The Future of Consulting in the Public Sector

Panel (L-R): Martin Cresswell, Chief Executive iMPOWER; Kru Desai, Head of UK Public Sector Management Consulting at KPMG; Andy Shenstone, Education and Central Government Market Director at Capita Consulting; Paul Connolly, Director of the MCA Think Tank; Kate Spalding, Central Government Account Partner at Atos Consulting; Simon Morioka, Managing Director at PPL Consulting.

We are all aware of the demands facing the public sector, but as consultants, how can we work with the public sector to best improve and safeguard its future?  

Panellists at a recent Young MCA event on the future of consulting in the public sector acknowledged that affordability, and a lack of supply to meet increasing demands, were the main challenges facing the public sector.

Simon Morioka, Managing Director at PPL Consulting, highlighted that divergence occurs because although those running public services can agree that changes need to be made, it is much harder to  agree on where and how to action them. Martin Creswell, Chief Executive iMPOWER, suggested that  in order to resolve this, we must change the way we interact with the public sector, and ultimately drive down demand.

What can we do as Consultants?

Andy Shenstone, Education and Central Government Market Director at Capita Consulting, and Kru Desai, Head of UK Public Sector Management Consulting at KPMG, both agreed that in order to support the public sector we can shape the political agenda; however, using their personal experiences, they cautioned the audience to be  aware that the sector is particularly risk averse, so any proposition should be tested and jointly delivered to show models that work. 

Short termism seen in the public sector is a product of the fact that is often easier for the public sector to work towards short term goals. Kate Spalding, Central Government Account Partner at Atos Consulting, explained that we can help create small wins that align with a bigger agenda.

Andy Shenstone suggested that technology can help us better understand service users and their needs. However, Kru Desai and Kate Spalding, both raised the importance of a ‘human face’ in engineering change, and the need to engage with a common language – as consultants we need to remember the public sector is a people business.

Lastly, Martin Cresswell and Andy Shenstone agreed that if you don’t co-produce it, it won’t work. Solutions need to be bespoke and conducted as joint ventures, despite the additional risk this may bring.

Final thoughts:

  • Small acorns can lead to big change – you can get results from changing the way a few people work
  • Bring yourself – your relationship with the client is crucial. Be likeable and flexible; take their ideas as well as providing your own.
  • Reputation – we are interlopers in the public sector, and we need to deliver what we promise. Only accept work for which you know success is possible.   


Written by Cat Dean, Business Psychology Consultant at Arup and Young MCA Steering Committee Member.

This article was written for the Young MCA Update.