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Digital transformation in consulting: How A.I., Big Data & Co. will change the consulting profession

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In the age of Industry 4.0, the need for consulting is enormous. More than ever, management and executives of all sizes need support in implementing technical innovations: Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and Big Data are focal points that are currently in particularly high demand in consulting. This is also why the consulting industry is benefiting from the digitization trend and has seen strong growth in revenue and personnel in recent years.

But although digital transformation has become an integral part of consulting topics in consulting, the actual consulting work has hardly changed in recent years – not yet. But what will your consulting profession look like in the future after digitization? How does the digital transformation affect consulting processes, consultant profiles and recruiting? In which areas are consultants irreplaceable despite artificial intelligence? This and more we reveal to you in the following article!


What will change for you as a consultant after the digital transformation?

>> Digitization of consulting processes

>> Big Data: data acquisition and analysis

>> Digitization of consultant knowledge

➥ Infographic: Digital transformation in consulting [PDF]

What remains for the consultant?

>> Will artificial intelligence replace the advisor in the future?

>> Consultant profile after digital transformation

Digital and effective recruiting in consulting

A whole new world of consulting awaits us in the future

What will change for you as a consultant after the digital transformation?

Digitalization will transform the entire consulting industry. If we look at your day-to-day work as a consultant, you will mainly be affected by the development of consulting processes and the digitalization of your consulting knowledge.

Digitization of consulting processes

The more consulting processes are digitized, the more your job as a consultant will change. Although the technical prerequisites for this are already largely in place, little has changed so far. It is only a matter of time until processes in consulting run much more efficiently with the help of apps, integrated cloud solutions, software, and automated programs, until they are perhaps even completely replaced by digitalized solutions. Examples are:

Process Digitized solution
Customer acquisition Matching portals incl. Valuation function and virtual auction mechanism for fees
Addressing the clients Contemporary CRM systems
Composition of the consulting teams Automated systems with integrated skill assessment
Data acquisition and analysis* Big Data Software
Information exchange Knowledge pools of management consultancies (incl. information on clients) with search function
Forecasts Automated forecasting software
Time tracking & invoicing Smartphone apps with automated interface to invoicing workflow
Travel booking and payment of travel expenses Automated processes in smartphone apps
On-site visits to the customer “Remote consulting” with video conferencing and chat tools
Trainings Digital online training

*Big Data: Data acquisition and analysis.

The topic of Big Data is one of the most important, if not the most important, influencing factor of digital transformation. This applies to every industry and, of course, also to management consulting, where obtaining and analyzing data is an essential part of the service.

Right now, companies are concerned with being able to use the huge amounts of data they have. Therefore, they are looking for consulting Data Scientists and experts for the implementation of analytical softwares. This is currently in particular demand for the topics Industry 4.0, Internet of Things, e-commerce and digital marketing.

However, once these softwares are in place, data analysis will be automated: Artificial intelligence will quickly visualize the data to find outliers, trends or patterns. This means that a previously important area of your job as a consultant will be eliminated. You will no longer be responsible for data sourcing and analysis.

Digitization of consultant knowledge

Another feature of the digital transformation is the so-called “knowledge revolution” or democratization of knowledge: Knowledge, your original main resource as a consultant, is becoming increasingly accessible to everyone through the Internet – including your clients. They become more adept at assessing which (sub)assignments they need to outsource and which consultancies or even (freelance) consultants are best suited for each.

This development will play a major role in reducing the need for traditional consulting services. There will be less and less demand for large-scale, process-oriented topics with manageable complexity or few interactions with other areas of the company. Instead, the demand for consulting in specific niche topics is increasing. This will revolutionize the consulting industry in the long term.

In the future, it could go so far that there will be a fully integrated web solution for management consulting: a kind of online store for digital consulting services, where you can put together your own consulting offers and add them to your shopping cart. In the near future, however, the following developments will occur first:

  • Consultants will charge by value of service and not on an hourly or daily basis.
  • Modular providers of consulting services that specialize in a particular link in the value chain are in greater demand.
  • The demand for freelance consultants with certain expertise will increase.
  • Instead of hiring more consultants on a permanent basis, the expertise is bought in.

Infographic: Digital Transformation in Consulting [PDF]

Digital Transformation Consulting 4.0 Digitalization Infographic consultingheads blog consultingheadlines

What remains for the consultant?

