How are consulting firms staying relevant in a time of rapid technology change?

By Hector McKirdy, Principal 

Traditionally the consulting sector has worked closely with the industrial sector and provided the ‘on demand’ expertise, filling the knowledge gap for industrial firms that see value in strategically buying in relevant support for highly complex transformations on a project-by-project basis. The industrial sector, like any other, is now facing strategic decision-making challenges around security, safety, efficiency and the long-term value of the technology that they choose to engage with and adopt. The industrial sector is currently seeking outside input from their consulting relationships to support those decisions. As the focus shifts on the expertise required from the consulting sector, so the focus of the consulting giants shifts too.

The problem solvers working at the cutting edge, consulting firms are at the forefront of Industry 4.0 and the 5G rollout across the industrial sector. Industry 4.0, broadly described as the digitalisation and automation of the industrial process, requires availability of information and data in real time by interconnecting all the actions involved in a process. In the context of industrial, this means that both the vertical and the horizontal value chains can become integrated with the connection of people, machines and systems creating real-time value-added connections within and across companies in a massive shift to industry wide digitisation. Connectivity is key for industrial firms to advance their technology and keep pace with the competition. Product design and development in the sector is influenced by the speed at which data can be transferred, and the long-awaited arrival of 5G also supports this innovation.

Where M&A growth might not traditionally be the route for intelligence and talent acquisition in the consultancy sector, we have seen an increased amount of this activity as the sector invests heavily in their own digital footprint, to keep pace with both emerging technologies but also their own competition. Seen in industrial as the key to business success and closely aligned to Industry 4.0 and 5G, data analytics are the key to gaining critical insight for consultancy firms to deliver on business transformations. Acquisition offers a faster route to strengthen capabilities in data with Bain & Co, Accenture and Kearney making significant global acquisitions.

Supporting industrial firms to innovate and improve their internal processes, become more productive and embed long term sustainability solutions are all key to the current consulting operating model. Significantly scaling their own deep knowledge and capabilities strengthens their position and allows scope for continued relationships with clients. By shifting focus and adding longer term solutions at their core they can sustain ongoing value to clients after the immediate impact of a digital transformation, thereby creating additional income streams.


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