22 November 2016

With a shifting paradigm of technology and world politics, the UK consulting industry must identify and cater for newly emerging markets in order to stay competitive. However, with transformative market environments come transformative opportunities, across both established and emerging sectors and technologies.

The banking sector, for example, is observing structural, global change as large financial institutions focus efforts to adopt the transformational technology trends that are allowing for new entrants to establish themselves in the market. The disruption of technology is also evidenced in the retail sector as it shifts to the increasing demands of consumers to have more immersive interactions throughout their purchasing decision process. Furthermore, the life sciences have adapted, at pace, to risk and regulation change with a focus on data and fraud.

As market environments become increasingly dynamic, consulting firms must ensure they adopt a culture of change in order to remain relevant in the rapidly evolving digital economy. At the heart of these innovations, we would highlight three trends making some of the most significant impacts across our market; Technology enabled change, Blockchain and Cyber Security/fraud.

Technology enabled change

Financial services companies are increasingly adopting technology driven strategies in order to improve consumer experiences, operational efficiency, decision-making and mitigate against increased market regulation. This represents a marked shift from traditionalist operating models historically synonymous with the sector. Now, large banking institutions have to adapt towards using digital technologies in order to effectively interact with customers. This has led to a continuous growth in both technology innovation and traditional management consulting in this sector.

Digital technologies are enabling organisations to operate more efficiently with automated business processes that in turn, allow for greater innovation. Consulting firms are increasing all efforts around digital and are innovating new ways to help their clients communicate with their customers, helping them understand how technology enables operative change in an organisation and how they go to market.

The cost of technology has plummeted while the speed of implementation has accelerated through trends such as cloud technology and methodologies such as Agile and DevOps. Large organisations can implement change swiftly with ever refining processes in order to meet a shifting customer agenda.

At the heart of these technological changes, lies intelligence. Analytics is progressively being utilised to accurately profile and deeply understand the customer, capturing data across a myriad of endpoint technologies, analysing and packaging insights for enterprise-wide intelligence allowing operations to become more agile, predictive and effective.

In addition, we are observing businesses shift from business intelligence to more advanced analytics, proactively adopting the latest advances in data analysis rather than reacting to them. This is affecting organisations entire talent acquisition strategy and the profile of their desired candidates has transformed. Typically the process involves looking for a particular pedigree of person who conforms to a certain mould, however, many consultancies are now looking at technology start-ups and seeing a possible convergence between these tech companies and professional services. Many of our clients are bringing these tech innovators in-house through investment or acquisition to enable them to offer bespoke solutions to further differentiate themselves from the competition.

Furthermore, technology is changing the way consulting firms work with their clients. For instance, many boutique consultancies can now offer services, sometimes utilising freeware tech, that gives them the ability to compete with larger companies. The clients themselves are becoming more open to using smaller consulting firms which are often able to provide a more bespoke service.

Blockchain

Blockchain is a technology that allows a business to automatically authenticate the movement of assets through an entire transaction. This could enable every organisation to automate and speed up transactions, bringing with this the potential for a commercial explosion through the speed, security and efficiencies that will inevitably follow.

New and continuously evolving, Blockchain has sparked investments from many organisations, even though they may not have fully examined how the technology will provide commercial value. Interestingly, all major consulting firms are now building teams focussed on blockchain technology to understand how to develop new proposition, as well as utilise it within their organisation.

Looking at the ‘Big Four’, who advise the banks, there is an understanding that they’re very well placed to be able to build a bank of their own. Blockchain is a great enabler that allows them to tackle this sort of project effectively. It is a game-changer for the entire industry, much like crowd funding’s impact on commercial finance.

Cyber Security/Fraud

Cyber-attacks in every sector are occurring exponentially, and so the methods and technologies for countering threats are having to advance at pace, supported by ever increasing demand. The last few years has seen significant growth in the small boutique cyber-specialist consultancies which tailor exclusively to this area, using their niche knowledge to provide expertise.

To that end, most of the major Consulting firms have been acquiring small and medium size digital and cyber consulting firms to strengthen their go-to-market strategy. IBM have also recently acquired businesses in this space. However, many of these larger firms struggle with the successful integration of these smaller firms, given the inevitable culture differences.

Every aspect of the cyber sector is becoming increasingly busy as clients continue to identify substantial opportunities, a trend that is only likely to grow over the long-term as opportunities such as IoT present growing challenges in this space.

In addition, there is an evident growth in investigating the aftermath of cyber-crime, looking into fraud and forensic investigations. Business is thriving in regards to solutions concerned with developments in fraud and risk technology, not necessarily only in the financial realm – it’s a big growth area globally.

Cyber is not just about technology, it’s about the people involved. The impact is not just financial but is also reputational, affecting both the share price and consumer trust. An example of this is the infamous Sony Entertainment hack - while there was negligible (if any) revenue lost off the top line, the damages to their reputation were significant. It is worth noting that regulators are also enforcing strict punishments if an organisation is seen to be ineffective in their data security.

Conclusion

Whilst these three trends are sure to continue to provide new opportunities for the Consulting profession well beyond 2017, the pace of innovation and change we’re currently witnessing is unprecedented. The shifting political landscape aligned with changes in social policy and technology innovation are sure to result in opportunities we are yet to imagine. 2017 will be exciting, 2018 and beyond could be mind blowing!

The original version of this post can be found on the Business Grapevine website.

Richard Draper
Managing Director at Rees Draper Wright