When it comes to consulting industry, we find ourselves in front of a rather peculiar phenomenon: while consultants keep telling their clients to invest in digital transformation, their own firms are lagging behind in keeping up with the digital transformation.
The changes these firms are making remain mostly on a surface level, and every second consultant admits that the digital approach hasn’t really enabled them to win more business. This recognition leads us to the conclusion that the consulting sector still struggles to leverage new technology for itself.
When asked about the benefits of digital transformation, the most popular answer among the consultants was the innovation and business model change, followed by improved customer experience. In the next paragraphs, we are going to discuss different changes that digital transformation entails for consultancy businesses.
The Future of Consulting
The book Digital Transformation in Consulting Industry predicts that within the next years, the business and delivery models of consulting have to be re-designed and partly re-invented. It is inevitable that technology-based consulting solutions will gain more ground. This will result in the rise of importance of IT and associated qualifications, and the war-for-talents in consulting will get even tougher than today.
It is also foreseen that the competition will get more intense because of digitalization and decreasing customer loyalty. To meet the clients’ needs, the firms must be ready to integrate aspects of strategy-, process-, and IT-consulting with design challenges. The clientele will expect the consulting services to be unbundled and more modularized, in other words, easier to purchase according to their specific requirements.
On the positive side of this disruption, there are new models, like crowdsourcing-supported or self-service consulting, new tools for data- and process mining, and the maturing of AI that allow the consulting providers to complement and optimize the existing service portfolios.
Benefits of AI and Automation for Consulting Businesses
If harnessed correctly, traditional consultancy firms have a lot to gain from new technologies. AI and automation, for example, could enhance how these firms operate as well as augment the number of services they provide.
The tangible benefits of AI and automation are quite clear. For most businesses, they mainly break down into three main benefits:
- Data collection
Perhaps the biggest and most obvious advantage of AI technology is its ability to process, handle and analyze massive amounts of data far more efficiently and faster than a human. This could provide more accurate insights into many areas of business including sales, operations, supply chain etc.
Such information is very valuable for the consultants as it can be used to augment their offerings and services to clients as well as to enhance clients’ ROIs. This means that, on the one hand, AI and automation can help the consulting firms to increase their own business, while, on the other hand, it helps them to deliver better results to their clients.
For example, information on sales channels, customer journeys, and client behavior provide marketers and consultants tasked with sales with the insights necessary to identify new opportunities and develop more effective strategies for advertising campaigns. Meanwhile, partners can use AI to streamline the delivery of projects and achieve in the process more effective resourcing and prioritization.
- Streamlined admin tasks
For a consultant, processing routine paperwork (client invoices, payrolls, progress reports etc.) is probably the dullest part of the job. Apart from that, it takes up a considerable amount of time that could be put to better use to grow a client base or create new opportunities for the firm.
As it happens, robots are much more efficient when it comes to routine admin tasks. Robotic process automation, also known as RPA, devices can help companies with a wide range of admin tasks. Consultants would gain in time by automating the creation and delivery of invoices and all the record-keeping in general. It is said that the more high-end AI devices, can even act as decision-makers as they have the capacity to make more logical and consistent business decisions or to ensure regulatory forms are completed to avoid non-compliance fines.
- Improved productivity
By streamlining day-to-day processes with financial software or just removing responsibilities such as scheduling meetings, making restaurant reservations, recording conversations etc. from junior staff member’s workloads translates into higher engagement and productivity. The fact that they have more rewarding tasks on their plate, will also keep the junior staff members more motivated on their job.
There is a variety of tools available for consultants interested in automation to boost their operations and performance, for example, Zoom.ai or If This Then That (ITTT), Google Drive, GSuite, MailChimp etc.
What about Automated Consulting Solutions?
Consulting services are famous for being expensive and far out of budget reach for many small and medium enterprises. However with access to new digital tools the consulting market is opening up as new automated low-cost solutions surface.
Could this result in traditional consulting firms losing their clients? Probably not, as the segment of clients to reach out for an automated solution wouldn’t have approached a traditional firm in the first place.
Despite the predictions that self-service consulting will gain more ground thanks to new digital platforms, we have also heard rather skeptical proclamations such as “We’ll have self-driving cars before we have self-driving marketing platforms.” So the question remains: Where do we stand when it comes to automated consulting?
Automating consulting comes with its challenges. AI loves predictability and today’s markets aren’t exactly known for that. Real-life conditions in digital marketing are very complex and most of the time there are many ways to judge the business success (from customer loyalty, revenue generated, long-term growth etc.) Which makes the process of getting there multifaceted and full of variables.
The second barrier for the fully automated solutions is the lack of a comprehensive repository of past consulting data. AIs do better after training with data from the past, but if there isn’t much available, as different companies have dramatically different data storage practices and data management needs, the AI has no way of developing its analytical skills.
Our conclusion on the matter is that for a consulting AI to work, an extremely expansive and flexible intelligence system alone is not enough, it also has to incorporate fields outside of AI to solve the problems of unpredictable human behavior.
On a final note, AI and automation have huge potential in the consulting industry. The consulting firms shouldn’t pass on the good advice they give to their clients and up their digital game as soon as possible. Even if there’s still much work and research to be done when it comes to automated self-service consulting, all consulting firms should incorporate AI and automation into their processes at some level, in order to grow their client base or increase customer loyalty through increased efficiency.
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