The MCA’s Year of Disruption

The Year of Disruption follows on from our very successful Years of Digital (shortlisted for an Association Excellence Award), Growth and Diversity. It will be wide-ranging. Indeed as its name implies, it will be a little different from the previous Years of – . It’s a Year of, Jim, but not as we know it.

The choice of the term ‘disruption’ comes straight from the new MCA strategy. Last year, when we asked member firms what was top of mind for them, they reached for this word. Disruption encapsulates an array of factors, all of them introducing uncertainty, ambiguity and instability into the economic context confronting member firms and clients. Disruption is also itself an ambiguous and shifting term. Disruption can, like creative destruction, be positive. Or it can consist of a whole host of troublesome ‘known unknowns’, which can negatively impact business confidence.

There are some obvious subthemes here. One of them has been explored extensively by the MCA in the past. Digital. The potential for AI and automation to transform our working lives, for data to become a currency, for 3D printing to do to the manufacturing value chain what the downloading and streaming have done to the music business, for the Internet of Things to revolutionise consumers’ relationship with physical products, and for connected and driverless vehicles to engender a fundamental rethink of transportation: these are live issues happening now.

Business is wrestling with these challenges. British firms are keen to ensure that they optimise the deployment of digital innovation in pursuit of competitive advantage and (as we shall see) productivity. Government has accorded these developments especial prominence in its Industrial Strategy, albeit with only the beginnings of a coherent approach to addressing and exploiting them. And they are prominent in the thinking of member firms. When we first examined digital it was mostly seen as something that affected clients and to which consultants had to respond – by changing their offers, staffing and approaches. But while those factors are still in play, member firms are also starting to experience the degree to which digital is transforming the business of consulting itself. From the automation of analytics, the potential of crowdsourcing to supplement insight, to the use of proprietary, Cloud-based software solutions to add value to client processes, MCA member firms are seeing digital have far-reaching effects on ‘how’ consulting work is done.

Brexit is plainly another major disruption theme, together with the other factors causing geopolitical and economic instability. We have explored Brexit extensively already and will continue to do so throughout the Year of Disruption.

Other disruption themes are perhaps less immediately obvious, though no less important. The NHS has come into focus during the ‘traditional’ winter crisis and will doubtless do so throughout 2018, its 70th anniversary. The current tax-funded, free-at-the-point-of-delivery model is simultaneously the most popular on earth and prone to repeated crisis. Ageing population, rising citizen expectation about standards, and the increasing cost of care bring significant pressures to bear. But the NHS is surely the potential target for some imaginative thinking and integrated approaches – positive disruption, in other words. Tackling health problems isn’t just about maximising the effectiveness of the ‘sickness management’ carried out at hospitals, important though that is. Health is a product of many factors – genetics, diet, lifestyle, social class, housing – and impacted (positively or otherwise) by other public services, such as local government or education. To manage burdens on overstretched acute services and ultimately promote better health and wellbeing, a whole-system approach to healthcare is plainly needed. Signals in the change of Jeremy Hunt’s portfolio to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care suggest a growing awareness and willingness to act on this at political level.

So one of our campaigns in the Year of Disruption will examine health.

But our first campaign will attempt to marshal consulting insights to help address one of the UK’s most major economic challenges. Productivity.

Year of Disruption: Productivity Campaign

The UK’s productivity performance is poor. Since 2008, we have lagged behind our major competitors. Expectations that our early adoption of digital and its potential benefits, such as automation, would improve productive output have proved misplaced. At an MCA roundtable last year, participants suggested that inadequate retraining of workforces in digital’s potential and the failure to deploy digital investments alongside fundamentally new modes of working, business organisation and design were responsible for the poor productivity return.

We want to explore this and other productivity hypotheses throughout this first campaign. What do British businesses need to do to improve their productivity and how can consulting help them?

We will do this by:

  • Celebrating MCA productivity insights. Member firms will be encouraged to share their observations on productivity in a series of articles and interviews. We are publishing the first of these today. We will also showcase examples of practical interventions and support our member firms have provided to UK enterprises to improve their productivity, including MCA Award-winning projects. If member firms have any insight ‘on the stocks’, project case studies they would like to promote, ideas for articles, or if they would like to be interviewed on the topic for our ‘In the Hot Seat’ series, please contact George Tresnan.
  • Exploring and developing new ideas. We will hold roundtables with our members, as well as sessions with our networks, to extract their best insights on how businesses can improve their productivity and achieve competitive advantage. The first roundtable of these will be on 6 March while our Digital Network will examine disruption and productivity (as well as diversity) on 8 March.
  • Launching a new report. We aim to garner the insights from our member firms to launch a new report on productivity. At our launch event in October, we will unveil our members’ insights and host a senior panel discussion. The target audience for this will be senior business leaders from client organisations. At the launch, those MCA members who have provided compelling productivity insights will be given the opportunity to share them with the business leaders in productivity ‘clinics’.

Why should consultants’ insights on productivity matter? Our member firms help organise businesses for efficiency and growth. They work across all sectors of the economy from the shop floor to the board room. They advise on human resourcing, business structures, and, critically, the effective deployment of digital. No industry is better placed to see what UK enterprises should do to improve their productivity. We will garner, distil and celebrate their insights over the course of this campaign, sharing them with clients and with policymakers.

[For more information on the productivity campaign, or to get involved, contact either George Tresnan or Paul Connolly

To view member firm productivity insights, please click here.