Disruptive advice

shorter supply chains

Just as many other industries are changing, so too is the consulting sector. The economic upturn means that business is improving for most consultancy firms. At accountancy and consultancy company PwC, the consultants are making a bigger contribution to profit than the accountants for the first time in years. But a clear turning point can also be seen. “I think that the revenue model of traditional consultants is on the way out, especially in northwestern Europe. 80 to 90 percent of the business comes from managing old and declining industries: telecom, banking, oil companies,” says Tom Voskes – a former McKinsey employee who, with his new consultancy firm Sparkoptimus, is specialised in digital disruption – in a financial newspaper.

The ‘Big Four’ (Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and EY) are being forced to go in search of new customers because mergers, acquisitions and disruptive newcomers such as Uber mean that many of their current Fortune 500 clients will no longer exist in ten years’ time. Therefore, young consultants from EY are spending one day per week working in start-up hotspots, offering their services on a subscription basis. This is also a way of contributing to talent development. The current digital revolution is even causing management consultancy firm McKinsey to recruit a different kind of person: mainly data analysts who do not work under the rigid ‘up or out’ policy but instead follow a ‘grow or go’ model. According to A.T. Kearney, the digital revolution offers huge opportunities for management consultants and their business model is difficult to imitate. However, disruption is not a matter of imitation but rather replacement.

Nowadays, advice no longer comes solely from consultancy firms but also from interim professionals, many of whom no longer merely fill a vacancy until someone else comes along. This has created the need for a cheaper and more efficient way of finding interim professionals. The Berlin-based company Comatch has 600 freelance consultants and is currently working on 60 projects in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, plus it recently opened an office in Amsterdam. Incidentally, company founder Christoph Hardt has a doctorate in supply chain management. Furthermore, the Dutch start-up Interim Forest was launched recently with the intention of becoming the Uber of the interim market. So it seems that the world of consultancy is now facing disruption. If these new players are successful, the clients will be the ones who benefit.

Martijn Lofvers
Creating Director & Chief Trendwatcher