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Management Consulting: Master of none vs. master of one (maybe a few)

Today, much of the basic research regarding any topic can be done using various outlets of information including search engines, books, and various discussion forums. Even though one might consult a professional for general advice, the true value for the clients and customers lay in deep expertise.

Let's look at this from a different angle for another perspective. Now, let's say you visit a doctor to get a remedy for a skin disorder. If you have a primary care physician, you might peek your head in to confirm your google research holds true and would immediately proceed to get on the dermatologist's calendar. If you have access to the dermatologist, then you will skip the primary care physician entirely. This overly simplistic analogy holds true in management consulting, as well. The value clients today see falls in very specific niche that cannot be attained by their internal resources or by the internet. Just like medicine, management consulting is advancing and specializing along the way to drive value to the entire business network.

Most clients are well aware of their symptoms and potential diagnosis, but they are looking for an expert team that has seen it and done it previously to ensure an increased success rate. While the cost of hiring a specialized team might be higher, the client is willing to take on the price for a successful result.

Two decades ago, when information and network was much less transparent, handing best practices and an elaborate PowerPoint deck was regarded as highly insightful for a client. However, with much intelligibility in knowledge, the needle is now tipping towards expecting much more from consultants. The clients question the need and the true expertise they are hiring, in addition are leaning on references to gauge the consulting firm's reliability. Clients are looking for specialists in their industry, in their functional area, in a certain technology, or a combination.

The evolution of the consulting industry while might be an uncomfortable journey, gives the teams an opportunity to provide much value in shaping the business ecosystem for the future. It gives consulting firms to be in their niche(s) and (1) extend themselves in research and development, and (2) deliver value that otherwise cannot be attained.

PS. The example analogy used is overly simplified to help put the management consulting industry into perspective and is not intended to be scrutinized. The idea was born when a colleague/management consultant mentioned how he described his profession to his grandmother. Physicians for companies.


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