Through all these developments that digital transformation will bring, your tasks as a consultant will run more efficiently and some will even be completely eliminated. But is it possible to replace you with artificial intelligence in the long run? Could the digital revolution also make management consulting, which has so far earned very well from the digitization trend, superfluous at some point?

Will artificial intelligence replace the advisor in the future?

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Let’s take a step-by-step look at digitization in consulting. In an article worth reading, the authors Greff, Werth and Scheer divide these into four development stages or characteristics (from Consulting 4.0 – Die Digitalisierung der Unternehmensberatung):

  1. Computer assisted counseling: general software tools are used to support individual tasks (e.g. Excel and PowerPoint).
  2. Computer-aided consulting: Software tools are developed specifically for the consulting industry to provide specific support for individual tasks.
  3. Computerized consulting: Not only tasks are supported, but the process of providing consulting as a whole.
  4. Computer-provided consulting: The consultant is completely substituted by a software system.

We are therefore in the second stage (we have long since implemented stage one). After all, who can imagine a consultant without Excel or PowerPoint? 😉 ). Currently, consulting processes and routine tasks, such as data procurement and analysis, are being accelerated through digitization and the use of A.I..

After this step, we may be slowly heading toward the third stage, computerized consulting. But complex management decisions that require a high degree of creativity and strategic thinking will remain part of consulting for a very long time – they are merely supported by software.

Stage 4: Computer provided advice?

Will this be followed by entirely computer-provided consulting, in which the consultant will at some point be completely replaced by software? We say: No, artificial intelligence cannot completely replace you as a consultant.

Where personal, empathetic interactions with the organization are necessary, you will continue to be needed. This is particularly the case, for example, with large change programs. Here, personal contact is particularly important in order to support board members, managers and employees during changes. So one thing remains with you: communication.

New tasks: Development of products and business models

But beyond that, digitization offers you a whole range of new opportunities to develop and apply your skills. It gives you the most precious consulting good: time. This is also necessary, because the knowledge explosion makes customers more results-oriented.

Customers are less interested in PowerPoint presentations and frameworks, but demand faster and more concrete results such as products and solutions for their expenditures. A possible new area of responsibility will be that in the future you will also be responsible for building new products and developing new business models on behalf of the customer.

This is drastically changing the way management consulting works in the 21st century. The big houses (e.g. BCG with Digital Ventures) show how to develop new products or services together with the customer.

Consultant profile after the digital transformation of management consulting

Such a drastic change in the way of working naturally entails an evolution of the typical consultant’s profile. As a consultant, you should continue to be knowledgeable in a variety of topics and industries. A few tools and methods can’t hurt either. But with the transition to Consulting 4.0, optimization alone is no longer enough.

Top graduates with smoothly polished resumes who blindly apply frameworks and pack them onto PowerPoint slides will not be very successful in consulting in the future. Today, the specialist is in demand. We are looking for consulting talent with expert knowledge and doers who can rethink and redesign processes.

Digital and effective recruiting in consulting

Digital and effective recruiting in consulting

These changes make the search for suitable talent more difficult and costly for companies: experts and consultants tailored to a very specific project are increasingly sought. It comes in handy that the procurement of the right consultant has already been digitized as part of the value chain in consulting.

This happens through digital intermediation platforms, as well as through us at consultingheads. We make it easier for companies to recruit and candidates to find jobs by digitizing the recruiting process, making it fast and efficient. How does it work?

We provide a platform that brings consultants and companies together. In addition, we use the so-called Skill Match, an intelligent matching algorithm that only matches vacancies to particularly suitable candidates. Predictive analytics also allows us to assess which candidates are particularly interested.

These digital tools allow us to provide candidate support in a more time- and cost-efficient manner. How might this develop in the future? Possibilities would be the use of a voice assistant or an app in which jobs and consultants can be selected even more easily via smartphone. This would make it even more likely for companies to find the right expert for a very specific problem in a timely manner. Consulting-as-a-Service, so to speak.

A whole new world of consulting awaits us in the future

So consulting is and remains a people business – even with the use of artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, a whole new world of consulting awaits us in the future: With the transformation of the working world and the new technical possibilities, the consulting profession is changing drastically. But do not panic! The change is encouraging, because digitization is making the consulting landscape more creative, colorful and diverse. Or how do you see it?

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We will soon dedicate another article on this topic to the upheaval and disruption of the consulting industry. So stay tuned!

Errors discovered or suggestions for improvement to our article? We are open to criticism and welcome your feedback – via comment or email to [email protected].