Digital age makes creativity and delivery key for consultants

14 May 2019 Consultancy.eu

The management consulting industry is like many other sectors in professional services; it is undergoing rapid digital change, and according to some it is ripe for disruption. Consultancy.eu sat down with Trofim Eremenko – Managing Partner of Belarus-based VINT Consult – to explore one of the larger trends sweeping through the industry: the risk of technology displacing consulting activities.

A number of large challenges to the consulting industry have emerged at speed, in recent years. The rise of increasingly well-organised independent consultants is placing pressure on the fees of established consultancies, while client expectations have morphed accordingly. Businesses will no longer settle for strategic reports; now they want speed, tangible results, and fairer pricing based on value delivered by consultants.

This is only the tip of the iceberg though, thanks to the definitive risk which underwrites all of the above: the rise of digital technology. The booming digital transformation scene is lifting consulting revenues to record levels – but that does not mean it does not present the consulting sector with headwinds of its own, particularly in regards to the business model of firms. Tech giants are leveraging artificial intelligence to automate consulting insights, and it is something that some believe will lead to the end of external consulting as we know it.Digital age makes creativity and delivery key for consultantsAccording to Trofim Eremenko, this threat follows in the slipstream of a wider trend seen across sectors. He explained; “The development of new technologies simplifies and accelerates many processes, and with them makes our life more comfortable, reduces the time, money and effort. Many professions will lose their relevance very soon.”

Eremenko is the founder of VINT Consult, a multifaceted firm headquartered in Belarus’ capital of Minsk. According to the consultancy’s managing partner, the impact of technology on jobs has been a point of major discussion for years now, with some positive and some negative outcomes. Despite this paradox, though, Eremenko asserted it is quite clear that across the board, “blockchain, artificial intelligence and cloud technologies will replace the jobs of many specialists.” What will remain are jobs in the premium space – those that add value on top of what the machines can do for businesses and society.

Take process management as an example. “Organisations can now use all kinds of software and process mining techniques to gain insights into their business processes. Traditionally this has been work that was largely performed by consultants,” Eremenko explained. “Or financial management activities: support activities such as developing financial models, optimising financial processes and in control tasks are rapidly being automated by client organisations, leaving less room for consultants in this field.”

However, consultants have been quick to adapt. Those that have tapped into the trend are successfully leveraging technology to upscale the support they deliver. As a result, Eremenko said that they are focusing more on providing professional knowledge and experience as an add-on to a technology backbone. By translating automated information into valuable insights into actions, consultants can still drive business value.

‘Creatoring’

Even then though, this field is not safe from disruption, due to the rapid spread of easily accessible information via the internet. Consultants traditionally made their bread and butter from the expert knowledge they brought to the table. Before this era, consultants were the sole owner of specific knowledge and best practices. But now, Eremenko argues, any information can be found on the internet. This, combined with the large number of consulting alumni in corporate environments that have gone through the consulting school, means that firms are facing an uphill struggle when it comes to proving their worth. In today’s digital age, remaining innovative and creative at the front of the consulting value chain is the chief opportunity for remaining competitive.

“In today’s digital age, remaining innovative and creative at the front of the consulting value chain is the chief opportunity for remaining competitive.”

Eremenko elaborates; “Helping clients create business ideas at a strategic level [choosing new directions of business, business positioning , growth and go-to-market strategies, organisation design] will always remain relevant – such ideas can be unique and require profound human thinking to be relevant.”

He continued; “At VINT Consult, we call this kind of high-level intellectual problem solving with the burden of decision making on the consultant ‘creatoring’. This is a premium creative service, where consultants have the potential to add major value.”

Being effective in this space requires a skill-set including a critical and analytical mind, a high level of intelligence, stress tolerance, quick response to events, and being able to see the bigger picture. Yet being creative is an empty shell if this is not combined with delivery. Clients demand concrete value, and if consultants cannot demonstrate the delivery of this, businesses can turn to rivals in the blink of an eye. The key is that consultants do not just develop the capabilities for execution, but groom skills that are vital for delivery, including building client relationships, attention to both hard and soft factors of change, and bringing a tailored approach.

Eremenko concluded; “Unfortunately, today, many consultants tackle engagements with long thought out approaches and templates. Sometimes this is justified, since the formula has tested itself more than once in practice. But often the template does not allow the use of the full potential of the situation… Creatoring and engagement delivery will in the future remain as the only necessary fundaments of consulting services.”


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