The Next Phase in the Evolution of Consulting

Evolution of Consulting Blog

The consulting industry, from independent consulting firms, to boutique, niche firms and global firms, has been booming and is projected to remain strong in the next 5-10 years. As we approach the next phase of consulting amidst many rapid changes in areas such as technology and data collection, we must consider where it has gone to predict where it will go next.

– Arthur D. Little is cited as the founder of Management Consulting

The Beginning

Consulting was born out of the need for organizations to solve complex problems with unique solutions. Rather than applying homogenous solutions extracted from common situations, consulting founder Arthur D. Little recognized the value of innovation and made the decision to ground his organization in the roots of this cause. Thus the first consulting firm emerged.

As industry needs further developed and grew, so did the role and responsibilities of the average consultant. Not only were consultants asked to share their advice on specific subject matters, but many were also encouraged to pursue further education to return with an increased knowledge base that could further enhance their service to the consulting industry. The consulting world earned the brand of professionalism and students from top business schools were recruited to support long-standing consulting firms. 

More recently, the term “consultant” and more specifically “management consultant” has come to refer to professionals providing expert advice to a specific group or business, usually in the form of improving their strategy and/or operations, or overseeing a merger or acquisition. How has this profession and their responsibilities evolved over time? 

Pre-Internet Age

During this phase, experts in certain fields were hired as consultants for their plethora of knowledge on specific topics. The ideal firm would recruit individuals with different subject matter expertise in order to create a powerful army of consultants that could take on a wide range of projects.

Experts in manufacturing, data collection, supply chain and operations were required to manually gather and analyze data in order to come up with recommendations and solutions. Their skill sets were vastly different than a consultant today because of the required attention to detail and manual data analysis.

Modern Age 

In this internet age there are mountains of information readily available at one’s fingertips, and consultants are hired based on their ability to collect the right data and leverage effective analytical tools. Furthermore, all consultants are expected to remain devoted to their assigned projects by following the common practice of the IEIE rule:

Providing the right Information

Showcasing and presenting previous Expertise/Experience

Giving strong Insight based on empirical evidence

Driving consistent Execution

Hands-on subject matter expertise and total knowledge transfer back to the business are two of the most common unmet needs in the consulting industry. Moving forward, consultants will need to address and deliver on these challenges in order to provide the ultimate consulting experience to clients and continue to be competitive in the marketplace.

Industry 4.0

In recent years, consultant skill sets and areas of value-add have dramatically shifted again with the prevalence of AI and machine learning. These technologies often replace the need for manual data collection and analysis. The need for consultants now pertains to the critical analysis of what the data means and how to implement solutions accordingly. The trend is moving towards providing concrete recommendations based on the output from data analysis. Also on the rise, is the technique of leveraging data analytics tools to predict the outcome of the implementation process so that clients clearly understand what direction their firms are headed in.

In the near future, the cohesion between the digital world and the traditional corporate structure will require further development. With the integration of AI, firms may possibly need to change how they gather data, make decisions and interact with clients and stakeholders.

Future and Beyond 

So now what? Consulting continues to be a booming profession with an increasing number of young and mature professionals looking to tap into this industry; increasing numbers of consulting companies entering the market; and organizations eagerly searching for consultants to improve or fix their business. For these growing consulting firms, there are many questions to consider moving forward:

  • Should they avoid taking risks and suggest solutions extracted from their previous client experiences?
  • Should they move forward with the same mentality of innovation, critical thinking and optimism that created this field in the first place?
  • Do you broaden and diversify your offerings or specialize in a niche area?
  • How can they adapt to these market trends and differentiate themselves or their business to remain competitive in a saturated industry?
  • What will be the next revolutionary phase and how do they get ahead of it?

At the end of the day, it’s all up to the firms and the vision they’ve set out for their businesses. It is worth mentioning that the key to many complex problems requires keeping an open mind, and a willingness to adapt to unforeseen changes. The values engrained at TPG drive this mentality. Namely, our ideals of learning and excellence benefit other organizations as they power us to keep on top of the latest technologies and best practices. Moving forward, we will continue to champion these ideals which will consequently allow us to engage in partnerships that further our cause and result in long-lasting clients.

TPG’s approach and mission is closely aligned with Arthur D. Little’s original intention of consulting by fostering the value of innovation through the provision of custom solutions. We are excited to continue to evolve our consulting practice with the changes in the field and will continue to eagerly approach projects with state-of-the-art solutions. Contact us to see how we can help you!