Key Trends in 2018 for the Consulting Industry

What Consulting Industry Trends Will Emerge in 2018?

The consulting industry faces 2018 with digital transformation, technological disruption and cultural shifts affecting it. Such change is influencing the way the industry evolves. According to cited experts, the key trends below may develop in the industry this year.

Key Trends for 2018

Digital agencies and consulting firms blur even further together
The definition of the term “consulting” continues to evolve. Consultants can come from multinational billion-dollar companies or from an independent sole proprietorship. Vast topics of expertise can be offered to a client or precisely niche services can be provided by a consultant. Within this environment, digital agencies are increasingly offering consulting services, and established consulting firms are adding digital expertise to their offerings. An article in Campaign stated that consulting firms are strongly challenging digital agencies because the firms are actively recruiting top digital talent and even acquiring digital agencies. This cross specialization expands the nature of what makes a “consultant” in 2018..

Scope of what is considered “consulting” expands

In a poll of clients of consulting firms, run by RGP, they theorized that the consulting industry may actually be made of “tiers.”  One type of tier is highly skilled advisory with a proven reputation and generally high fees. A second tier is specialty niche technology consulting services that have precise price points. The third category includes highly skilled niche experts that are hired to do precise projects. Again, this segmentation shows how nebulous the term of “consultant” is becoming.

Open-web content commodifies knowledge and expertise

Because increasing amounts of Internet-based content is available to the public, like best practices, guidelines and case studies, consulting “knowledge” and “expertise” are more commodified. Even the concept of “microconsulting” has entered into the language of the consulting industry.  This concept involves an expert engaging in short, targeted projects for clients as opposed to months-long work by a team of consultants.

Freelancers keep independent roles

As in many other professions, the freelance model of work continues its influence within the consulting field. Some freelance consultants work independently while some consultants join online consulting marketplaces or partner with small or large consulting firms.

A recent poll of freelance consultants by Odgers Connect found that most freelancers had no intention of leaving the independent world in order to transition to full-time work for a consulting firm. The freelance consultants are in high demand due to such issues as cost pressures by clients. Freelance experts often can customize their prices and billing, whereas larger consultancies may not have that flexibility.

Demand grows for performance-based billing models

Repercussions of the 2008 recession still permeate the thinking of many clients, and the pay structures of some consultancies are being affected. Since many clients now have the technological capability to slice and dice every expense, they are analyzing spending on consulting and examining the return on its investment. Accordingly, many clients are requesting customized prices for targeted projects. Additionally, performance-based billing is also trending among consultants. Such pricing styles can prevent client concerns regarding unexpected fees, as well as provide a real attainable benchmark for consultancies to prove their value.

Consulting firms and individual experts crowdsource together

Similar to the freelance trend, the consulting industry is also availing itself of talent from external sources. Consultancy.uk described the crowdsourcing trend as becoming very common among consultancies. It is difficult to have every needed expertise that a client desires, so firms are often working with specialty companies and experts outside of the consultancy. With this expanded network of knowledge, a client can gain their desired insights. The consultants are working with digital agencies or tech startups and even independent freelance professionals in order to gain the expertise that is needed. The relationships among the different firms are mutually beneficial.

Conclusion

In 2018, more professionals may refer to themselves as consultants, even in industries that were once considered distinct. Many consultants will continue to work freelance, even as their income is increasingly affected by performance-based billing. Firms may also be compelled to bill according to outcomes. Consultants of all kinds will likely work together when crowdsourcing for consulting projects.

Overall, 2018 may be the year of “more”: more professionals defining themselves as consultants, more collaboration between consultants and consulting firms and more accountability for the outcome of anything called “consulting”.