How the consulting market has changed

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FULHAM ROAD — It’s official. For me anyway. I have come to the conclusion that the market has changed. I recognise that it may only be temporary, but it feels longer-term than that.

Where once businesses were interested in concepts and ideas… most now are being far more practical. “I want you to do something that I could do, but I don’t have time,” a friend explained last week.

We talked to one of the world’s biggest diversified businesses last week and they said that they have reinstated pay-rises. They have put even more money into the spot bonus pool… but they have told everyone to reduce spending in Q1. And they’ve set the sales-force higher targets.

And maybe that’s why we’re working more and more with Human Resources. The recession and the re-alignment that has been happening in industry has changed things. Companies are investing in system changes. Not people changes. They are looking at practical, actual, factual changes. The theory — engagement, social media, employee brand, etc. etc. — are all being eclipsed by more tangible things.

HR helped make businesses more efficient in 2009. With some every simple (and often brutal) work. So they now have some of their bigger projects back on the boil. As a result there is more consulting work to be had in changing, fixing and even developing new systems for businesses.

This isn’t about ‘wellness programmes’ or learning accounts, or even total reward statements. It’s about managing people more efficiently: setting better targets, planning for your future workforce, training people to be more efficient faster.

The motto might be right out of Jerry Maguire: Show me the money! But it’s a different goal now: Show me how much we can save by doing this…

Fortunately, we’re still able to do that. But it doesn’t half take a change in mindset.

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One Response

  1. Chris
    |

    It appears to be a broad phenomenon. I was recently talking to a senior exec at a software company who referred to the trend as the “operational efficiency cycle” in IT which he suggested correlates strongly to the general business cycle. He suggested that expenditure decisions throughout the entire business are being evaluated with a much stronger emphasis on short-term return and minimised risk. In IT this means operational efficiency projects are taking precedence again over the less tangible strategic capability projects. Planning and return horizons now extend not much beyond the far edge of the CIO’s desk. Businesses are investing in IT projects that can measurably improve productivity almost immediately – not the longer-term, riskier “strategic” projects of the pre-recessionary period. The good news for IT though is that generally budgets have remained stable – just the emphasis has significantly changed.

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