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How is technology disrupting the Consulting industry....?

Rapid access to good online information, quick advice, forum soundbites or 24/7 support .... just the starting point in discovering a business solution?

“Technology”.  Once seen as revolutionary and novel, technology is now commonplace and is making in-roads into all aspects of our lives. We encounter (and expect) technology to support us as much as possible in our professional and personal lives.  Technology is now seen as a byword of convenience and connectivity.  It impacts the way we connect and converse with our colleagues and friends.  It changes the way we shop.  It opens a variety of channels of entertainment.  It affords us the luxury of choice.  It can even predict our behaviours and needs.  And as technology continues to get craftier, I ask how this disrupts the management consulting profession.  

20 years ago no one had access to the wealth of information we have at our fingertips today.  If one had a question, you couldn’t Google it; ask a LinkedIn group; ask social network friends; tweet a question; ask a colleague via email or instant messenger; ask a Google+ Circle; start a thread on a forum; or even ask the personal assistant on our smart phones.  In today’s environment we are provided with these technologies, free of charge, 24/7 and the lines between ‘work’ and ‘play’ are becoming ever more blurred.  What it means is people like you and me (and our clients!) have a wealth of information and a dramatically decreased expectation of the time they are willing to wait to get it.  The ‘information revolution’ and particularly social technologies enable business leaders to get an authentic and instant view into the consumer mind-set, and arguably an insight into the business issues they’re facing and possible solutions.

There are of course some (much debated) unwanted by-products of technology, such as information overload, impacted social lives, a decreasing ability to think for one’s self, and of course increased revenues for Specsavers!  Typically, however these effects are insignificant in the bigger picture.

Having taken some time to debate this topic with myself on my journey home, I’ll make the following observations.

But will the Board be convinced...?

My experiences to date tells me that the businesses, governments and individuals we advise are often of the belief that they are somehow unique; that the issues they’re facing are incomparable. Quite the contrary to this, I believe the issues they face are commonplace and relatively simple. What creates complexity is the environment in which solutions to these issues must be applied (where there is a human factor) – the solution often starts as something from the cookie cutter, but ends up becoming a comprehensively and collaboratively-built ginger bread house. My point is that rapid access to good online information, quick advice, forum sound bites or 24/7 support are just the starting point in discovering a solution. These things alone won't provide business executives and their teams answers to their most complicated questions. They are far away from providing cohesive insight, developing sound solutions and sustaining commitment from the company Board.

Data and Information..... are we getting close to Knowledge and Wisdom?

Numerous scholars have cited the Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom model – and I think it applies here.  Technology is providing us with unparalleled organised data in the form of information.  It’s up to our skill, judgement and experience to determine what we do with this information, and how much to ignore.  However, having said that, if we consider how far technologically we’ve come in the last 20 years, I believe there will come a point in the next 5-7 years when technology will start providing us with ‘knowledge’.

The real question to ask....

So if you’ve read this far, you might be wondering what’s the point of this article?  The real question you need to ask yourself is “are you open and adaptive to technology?”  We often direct and deal with change and ambiguity with our clients, but how often do we change approach ourselves?  In my mind, the real disruption to the industry will come when those accomplished and expert professionals are able to work side by side with cutting edge technology, and encouraging our clients to do likewise.

Note:  ~ Written on my iPad, whilst I travel home on the train, listening to music on my wireless headphones that I’m streaming live from the on-board Wi-Fi, whilst simultaneously using my iPhone to compare and book some flights for the summer holiday (not before instant messaging the boss, Mrs Huntley, of course…) ~






Freeman Steve Huntley