Nadun Muthukumarana, Head of Industry Consulting at CSC, talks about the changing face of consultancy and gives advice to someone just starting out in the consulting industry.
How did you become a consultant?
After graduating, I joined an e-commerce start-up company during the dotcom boom when there were a lot of entrepreneurs challenging IT norms, doing new and exciting things. These start-ups were creating new and innovative solutions that could change businesses and people’s lives for the better. The success of a start-up depends on the value it delivers to its clients, building a motivated team and effective management of finances – all of which gives you a good basis for running a successful business. I think this experience gave me a good head start in my consulting career.
What do you think has changed in the time you’ve been a consultant?
The face of IT has changed significantly over the last 20 years. It has changed from being a back-office function understood by a few, to become a key asset, essential to a company’s ability to differentiate and succeed. Companies are using technology to implement new services and business models, and IT departments are now viewed as partners to drive business growth. But businesses are also demanding greater agility to be able to launch new products and services to market quickly, and are looking to drive up margins through greater efficiency. The role of a consultant is to help customers to achieve these goals, and we have had to evolve the services and solutions that we offer to reflect the changing business challenges and technology enablers of the time.
Young people joining the consulting industry are also driving a big change. Having grown up with smart phones and social media, they are quick to adopt social collaboration tools in the workplace and easily accommodate flexible and mobile working. As ever, they are driven by the opportunity to work with a variety of organisations and gain experience of different industries. Most young consultants I meet are focused and knowledgeable about what they want to do and why they are doing it.
As public sector organisations are trying to do more with less is outsourcing one of the routes?
Outsourcing and the introduction of shared services is a common theme in the public sector, and the current drive to implement collective sourcing, like the G-Cloud Framework, will make this easier. But this will only help so much with the efficiency agenda. Sustainable business change is achieved by enabling real business process change. IT can enable and accelerate business change, but linking business with IT is difficult. This is what consultants bring to the table.
I have also seen an increase in collaboration between government and the third sector. An example is the Future for Youth Foundation which CSC has been supporting. This is an organisation tasked with finding a way to transform the prospects of Britain's underprivileged youth.
What do you think the next twelve months holds for you? What’s the big challenge on the horizon?
The Leading Edge Forum, CSC’s global research and advisory programme, observes a steady shift from traditional inside-out approaches, where IT usage is largely defined by internal company systems, to an outside-in orientation that is much more market-centric and driven by external forces.
This change is being driven by a number of business and technology trends. A new generation of consumers is increasingly using social tools such as forums and customer review sites to guide purchases. The wide-spread use of tablets and smart phones is driving a consumer demand for services to be provided through mobile applications, and an expectation for more flexible working options from employees. Technical advances such as Cloud Computing and Big Data give companies new tools and allow them to be far more agile.
These changes will have a significant impact on the capabilities and skill sets that organisations require. Firms like CSC are ready to help companies to adapt and I’m really excited about helping my customers with this journey over the coming year.
What would your advice be for someone just starting out in the consulting industry?
Join the industry because you want to change the way corporations work for the better. Not because you just want a job. Be a sponge for the next two years; open your eyes; don’t be afraid to challenge the norm; don’t be afraid to ask questions that you might think sound stupid.
Do anything that will give you experience. There are various stages where you have to make decisions about your career but on day one, and year one, it’s about getting as much experience as you can.
You have to enjoy it as well, it should be what gets you out of bed in the morning. If you love what you are doing, and get the experience, the rest will all fall in to place.