In spite of a global pandemic, worldwide disruption of supply chains, and a Russian invasion of Ukraine, business is good for the consulting world. It seems like every industry has been disrupted to some extent, and the largest consulting firms are no exception. According to Bauer Aviation Advisory Managing Director Linus Benjamin Bauer, these disruptions are opening up new and more competitive opportunities for boutique consulting firms in the Middle East and around the world.
Over the past few years, the consulting industry has seen clients facing an unprecedented and unique set of pressures, forcing adaptation of services, structure, and operations to a continually changing business environment. According to Bauer, this has surprisingly resulted in the consulting industry—especially the largest and most prestigious firms—becoming inefficient, inflexible, and slow to adapt; unable to keep pace with rapid technological changes and proffering out of date recommendations as a result.
Bauer argues that consulting work, especially that of the largest firms, is operating as a black box: clients come to them with a problem and the consultancy delivers a solution with minimal visibility into what happens during the problem solving process. He suggests that smaller and medium-sized consulting firms, along with consulting/expert networks, are now providing greater access to subject matter experts, enabling the delivery of tailored solutions vs. an “off the shelf” solution that has been tried and tested, but is not specific to the client’s needs.
Client expectations are changing as well, with needs shifting from consultants operating on an hourly-billed, “performance free” basis to a partnership that shares the risks of change and rewards outcomes. The combination of changing needs and evolving challenges is leading to a ripe market for boutique consulting firms that can leverage subject-matter expertise and deliver industry-specific and trusted advice. Boutique firms are also able to partner with larger consultancies to integrate highly specific subject matter expertise into much greater workstreams.
While generalists have traditionally thrived in the consulting space, the new business environment could potentially lead to boutique firms holding an advantage in terms of expertise and focus, helping them thrive in the “new normal” while larger firms may struggle to keep up.