Expert Roundtable: A new pace of working for the consulting industry
Tweet it:' The UK consulting sector was worth £11.3bn in 2019, with a growing rate of 7% per annum although this was expected to fall to 2.5% in 2020 according to the latest research from the MCA.'
The consulting industry’s resilience and adaptability made it well-prepared for the impact of the global pandemic – but there were still some major challenges and changes along the way.
In our recent webinar, we gathered some of the industry’s leading voices to explore what changed for consulting during the pandemic, and what the next few years will look like.
You can still listen to the full conversation on-demand here, but if you’re pressed for time, we’ve captured some abridged highlights from our speakers.
How prepared was the Consulting industry heading into the pandemic?
The UK consulting sector was worth £11.3bn in 2019, with a growing rate of 7% per annum although this was expected to fall to 2.5% in 2020 according to the latest research from the MCA. “I think as an industry we were probably better placed than most to react to the pandemic”, says Ben Griffiths, Head of ICT at Analysys Mason. “Consultants are generally very used to working from anywhere – whether it’s working from home, working on clients’ sites, or working while travelling”.
“At Analysys Mason, we saw very little impact from the lockdown. It actually occurred the day after we launched our final phase of our cloud platform, Deltek Vantagepoint. I think most consulting businesses were pursuing cloud technologies, and those that were far along in their cloud journeys were better placed to react to the pandemic.
We didn’t have a lot of operational challenges, but there were definitely some unexpected cultural changes. For example, we’ve used remote working tools to serve clients for a long time, but the uptake of remote clients went through the roof during the pandemic. Typically, we would have travelled to a client, but the majority have now switched to video calls.
There’s also been a big cultural change around staff wellbeing. We’ve actively launched initiatives to make sure people aren’t feeling isolated, ensuring they still feel part of the wider company”.
Kerry Hancock, Partner at Mott MacDonald also shared positive insights on how the consulting industry stayed united facing the pandemic. At Mott MacDonald “I’ve seen so much more collaboration across different organisations trying to solve clients’ problems – and we need to make sure we keep hold of this going forward”, says Kerry.
Consulting Leaders’ Insights: What Comes Next?
Watch the webinar and find out what industry leaders think is next for the consulting industry
“The pace of change has been really significant”, says Roy Williams Chief Executive Officer at Vendigital. “At Vendigital, there were three key areas we needed to react in: our team, our clients, and our business performance.
For the team, there was the huge challenge of adapting to home working environments that I didn’t think was possible. But like Analysys Mason, we’re investing in the wellbeing of our people, and focusing on how we can work together to continue giving people a real sense of being part of a bigger team.
From a client perspective, we had to adapt at pace, and I’m sure this is common across the industry. We’ve had to adapt and refocus many of the programmes we were working on because our clients’ businesses were changing so fast and new problems were arriving every day.
And finally, from a financial perspective, we did a huge amount of modelling around a multitude of scenarios. And as everything continued to evolve during lockdown, it gave us the confidence to continue investing. During April, May, and June, we even hired new staff into key roles in the business”.
"I’ve seen so much more collaboration across different organisations trying to solve clients’ problems – and we need to make sure we keep hold of this going forward"
Kerry Hancock, Partner at Mott MacDonald
How will the industry recover in 2021?
Kerry Hancock, Partner at Mott MacDonald is confident we’re always going to need consultants, and we’ve shown the value we can add. But she thinks we have a big opportunity to shift the way we work.
“We were talking in our organisation about adopting an agile way of working. We’ll have much more collaboration space, less desks, and less meeting rooms, and we’ll encourage an agile workforce that’s always ready to move onto different projects.
And personally, I think the pandemic has changed our perspectives of businesses and our clients. At the end of the day, we’re here to deliver positive outcomes for clients and the communities we work in, and I want to keep that focus going forwards, at Mott MacDonald”.
Tamzen Isacsson Chief Executive at the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) believes there will be some big changes in how the industry works in the future. “I think the range of consultancy firms that clients can use will be bigger, mainly because you don’t have the restraint of consultants always needing to be onsite.
It’s going to have a positive effect in the way we attract talent too. We’ve all had to be much more flexible during the pandemic, and that flexibility will make consulting a much more attractive industry to work in. Also, it means we’ll have more regional talent pools to draw upon.
And overall, a major focus area for the industry is definitely mental wellbeing. We’re an industry that prides itself on working extremely hard for our clients, but with back-to-back meetings and responses to clients seven days a week, it’s important firms also make sure employees have a good work/life balance. And there have already been huge efforts made by firms across the industry, because as we all know, keeping talent is key in consulting”.
What does a new normal look like in the consulting industry?
Across the webinar panel, everyone agrees the ways of working are changing. Digital working will certainly be part of the new normal, and a lot of organisations are looking to change a couple of key elements.
Nadun Muthukanamara, President at the MCA, says, the first element to change will probably be our support process. Most of us here use some kind of internet portal when we need information or technical help – but true digital and remote working needs an evolution of this network. You need to have a seamless support network that’s much more personable and tailored to your people, without any traditional clunky support structures.
And the second element is around how we make decisions – for our clients, and our business. We’ve all taken a very data-led approach to running our businesses in the pandemic, and I think this kind of data-driven mindset will become part of the new normal”.
Watch the full webinar on-demand
We’ve only covered part of the conversation with the consulting leaders. Watch the full webinar on-demand to get all the insights, including some exclusive results from the latest MCA report on how the consulting industry is adapting post-pandemic.
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