Updated: May 19, 2021
The largest, most successful organizations in the world often employ consultants to help guide the future of their organization toward greater success. Although there are several facets in consulting, strategic consulting focuses on just that, the strategy the organization is going to employ to attain its organizational goals. Strategy consultants must take into consideration not just what the organizational leaders believe is what they want, and how to get there, but utilize their wealth of experience and knowledge to guide leaders in ways they had not previously considered. It is the role of the strategist to have a keen eye for the factors which are not so obvious but may have a large impact on success. There are common trends occurring in the market due to technology, the ever-growing utilization of the internet, globalization and more. Those same trends account for many of the challenges facing the industry in this new decade as well. More competition, more access to consultants and firms means an impact for price of services and although that is challenging as a consultant, it also means that consumers have access to the best skills at a lower cost.
Consulting is a broad term which generally applies to using background, experience, education, creativity or anything one possesses that can be applied and used to assist another individual, or organization, toward betterment. There are several facets of consulting, each their own specialty, which may take a lifetime to master. Although many firms offer services in more than one specialty. Understanding and application of the components of these facets of consulting are intricate and challenging but can be immensely rewarding for both the consultant and the client. Business strategy separates companies in the same markets, sometimes even with the same products, and can ultimately determine success or failure
Strategy consulting requires good base knowledge of how businesses and markets function, but also the willingness to research consistently as trends and opinions change. A business strategy consultant may be working with an individual on planning for their very first sole proprietor business, or they may be working on an international level with top global corporation, and anywhere in-between. A business strategy consultant essentially aids business owners, or leaders, with understanding their business both internally and externally, planning for future scenarios, opportunities, and ideally, they will create an adaptive strategy to adjust to the current market. Many utilize the common SWOT analysis to lay strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats out plainly for leaders to see and discuss. Although seemingly simple, these categories can provide abundant strategic market pathways. However the strategist chooses to disseminate information in the end the client and consultant should be better for it, have grown and learned from the experience as a whole.
The global strategy consulting market accounted to US$43.07 Bn in 2017 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.9% during the forecast period 2018 - 2025, to account to US$91.38 Bn by 2025 . Some the trends seen in 2019 and expected to continue include changing service models, heightened competition, changing process, price competition, and unending need for new skills & innovation. Service models are being redeveloped to accommodate the preferred method of locating consulting work. Of course, there will always be word of mouth among the elite organizational leaders of the world, and similarly for smaller organizations too, however anyone can Google and hire a consultant online now. Some organizations may take it very seriously and research well accordingly, but other may just click on the first organization that comes up. All these changes in the patterns of consumer behavior must be accounted for in the models organizations use to glean new work.
Depending on the poll the leaders may take slightly different rank but these top three consistently appear in the top three. A poll done by vault Rankings indicated the best consulting firms for strategy consulting, although it offered other forms of consulting too, in 2020 is McKinsey and Company with 79% of the votes (2019). This privately owned firm is considered the most prestigious organization in strategic consulting. Position number 2 for the Vault Consulting 50 goes to Boston Consulting Group which is one of America’s largest private companies with 90 offices in 50 countries . Finally, the third company on the list is Bain and Company which had 10500 employees and has worked with two-thirds of the Global 500 and private equity funds representing 75 percent of global equity capital (Vault, 2019). While all these firms are considered the best of the best, they are most like the most expensive, too. There is something to be said for a smaller firm which may be less well known but similarly diligent in providing excellent services. Consulting can be rigid looking at numbers and quantifiable data, many large corporations do the same, however there is a huge range of variables which fall in the realm of the qualitative that cannot be ignored like culture, for example.
As with any industry, strategy consulting faces challenges. Hinge is an organization that offers branding and marketing for professional services but also gathers data on their clients in an easy to understand way. The main concern mentioned but nearly 40 percent of firms was the increased competition (Frederickson, 2018). This not only makes it harder to get clients but impacts the price of services, driving them down and competition increases. The downward price pressure on services was mentioned but 36 percent of Hinge’s respondents and is related to, according to the sample, increasing competition, globalization, commoditization, and automation. Another important factor to consider is how buyers are purchasing services which is almost surely being impacted using online search, social media, and other nontraditional channels in order to locate consulting firms (Frederickson, 2018).
Consulting originally relied on interpersonal contact but is very rapidly evolving into something quite different due to the internet. With few barriers to entry in the market, any organization or individual can try their hand at consulting. Frederickson (2018) describes the internet as a place where firms are doing battle and buyers are selecting the winners.
The need for new skills was noted by 35 percent of Hinge respondents and as with technology and techniques constantly evolving, there is an intense pressure to remain up to speed with the consistent changes, especially with so much competition. New skills occur quite simply by training the employees the organization already has or bringing in employees who already have the skills the company needs. Finding the best consultants for the firm is a key challenge.
When employed at a high level, business strategy can make or break organizational success. The leaders making the decisions which may change the future of the company often times employ consultants in strategic management since they can fully commit themselves to the task at hand while organizational leadership persists in the day to day. The landscape of strategic consulting is becoming increasingly competitive with the changes in technology, globalization, and more, however those same things bring access to the best and brightest minds in the world.
Keywords: Strategy, Consulting, Leaders in Strategy Consulting, Trends for 2020
Frederick, A. (2016). America's best consulting firms for strategic management: An infographic. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2016/04/21/americas-best-consulting-firms-for-strategic-management-an-infographic/#a3c4698138b5