The New Normal Part I: 3 Things Consultancies are Thinking About Right Now

In our series on the “New Normal,”  Beecher Reagan takes a searching look at how the COVID crisis has accelerated and amplified digital transformation in the consulting industry.  We offer the best in perspectives from our partners and clients on the challenges we face and how consulting firms can pivot to prepare for the opportunities ahead.   

The consulting industry saw it coming; digitization would eventually transform operating fundamentals and how firms create value for their clients.  What they didn’t see coming was COVID-19’s broadside; the new normal was supposed to be five to ten years in the making. But here we are.

We’ve now seen that the hybrid model of in-person and remote service delivery can and does work. We’ve reached out to our partners in the industry to better understand what this means and what they’re doing to respond.  Here’s what we’re hearing.

Face-to-face is here to stay…kind of.

We’re all familiar with the traditional model of client engagements; 80% of team members maintain a heavy onsite presence during a traditional work week throughout the term of the engagement. The rapid shift to remote has stood the proverbial model on its head.  But while COVID-19 has proven that much of this work can be accomplished remotely, the value of one’s physical presence will remain critical at key inflection points of client interaction.

Similar to the variations in texture, shape, and form that distinguish an ordinary hamburger from a choice cut of tenderloin, virtual consulting is simply not the same as its boots-on-the-ground counterpart.  And while clients have extended their share of grace in the immediacy of the pandemic, they will not be willing to continue to pay choice prices for what amounts to a burger and fries experience.

While virtual work will undoubtedly become an important facet in the new normal, there will continue to be a strong case for some, (with limited physical presence); to see and engage with the people to whom clients are trusting their transformation and future success. Yet flying an entire project team in for months at a time seems impractical if not impossible in the new normal. The answer? A hybrid model of in-person and remote delivery. Senior client executives may travel onsite to seal the deal and maintain oversight, while junior partners retain a day-to-day on-site presence where this type of residency is required. Meanwhile, technical and niche experts will continue their roles remotely. Remote and onsite work will blend together in a hybrid model that brings the best of both together.  Utilizing a hybrid approach, firms will be able to continue to deliver a highly relational experience together with the benefits of on-demand expertise that can only be harnessed through a remote model.

Rethinking the value add.

The ushering in of a new hybrid model will open up doors for consultancies to add value in new ways.  Virtual operations now allow consultants to reach deep into their network of talent to deliver the just-in-time expertise that cannot be replicated with a planes-trains-automobiles method of service delivery.  And consultancies will ultimately be able to harness agile delivery to do more with less.

Likewise, the levels of transparency required by remote operations have resulted in surprising consequences. Service methodologies are now more intuitive, streamlined, and void of politics, allowing for teams to address gaps and fine tune projects well in advance of key meetings. As a result, the real event becomes a non-event. As we adjust to the new normal of service delivery, firms will be looking for new ways to channel all the good of virtual into onsite operations to add even more value to their clients.

The profile of top talent is changing. 

We all know that hard times are ahead.  And we know that our consulting clients are looking keenly at how they can upscale partner level talent to adapt to the new normal, while at the same time adjusting capacity to account for the projected slowdown.  Still, in the quest to build trust and relationships with clients, talent will continue to play a central role.

What will that talent look like? While CV’s will certainly reflect new expectations surrounding technological savvy individuals, some things will remain constant. Personality, EQ, communication skills and keen solutioning will continue to lead the profile of talent success.  However, self-motivation and the ability to collaborate in a virtual environment with emphasis on cross generational connection will take on a new importance.  Individuals who once thrived in an environment of constant and fast paced travel may no longer fit the ideal talent profile. Firms will need to look closely at how and why they deploy their talent to optimize operations and their bottom line.

Assessment and alignment of existing and new talent will be an integral exercise to ensure a smooth and effective transition to the new hybrid model of service delivery.

We still don’t know all of the questions we should be asking and we certainly don’t have all the answers.  We do know that consulting is changing and so is its talent. We also know that the conversation about this has just begun. We hear you and we’re listening.

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