at our event spoke of the vital role they play in helping clients to understand what is at stake and how it relates to the priorities of their business. Only then can sensible buying decisions start to be taken.

Digital is transforming business. We expect to see a lot more outsourcing as a result. This is the age of new possibilities.

And, since much of this is a journey into an unpredictable future, the ability to navigate uncertainty together will be crucial for both client and consulting firm.

This article was originally written for Outsouce Magazine.