It’s no secret—business is undergoing a sea change as mobile, cloud and analytics platforms spur radical transformations in the way enterprises operate. CIOs are embracing these technologies both to improve operational efficiency and to innovate ahead of the curve. At the same time, led by their experiences with consumer technologies and social media platforms, customer expectations have never been higher. Companies need to evolve in order to measure up. This digital disruption presents great opportunity for consulting firms, and they too are evolving.
Traditionally, business strategy dictated enterprise technology decisions—clients had strategic partners and execution partners. Now, technology is at the forefront. Business strategy is technology-enabled, and this is redefining success for consulting firms.
As enterprises seek to transform digitally, today’s successful consultants are those who have the technology accelerators, deep domain expertise and other assets to help organizations not only successfully map their journeys but to complete their transformations. In truth, few consulting firms find they excel at delivering the total package—strategy, technology and implementation—that can truly transform a client organization. Traditional standalone strategy consulting, disconnected from technology and deep implementation capabilities, is simply not sufficient today to meet enterprise transformation needs.
Asking what it takes to thrive in the new consulting climate? Read on.
Critical Success Factors for Today’s Environment
Clients are asking for more from their consultants in terms of deeper design capabilities, domain expertise and proven success in technology implementation. Clients want (and need) real results, as opposed to recommendations from reports that too often languish on the shelf. The following success factors lay a winning foundation for consultants:
➊ Bringing technology DNA to the table. The strategic value of IT is not a bolt-on capability. Some firms grew up with technology capabilities at their core. Others are acquiring valuable technology skills via acquisition. Either way, technology is recognized as paramount.
➋ Delivering faster time to value; executing technology strategy quickly. The new benchmark is 30 to 90 days to achieve engagement goals. Rapid ideation and “fail-fast” prototyping are replacing traditional three- to five-year technology roadmaps. These fast-moving enterprises require help implementing agile IT infrastructure to serve as the platform for, and enabler of, continuous innovation cycles.
➌ Leveraging a new framework for innovation. Since it is very difficult in most industries to predict exactly what technologies will dominate in the coming years, the new agenda for leaders in this setting is rapid retirement of ideas that don’t work and the scaling up of those that do. This approach requires strategy, ideation, design expertise and industry knowledge, as well as advanced technology and tools.
➍ Access and ability to implement advanced technology. Advanced technologies including robotic process automation, the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics are accelerating innovation cycles and providing new business opportunities across many enterprises today.
Methodology in Action
Expertise in implementing a wide range of technology types, along with the ability to apply technology to strategy, is paramount for today’s consulting engagements, as shown in the following examples.
A leading U.S.-based medical devices and consumer goods manufacturer needed a better way to monitor, provision and maintain thousands of its endosurgery devices in the field. The company engaged a consulting firm with expertise in the Internet of Things (IoT) to assist in the design of a connected device infrastructure.
The engagement yielded creation of an IoT-enabled monitoring instrument that can plug into the company’s thousands of devices in the field. The benefits were dramatic, including a savings of $6 million annually and return on investment in under one year, as well as improved customer satisfaction.
In another engagement, a consulting firm partnered with a home improvement retailer to measure the impact of online (web, mobile, digital marketing) customer behaviors. The retailer knew that customers discovering and researching products, comparing prices and learning of promotions online was having a significant impact on its in-store sales —it just didn’t know how much.
The consulting firm collected data from multiple sources including point-of-sale, loyalty enrollments, web and mobile site traffic and sales, mobile app usages and marketing clicks to measure the overall impact of digital on the enterprise. Through advanced analytics, the project team discovered that digital channels influenced 17 times more revenue in stores than was booked online—hard-data validation of its digital strategy.
When the right mix of technology and strategy is applied, the gains to clients can indeed be impressive. In a third engagement, a general merchandise retail chain partnered with a consulting firm to optimize its e-commerce performance. The consultant built an e-commerce performance dashboard and then executed a variety of projects to improve conversion, average order value and increased traffic. The client realized a 40% improvement in website conversion, a 45 percent improvement in online revenue and a whopping 1,257 percent increase in the product gross margin rate.
Strategy without Technology is No Strategy at All
Strategy consulting—by itself—is becoming a smaller percentage of the overall business, even for established brands. A few years ago, strategy consulting and operations consulting were seen as entirely separate areas of focus. Today, it’s no surprise that the bulk of business strategy is technology-enabled. No longer an afterthought, technology now is core to most strategic enterprise initiatives. Consulting firms that provide the full spectrum of strategy and technology assets, including technical tools and implementation expertise, stand to gain in this new environment.
Mark Livingston is Executive Vice President and Global Head of Cognizant Business Consulting. In this role, Mark is responsible for the overall strategy and running of Cognizant’s Consulting practice which consists of ~5,500 consultants worldwide. He focuses on articulating solutions for their critical business problems. Mark joined Cognizant in 2008, and has since been instrumental in leading Cognizant’s ’3-in-a-box’ model to success, and taking CBC to the next level.