July 20, 2024

Advancing Business Journey

Empowering Business Excellence

CEOs Explain How AI Will Super Charge Independent Management Consulting

7 min read

The world is anxiously and enthusiastically learning how AI will change the world. Just as Andreessen Horowitz famously announced that “Software will eat the world,” an expanded chorus assures us that AI is an instrument of transformation, disruption, and reinvention. Just a few of the many services areas identified for disruption are healthcare, security and defense, manufacturing, journalism, the arts, asset management, and transportation.

Professional services will be impacted in large and small ways. independent management consulting is certainly among the industries where AI is changing the nature of work, how the work is done, and who does it. A recent article in Inc magazine notes that, “One industry that is particularly vulnerable to AI disruption is the business consulting industry … the consulting industry is huge, and it’s based on an old business model that’s ripe for change. Business consultants who provide expert advice on strategy development and process improvements sit squarely in the crosshairs of disruption.” Another recent article, from MIT Sloan Management Review, is as blunt, entitled: “Management consulting’s AI powered existential crisis.”

To better explain how independent management consulting will be impacted, leaders of consulting marketplaces and related professional services around the world were invited to share their perspective our query:

“How do you see the near term impact of AI on independent management consulting? What do you anticipate in terms of client growth, client mix, projects, and implications for consultant skills and fees?”

Here’s what they said:

Pat Petitti, CEO Catalant Technologies (US) “AI is an equalizer when it comes to independent consultants. When consultants leave large firms to go independent, as we’ve seen more and more senior consultants do, they lose access to the support that helped them operate efficiently. AI will replace much of that support – market research data, presentation and delivery tools and templates, analytic help – effectively offering independent consultants the tools that enable them to deliver at the level, and with the power, of a larger firm.”

Leslie Garçon, CEO Weem (France) “Many projects imply data synthesis, data crunching and formalization. AI is already very performant in those fields but must be checked for coherence and models need to be refined. Management Consultants able to leverage AI while maintaining high quality in their results have a competitive advantage. Data based projects will evolve but human expertise will still be needed. People skills are another important part of projects and for consultants, the ability to lead change within organizations will be more and more critical and irreplaceable.”

Nick Patterson, CEO Movemeon (UK) “AI levels the playing field for independent consultants, who will be able to leverage the potential of AI with more agility than traditional consulting firms. We expect AI to further the growth of independent strategy consulting, and reduce the price premium currently paid to traditional consultancies, while enabling independent consultants to increase their fees.”

Nikolas Schmidt, Klaiton (Austria) “We see enormous potential: Generating documents, presentations, data collection will be eased. Therefore, provisioning of data and reports will become a commodity that cannot be equaled to consultant day work anymore. Client demands will also change. Our best guess is that consultants’ work will be more people based, more implementation focused, and more guiding teams to do conceptual / analytic work. A few consultants have been successful in pricing the projects by impact (revenue, margin) vs time spent but we believe that this story has just been started.”

Vikram Ashok, CEO Graphite (US) “AI-powered on-demand talent platforms will deliver sophisticated filtering and matching tools that go beyond traditional CV-based evaluations to enable seamless access to high-performing consultants. Forward-thinking consultants will employ AI to improve or automate a wide variety of administrative tasks and streamline delivery of services. Consultants can leverage AI to build a strategic differentiator and ultimately drive more revenue, doing more with less.”

Abeer Qumsieh, CEO Khibraty (Jordan) “As AI reshapes independent consulting, perpetual learning becomes non-negotiable. AI tools will enable, orchestrate, and encourage a far greater global symphony of collaboration, enriching partnering individuals and marketplaces in knowledge, expertise, and boundless prospects. As AI’s prominence ascends, so does the call for ethical stewardship.”

Arnaud Souriseau, CEO, OMS (France) “With increasing computational power, the tech landscape could redefine the ties between sectors. The focus will now be on AI’s adoption, use, and valorization. We’ll see greater differences between markets and industries where digital advancements are embraced versus where they are ignored. The potential for transformation will boost the demand for independent consultancy, but traditional consulting will need an in-depth understanding of AI technology to compete.”

