At a time of great change in the business world, knowledge is power more than ever before.
The COVID-19 pandemic is fundamentally changing virtually every industry, possibly permanently, and every business needs as much information as possible so they can respond to change in the best possible way.
This is where consultants have a vital role to play, in leveraging the wealth of their experience and expertise to guide the way forward for clients big and small. At the top end of the scale, the opportunities for consultants have already been realized through the more than £100 million that the UK government has already spent on COVID-19 consulting, according to a recent Financial Times article.
So what are the key factors that will shape the relationship between consultants and their business clients in the months and years to come? And how will this affect how consultancy businesses operate themselves?
Delivering the intangible… from anywhere
Consulting is well-placed to thrive in the months and years to come, and not only for the ability to support change mentioned above. Ultimately, businesses come to consultants for an intangible entity: their thoughts. And because of that, there is no requirement for those thoughts to be delivered face-to-face. Gone are the days of consultants visiting client offices for days or weeks on end for meetings and working groups. Most of what a consultant is hired to do can be done remotely, either over the phone or through video collaboration, with knock-on benefits for the company in saved office space.
Indeed, it could be argued that the only real need for any consultants to attend their office is for group meetings where face-to-face collaboration would be beneficial, or for occasions when a video call with a client demands a professional backdrop. The knock-on effect of this would be a radical reshaping of the office environment, with a drastic reduction in workstations, the implementation of shared workspaces and workplace scheduling, and wider availability of meeting rooms and breakout zones that can also be booked using the same scheduling tool.
Consulting businesses will be facing the same challenges around adapting to the post-pandemic world of work as their clients. Working patterns, workspace design and recruitment policies relating to remote working are just three of the considerations involved. But these short-term pains could easily deliver long-term gains.
For example, if a consulting business has successfully deployed a hybrid working solution, whereby employees mix home and office work through the use of a workspace scheduling platform, then they can immediately share their experiences with their clients. Those who can make this work relatively early will therefore be well-placed to gain a competitive advantage over those still struggling to find the right balance.
There will obviously still be business opportunities for consultants, whatever the looming economic downturn may bring. But firms may well have to pivot their offerings in order to survive and thrive, as the most lucrative areas may differ substantially to what they’re used to. Research from Consultancy UK backs this up: travel, leisure and construction are expected to be the industries hardest hit in terms of consultancy demand, but a third of respondents intend to broaden their field of expertise in order to adapt.
Making this happen requires agility on behalf of the consultancy business, and a workplace scheduling technology can support changing plans very well. New project teams can easily be spun up, and when face-to-face collaboration and planning is required, meeting rooms or dedicated areas of shared workstations can be allocated to them in minutes. And at a time when individual consultants may feel under pressure to get to grips with new lines of business, seamless management of their working arrangements can deliver huge benefits in making them feel more at ease, and perhaps more importantly, focused on the job at hand.