Three areas consultancy firms should be focusing on in 2021 - as told by industry leaders

Posted by Neil Davidson on January 12, 2021

TwitterTweet it:'Companies that invest in their purpose, and employees, agile methods and strong data practices will drive client activity'

Robert Iger Executive Chairman of the Walt Disney Company once said “The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo” And Disney certainly provide an instructive study in reinvention, particularly when it comes to established companies making bold moves towards the future. In fact everywhere we look it seems that reinvention and innovation are what underwrite success. We only have to look at Bryson DeChambeau who has been one of golf’s most intriguing stories to see how threatening the established way of doing things can leave incredible legacies.

Understandably however, most organizations would prefer to transform themselves under more peaceful conditions than the middle of a world-wide pandemic. Yet, many also see this as a turning point, since the tempestuousness we face, is manoeuvring us to show more purpose and reinvent the way we work. Changes across any operating model, be that people, technology or processes can seem daunting. Yet, the organizations that are rising to the occasion are heavily engaged in their corporate purpose and are driving their technology, employees and clients.

Here we focus on three areas that businesses may want to consider in order to prepare for the next- normal, namely; productive data; a network of empowered teams, and agile principles. We also share the thoughts expressed during our Deltek webinar ‘Consulting Leaders’ Insights: What Comes Next?’ Where industry experts from the Management Consultancies Association (MCA), Vendigital, Analysys Mason, and Mott MacDonald shared their perspectives on how the Consulting industry is evolving in light of the current pandemic.

Productive data

Never before has the need for accurate and timely data been greater. Building a data rich technology structure, generating insight into what works, enabling automation and allowing talent to focus on what they do best, is more critical than ever.

Nadun Muthukumarana, President of the MCA, shared his thoughts during the webinar. “How you make decisions, for both industry and clients will require a science led approach to running the business which is data driven. The ‘future of work’ or ‘next normal” he said “started way before the pandemic and as an industry therefore we were much more prepared to work digitally. It is also about people and clients interacting, generational influences and economic issues, and the pandemic has only accelerated these trends”. He shared that businesses “need to give employees an increased focus set of activities with a much more personable and seamless experience”.

Through technology, companies are able to operate efficiently because their employees have clear guidance on where the greatest value for the business resides and how to navigate the implications of this pandemic for their customer relationships, data sharing, and intellectual property. This allows for actionable insight, customer retention, and acquisition and employee productivity, all key advantages in this new paradigm.


Consulting Leader’s Insights

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A network of empowered and productive teams

As well as technological capabilities, what organizations are particularly worried about is how long they can keep their culture together. Of course, there will be challenges for organizations supporting corporate culture and collaboration when employees are working at home. However, now is the time for companies to capitalize on the lessons of this pandemic and empower teams to stay connected, engaged and productive.

In fact many companies have seen employees for the most part, embracing working flexibly, citing greater team agility, improved productivity with no commute. During the webinar Ben Griffiths said “The speed of adoption (moving to a home environment), things were workable that previously we wouldn’t have imagined could be, and over a period of seven to ten days. I think as an industry it was heart-warming to see how that happened, like a ginormous social experiment to a point, disrupting the traditional. And the fact that everyone picked it up and ran with it is something that will continue into the future.”

The whole idea of culture, considering culture is what binds and unifies an organization, must remain at the heart. At Deltek for example, we have tried to set the tone, remove roadblocks for teams, and connect people across our network.

During the webinar, Kerry Hancock, Partner at Mott MacDonald, noted that this pandemic “has been a leveller. I’ve seen so much more collaboration across different organizations, solving different client problems really quickly, it’s something that’s been really positive and we need to keep hold of it moving forward.”

But as Kerry noted “The big challenge is how we look after people and their wellbeing as we could be in and out of lockdowns potentially.” Mott Macdonald have been reaching out to their teams asking what they require most, be it desk yoga, meditation or taking meetings in the park. “They make a difference and we need to carry on doing that” stated Kerry.

This type of support infuses an organization with a common purpose that allows it to respond more quickly to the challenges that this pandemic poses. It highlights the importance of behaviours such as empathy, communication, and clear decision making.


"From a client perspective we were adapting at pace, refocussing many programs. We had to be fast, it happened at pace and it keeps on evolving."

Roy Williams, CEO of Vendigital

Agile principles

For many organizations the pandemic has provided an opportunity and necessity to embrace agile approaches, focussing on the wellbeing of employees and customers, solving problems creatively, increasing employee learning, and making decisions at speed.

For Roy Williams, CEO of Vendigital, agility was critical.  “From a client perspective we were adapting at pace, refocussing many programs. We had to be fast, it happened at pace and it keeps on evolving.” Roy also shared, “there was a huge amount of modelling on all sorts of scenarios, and the benefit of this was we were ready for just about any scenario which gave us the confidence to continue to invest and recruit into key roles, because we knew what we were going to do in every scenario.” By examining priorities and adopting a 360 degree view Vendigital were able to adapt at pace with agile teams working well in remote settings.

Agility in how we adapt, how we change and how we are trying to connect with our clients will be critical to the long-term approaches we take. As Roy Williams pointed out “demand from clients has been long-term, and the onus is on us as consultancies to get them to that phase. So all our thinking is fundamentally long-term.” And in this undetermined future, agility may well be a company’s strongest asset to staying the course.

This agility is having to be embraced by organizations when it comes to accessing talent wherever it is. Nadun Muthukumarana stated, “from evidence, all of us will get into a hybrid model where we will combine working from home with office time.” And Kerry Hancock, Partner at Mott Macdonald, agrees “we can see the advantage of a hybrid model, working with people across the globe on Zoom calls all in the same position, whilst occasionally in the office. A mixed hybrid has a lot of benefits.” This hybrid model will, according to Nadun, be the “acceleration to a better world in the long-term.”The pandemic has in many ways brought about a crisis of confidence for businesses but, this crisis can breed opportunity and innovation. Companies that invest in their purpose, and employees, agile methods and strong data practices will drive client activity. In the world of golf, Dechambeau is known as ‘a scientist with a heart’, he wants to know every bit of data available before each shot because ‘everything about the way he golfs is analytical.’

And it’s going to be essential for us as businesses to strike that balance between being ‘feel-oriented’ and very analytical – that is when we will have real potential to change the way the game is played.


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