Juan Francisco Mejía Betancourt CEO, Wokiconsulting (Spain) “Consultant research and data collection will benefit from AI. What used to require a team can be done more easily. In Spain we can be more competitive on price and reach out to more complex and larger sectors like the financial sector. An independent consultant has greater capacity to work with more clients, optimize and integrate teams. We are already implementing this tool to optimize our search and selection of the best profiles for type of clients.”

Charly Gaillard, CEO Beager (France) “Like in many other industries, AI will have a massive impact on consulting. AI jobs and assignments will grow fast and consultants with abilities in this field will be more in demand. The way platforms operate will be deeply impacted, enabling quicker and safer candidate sourcing. But we believe it should not be fully automated as it needs human assessment, mainly in candidates’ soft skill checks against enterprises’ cultures and contexts.”

Jan Schächtele, Managing Director Comatch – A Malt Company (Germany) “We’re already witnessing the impact of AI. A major German reseller recently built its own AI tool in one month to use a language model that is privacy compliant. Siemens and McKinsey have also launched their own tools. The complexity and urgency of AI applications naturally demands expertise, and the competition is severe. Many companies are turning to independent consultants.”

Joeri Schouten, Co-CEO Sweav (The Netherlands) “We believe AI will assist independent management consultants by gaining leverage on their time. Because of generative AI, many junior analysts tasks can be outsourced to the AI, leaving more time for independent consultants to allocate to greater value adding activities like solving complex problems, developing more creative solutions, and managing senior stakeholders.”

David Küpper, Co-CEO, Expert Powerhouse (Germany) “We see three areas where AI assists independent consultants: (1) Service delivery: at Expert Powerhouse, we developed our own technology based on AI / ML years ago, speeding up the matching process and delivering better results for clients; (2) Efficiency: consultants will use AI to develop high quality output in less time; and (3) Client application: Many clients will require support in bringing AI into their daily operations and drive additional demand.”

Rachel Renock, CEO | Wethos (US) “AI is both a tool and a channel that can become a specialization for independent consultants. On Wethos, we’re seeing more consultants selling a range of AI services, from AI strategy projects to developing processes that leverage new technology to create efficiencies.”

Alex Fretti, Co-CEO, Malt (France) “Today, AI makes staffing an independent consultant easier, faster, and less expensive. LLMs (Large Language Models) translate a project into a set of competencies and finds the right consultant profile faster and with less bias. Tomorrow, AI will enable automated and targeted screening of skills and expertise. AI won’t replace independent consultants. Instead, it will enable skilled consultants to do more with less, focus on larger, more complex projects, and deliver higher-level strategic work. But AI cannot replace the human touch. Independent consultants with strong soft skills – communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving – will be in particularly high demand.”

Dorothy Mead, COO Talmix (UK) “Over 10% of our current network, and 17% of new consultants in our network, have AI experience. AI is giving our consultants the ability to do more themselves vs third party support. We already provide our platform talent with an AI assistant, assisting with services like research, company profiling, presentation production and translation. This will continue. How AI will directly impact top line business is harder to predict than efficiency gains, but we’re positioned to offer AI as an additional service area by our marketplace.”

Doug Hanson, CEO Topcoder (US) “The heart of our innovation lies within our passionate freelancer community. While GenAI is redefining efficiency, the true spark comes from merging this technology with the creative genius of our freelancers. Our vision is a collaborative space where GenAI and human talent complement each other, not compete. We believe this harmonious blend will unlock diverse projects and challenges, heralding a new era of growth and expansive opportunities for our freelance community.”

Let’s give the final comment to OpenAI’s ChatGPT: “While AI offers numerous benefits to the consulting industry, it’s important to note that it won’t replace human consultants entirely. The human touch, critical thinking, creativity, and complex problem-solving skills that consultants bring to the table remain essential for interpreting AI-generated insights, building client relationships, and making strategic decisions. The successful integration of AI into consulting will likely involve a symbiotic relationship between AI tools and human expertise.” Well said, ChatGPT.

Viva la Revolution(s)!


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