To say that COVID-19 has disrupted business models and ways of doing business in the management consulting industry, would be the understatement of the year! Data from Statista Research Department published in January 2022, indicate that due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the size of the global consulting market plummeted in 2020, from a high in 2019 of 160 billion US dollars to 132 billion US dollars – a whopping decrease of 17.5%.
But it is not just the financial impact of the pandemic that is of consequence, COVID-19 has also highlighted the need for change in other aspects of the consulting profession. Samiha Majumdar and Nusrat Hafiz in an article entitled “Agility of (the) Management Consulting Industry: A Post Covid Analysis”, argued that “the consulting industry is plagued by a stagnant business model ill-suited for today’s innovation-driven digital world. Consulting is labor-intensive, revenue is almost entirely based on billable hours, and most knowledge in the form of tools and templates have become commodities due to SlideShare and other platforms.” They further suggest that remote work, lean budgets, and the need for contingency planning are three big trends impacting the industry.
This article will focus on one aspect of these emerging trends – Remote Work, particularly as it relates to the management consultant. In some ways, independent consultants have been ahead of these trends, many of them with a history of operating either from home or in shared co-working spaces with other professionals, long before the emergence of COVID-19. But working remotely in itself does not guarantee effectiveness or efficiency in business operations. The real test of working remotely is whether it increases productivity, encourages collaboration, and promotes innovation. The evidence during this pandemic is that it has, and research has confirmed that employees are just as effective, often more so, working from home.
One of the keys to success working in a remote environment is directly linked to the adoption and integration of digital and other emerging technologies within business operations. This may pose a potential challenge for the CIMC Caribbean Chapters whose profiles are skewed towards a predominantly mature membership base, and who according to Rogers Diffusion of Innovation Theory tend to be late adopters of technology changes. However, with a positive mindset even the older consultants can overcome this potential hurdle in practice.
At the same time, the Future of Work is being seen as an assignment or series of assignments with a clearly defined beginning and end from both the employer and employee perspective. A job for life is now a thing of the past. Insights published in The Future of Learning Global Report by online social learning platform, FutureLearn.com, highlights how many people now expect a move away from the ‘job for life’ ideal and this has been spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 has also seen a move away from a fixed-cost structure by many companies to reflect a leaner and flatter organizational profile. The ‘brick and mortar’ concept, certainly in the retail and services sectors has proven to be an unsustainable model for many small and medium-sized enterprises. The pursuit of a variable and more flexible cost structure by companies, should prove to be more advantageous for management consultants who, unlike permanent employees, do not add to the burden of fixed long-term costs related to pensions, healthcare and other additional benefits which many companies have to carry.
Whilst the pandemic has created many challenges for companies, it has also opened some new opportunities for independent consultants. If willing to adapt to the emerging technology changes within the industry and open to forging partnerships and collaborations across borders, management consultants can achieve great success in the new global marketplace.
This article was written by Graham Clarke and reprinted with the permission of the Barbados Chapter of the Caribbean Institute of Management Consultants. Graham Clarke is a Chapter VP, published author, and chartered Marketer.