The consulting industry has had some interesting developments within the past year.
In analyzing events that have recently occurred, some trends are apparent. Below is an examination of some key consulting trends that 2017 may bring.
The Evolving Image of the Consulting Firm and Consultant
The definitions of a “consulting firm” and a “consultant” are changing along with client demands and workforce preferences. Some firms are even dropping the words “consulting” and “services” from their company names. Examples of such rebranding include Huron Consulting changing its name to Huron and Verve Professional Services, Inc. changing its name to just VERVE and PT&C|LWG Forensic Consulting changing its name to Envista Forensics. Of the varying reasons given for these rebranding initiatives, the common theme appears to be that the firms’ services had expanded and the term “consulting” no longer captured the entirety of their offerings.
These various rebranding efforts may explain why even the Brandcap publication wrote about how the line between consulting firms and creative agencies are blurring. Consulting firms are not only trying to increase their skills in digital and design services, but they are now launching entire creative/digital divisions or outright acquiring digital agencies. The pressure to become “an everything agency” in being felt by small and large consulting firms alike.
Even the staid image of the serious business-suited consultant is changing. A multitude of consultancies are easing their rules about business attire, for instance. PwC even now allows employees to wear jeans as long as the consultant is not meeting with clients on a given day. A smaller consulting firm, the Lion’esque Group, allows employees to wear athletic wear and claims it helps with productivity.
An Uptick in Hiring Consultants
One especially welcome trend may be the increase in the hiring of consultants within 2016. The hiring restrictions of the recession era are easing, as evidenced by a survey of 23 consultancies by Prism. All of the consulting firms surveyed stated that they would be increasing their hiring in 2017. A focus on hiring and retaining women and Millennials were particularly of interest within the group. Brand awareness of a consultancy seems to be a key feature of attracting high quality talent. Compensation packages are likewise increasing in order to find the most qualified candidates, according to Management Consulted.
The Demand for Multi-services Firms and Multi-talented Consultants
Although precise niches of skills are always likely to be of interest to consulting firms that are recruiting new hires, recent trends show that firms are looking for more holistic skills among their recruits. Consulting executives are looking for future employees that have well rounded skill sets. Comments from hiring managers at the big consulting firms reflect this desire. In an interview in CoinDesk, a representative from PwC stated that seeking “cross-domain talent,” whereby prospective employees have both technical knowledge as well as generalist business acumen was a particular focus for their recruiting goals.
Consulting firms are also touting their expansive offerings by providing cloud based solutions that offer access to numerous services through a single platform. Examples include the launching of Deloitte’s ExaLink, which is a multi-service platform for life sciences firms and IBM’s Watson IoT consulting service which provides convenient access to multiple services like security and analytics.
The Proliferation of Consulting Firm Innovation Hubs
Numerous consulting firms have been launching innovation hubs throughout the world. Examples include Accenture opening its digital innovation hub in Chicago in October, 2016. Other launched hubs include the Liquid studio in Milan and the Accenture Delivery Center. Deloitte’s Blockchain Lab is another example of an innovation hub.
These hubs can house an array of activities such as proof of concept research, rapid prototyping or aid in the acceleration of product launches. The facilities are designed to foster cutting edge research and development in order to help clients discover and test the latest services and products.
The Gig Economy Continues Its Expansion into the Consulting Industry
The freelance based consulting model is continuing to grow. Some such consultant marketplaces just launched within the last year include SkillQuo, Pakar.io, 2PS and expertDB. These services allow freelance consultants to obtain work via online portals that connect them with interested clients. Although critiques have been written about the commoditization of consulting, some of the newest freelance based startups are claiming to focus on quality. For instance, according to an interview with the co-founder, Arathi Narasimhan, SkillQuo aims to hire highly skilled former employees of such firms as McKinsey and Deloitte in order to offer well-paid projects with a flexible schedule.
Even established firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers are becoming involved in the freelance consulting space. With the launch of PwC Talent Exchange in 2016, the company has forayed into the gig economy. This platform allows freelance experts to post their resumes in order to be considered for projects with PwC clients.
What 2017 May Bring to the Consulting Industry
The role of the consultant and consulting firm are changing, driven by clients, employees and technology. It should be interesting to see what new service delivery platforms and skill sets 2017 brings to the consulting industry. The expansion of what defines a consulting firm or a consultant may indeed be boundless.
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