There was a time when knowledge was power. In the consulting world, this implied that the more you knew, the more people would turn to you for advice.
But now we’re in the world of Google. You can now Google any fact or list of statistics to find out virtually any information of historical significance. If you don’t believe me, just Google it.
I had the luxury (or misfortune) to be in consulting before the internet was widely available. In those days, clients would pay good money for us to provide industry research that provided in-depth statistics on their competitive environment. Today, clients can get that information in a matter of seconds.
Interpretation of Data
Just because clients can get the data doesn’t mean they know what to do with it. That’s where modern-day consultants. Today’s consulting value is taking data and using experience and technology to interpret it.
The money clients used to spend just to get the data is now spent on guidance of what to make of it. Interpret the data and extrapolate what it implies. Consultants perform trend analysis to help them predict the future.
In addition to interpreting data, modern day consultants are expected to assist in decision making. They take data and interpret trends. Like the TV weather person they develop computer decision models. These models provide trend analysis and likelihoods of outcomes, should they make one decision over another.
Artificial intelligence (AI) allows them to use historical data to predict how the client’s market will react. They can input several variables and run trend scenarios and crunch a lot of numers to assist executives in making predictive decisions.
Fail Fast and Pivot
Another factor in today’s business world is the speed at which things change. Years ago, most major decisions made were long term. A lot of time went into it and significant resources were committed to execute it.
Today, pilots are run to test a decision. Instead of large teams committed to making it happen, small teams use technology to enable execution. If they identify a smaller than expected response, they pivot. They run more scenarios based on what was learned. They tweak their approach and test their adjustments.
Some things haven’t changed
There are still many things that may never change in consulting. Relationships are still the key to developing client business in the consulting world.
I worked for a large consulting firm when the internet was just becoming popular with the business world. We deployed an online consulting service that clients could subscribe to. In this online forum, clients could submit unlimited questions related to certain knowledge areas. The questions were triaged and forwarded to consultants within the firm with that expertise. An answer to the client’s question would be sent back within a certain number of hours.
It was an interesting experiment. But it was about as successful as Clippy that paper clip helper in Microsoft Office. Clients were looking for more than just answers. They wanted to work with somebody they knew rather than throw questions over the wall and get answers thrown back in response.
When they deal with their relationship, they know that the individuals they work with do not have all of the answers. These consultants go back to experts within the firm, much like the online tool did. But they are dealing with an individual, talking to them and holding a conversation. It is not transactional.
This is true even in the COVID-Zoom-Remote-Working world. We may not be able to stop in the office and take the client to lunch. But we can have the face-to-face conversation with a video call. We are developing relationships in a different way. We are introducing each other to our kids and pets. We are invited into our clients’ kitchens and living rooms and inviting them into ours. As we struggle through this pandemic, it is also an opportunity to build stronger bonds.
Technology has change d consulting over the years. Consultants have to be better than Google. As Google improves, consultants will have to improve accordingly. But they will still have to develop relationships the old fashioned way.
I do not see that changing with technology.
How has technology changed your relationships with your clients?
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
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