Key Trends in 2016 for the Consulting Industry

What’s in Store for Professional Service Consultants?

Consultants are continuously analyzing and forecasting trends for an array of industries, but what does the consulting industry forecast for itself?  Many of the trends affecting other industries are now starting to permeate through the consultancy field. For 2016, various publications and professional consultants have weighed in on their predictions of the key drivers, technologies and disruptors that may affect the industry.

The Uberization of Consulting

The Uberization mega trend may finally be affecting the consulting industry for 2016 and coming years. The ways this trend are affecting consulting are varied. More use of freelance and transactional style consulting services may become the norm. Even in early 2015, North Highland’s CEO, Dan Reardon, had stated during an interview with Forbes that lingering effects from the cost-cutting mentality of the 2008 recession can still be felt today. Companies that hire consultants still seem to focus on the cost of hiring a consultant rather than the value that this professional can bring to the company. Reardon predicted that in the coming years, consulting services may be seen as a more commoditized, transactional type of interaction rather than as a professional long-term service partnership.

Potential Disruptors to the Consulting Industry

Low-cost and crowdsourced “disruptors” may also continue to enter the field of consulting services within the coming years. Such startups as the crowdsourced Wikistrat are gaining traction by having the media publicize some of their consulting successes. In fact, the company was touted as beating out even the CIA in predicting the rise of a separatist movement in Crimea which sought a Russian annexation. Additionally, Marketplace.org recently published an article describing HourlyNerd as the startup that is “disrupting the consulting industry.” This crowdsourced marketplace brings together freelance consultants and businesses together in order to help provide substantive analysis and solutions to problems. In addition to the ease of clients and consultants finding each other, there is also some strong influence for consultants to consider the freelance/crowdsourced route for their employment. With upstart outlets like Wikistrat and HourlyNerd, there is less need for arduous travel by consultants. They can also have their choice over which projects to take, unlike at many traditional consulting firms which assign projects to their consultants.

Impact of Technology for Consultants

Ever changing and increasingly sophisticated technology — perhaps performing some tasks that human beings used to provide — is yet another trend that will continue through 2016. Whether consultants should be concerned regarding the possibility of “robo-consultants” taking over jobs, that sentiment may be a bit premature according to a recent LinkedIn Pulse article on the future of consulting. Although cutting edge machine learning and predictive analytics solutions are increasingly providing the business world with unparalleled insights, the largest consulting firms are using these resources in concert with their best human consulting expertise. For instance, the standard practice of McKinsey Solutions is to, in addition to human expert insights, provide software and technology-based tools to help clients. Deloitte’s foray into their launch of the Deloitte Digital offering and their use of Ubermind’s mobile technology are likewise examples of embracing technology in order to provide continuously innovative solutions to clients. These technologies are additive and complement the skills of the consulting firms’ professionals.

Overall, being knowledgeable about clients’ changing needs and desires is integral for being successful in 2016. Indeed, with the varying changes and challenges that may affect the consulting field this year, industry professionals may find ways to work with the trends rather than to see them as being adversarial.