Virtual Consulting In A Post Pandemic World 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin might not have thought that his famous quote about species survival would apply to businesses globally, struggling with uncertainties arising from disease outbreaks, trade wars, climate change and governance errors. The consulting industry, often seen as ‘trusted advisors for business’, is not resistant to these challenges. Consultants are being displaced from client boardrooms, corporate headquarters and production facilities. Companies are adopting remote and hybrid work models, not prioritising the previously valued aspects of ‘human touch’ and ‘top-of-mind-awareness’ in the industry. 

In response to the pandemic, online consultation quickly became a tool to reinvent the industry. It enabled consulting firms to continue providing services while working remotely. The speed and success of this transformation surprised many, as digital consultation made significant progress in just a few months, leapfrogging several years of expected development. Consumers turned to digital channels, and businesses adapted to meet their changing demands better. 

Key Trends Shaping the Consulting Industry in the Post-Pandemic Era 

Increased Focus on Tangible Outcomes  

In the post-pandemic era, businesses seeking consultation will prioritise measurable results. There is an expectation for business consultants to move away from costly diagnoses and implement cost-effective solutions. They are also expected to align strategies with operational realities. 

Personalised Consulting 

Given that each business has unique requirements, off-the-shelf solutions are no longer sufficient. Businesses are now seeking tailored consulting services specific to their needs, requiring consultants to abandon the one-size-fits-all approach. Consultants are also expected to have a deep understanding of the operational aspects of the business to provide adapted services aligned with industry, function and client context. 

Remote Consultation 

Remote consulting has become the standard practice in the post-pandemic world, leading to widespread use of virtual consulting platforms. These platforms are capable of delivering outcomes equivalent to traditional consulting and are anticipated to maintain their strength in this new era.  

Long-term and Deeper Involvement in Business Operations 

Unlike in the past, when consultants concluded their services after implementation, clients now expect consultants to be fully engaged. This involves providing deeper insights and sharing the risks associated with implemented solutions. Consultants are now required to build business models focused on delivering value rather than pursuing quick wins and chasing new opportunities. 

Consultants Are Leaving Big Consulting Firms 

A survey conducted by last year, which involved 700 consultants, revealed that among the 26% of the consultants actively seeking new employment opportunities, approximately one-third expressed a desire to remain within the consultancy industry. The other two-thirds indicated plans to transition to roles within other industries, start their own businesses or pursue independent consulting. 

One common reason a large number of consultants leave large consulting firms to become freelancers is to escape the ‘up or out’ system prevalent in many consulting firms. This system can be highly competitive, and the organisational bureaucracy may hinder the progress of many talented consultants. Freelancing offers various benefits, including the ability to take on significant projects without bureaucratic obstacles, which is often challenging when employed by another company. 

Additionally, the online consulting marketplace has simplified the process of finding clients for consultants. They no longer solely rely on their professional network; companies frequently utilise online platforms to seek consultants for their needs. 

A few decades ago, this scenario would have been unthinkable. The term ‘freelancer might not have been widely used, and hiring one might have been a rare occurrence. Even today, independent consultants might struggle to consistently find new work if not for the growing online consulting marketplace. Fortunately, there is a balance between supply and demand in this evolving landscape. 

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