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Consulting Continuum

The Consulting Continuum 2016 was organized on 06th August 2016 and witnessed a series of lectures and talks centered on the theme:

  “Re-Inventing the Wheel vs Perfecting the Saints”

Following speakers participated for delivering lectures at Consulting Continuum

Ø  Mr. Krishnan Chari, DGM & Company Head - Banking & Finance Advisory, ICRA Management Consulting Services Limited  

Ø  Mr. Jyotirmoy Bose, Founder & CEO, White Spaces Consulting

Ø  Ms. Gauri Gokhale, Vice President - Information Technology and Services, Atos

Ø  Mr. Pawan Bindal, Director, Dun and Bradstreet India

Ø  Mr. Mukesh Kothari, Director, Deloitte Consulting India


Perfect balance plays an important role behind the success of any organization and it is the prerogative of every leader to strike the right balance. The world is always going through continual changes but the acceleration of change has increased noticeably in the recent years. Many businesses became irrelevant because they couldn’t cope with the rapid changes. Hence there is dire need for organizations to re-organize, re-invent and restructure themselves to be the best or to compete with the best. This fast-moving world has become highly impatient, which is evident from the various business decisions being taken. The impatience does not allow a business to properly analyze the cause and the effects and re-invent does not necessarily mean overhaul. The already existing and well performing strategies need continuous evolution. The most critical question is at which point should the leader strike the right balance? Or is there even a point at which business leaders should strive to choose between re-inventing everything vs. perfecting the existing processes?

Below were the sub-themes for the seminars:

The biology of corporate survival:

Companies operate in an increasingly complex world; business environments are more diverse, dynamic, and interconnected than ever—and far less predictable. Yet many firms still pursue classic approaches to strategy that were designed for more-stable times, emphasizing on analysis and planning, focused on maximizing short-term performance rather than long-term robustness. The future of corporate survival is determined by how effectively new strategies are devised and implemented. To measure the effectiveness of this survival strategy, the longevity of more than 30,000 public firms in the United States over a 50-year span were investigated. The results are stark: Businesses are disappearing faster than ever before. Public companies have a one in three chance of being delisted in the next five years, whether because of bankruptcy, liquidation, M&A, or other causes. That’s six times the delisting rate of companies 40 years ago. Although we may perceive corporations as enduring institutions, they are now dying, on average, at a younger age than their employees. And the rise in mortality applies regardless of size, age, or sector. Neither scale nor experience guards against an early demise. But despite the apparent gloom, there is still cause for optimism with companies still in need of advice.

Strategic principles for competing in the digital age:

Digital capabilities will increasingly determine which companies create or lose value. These shifts will take place in the context of industry evolution, which isn’t monolithic, but can follow a well-worn path: new trends emerge and disruptive entrants appear, their products and services embraced by early adopters (exhibit). Advanced incumbents then begin to adjust to these changes, accelerating the rate of customer adoption until the industry’s level of digitization—among companies, but perhaps more critically, among consumers as well—reaching a tipping point. Eventually, what was once radical is normal, and unprepared incumbents run the risk of becoming the next Blockbuster. Others, which have successfully built new capabilities (as Burberry did in retailing), become powerful digital players.

When to change, how to lead:

It’s fashionable to say that we live in fast-changing times. Does that mean leadership itself must change? Is leadership an immutable endeavor in which we learn as much from Alexander the Great and the Bhagavad Gita as from GM’s Mary Barra or Apple’s Tim Cook? Or does the role of the business leader change with the changing times? The case of leadership being a timeless endeavor rests on the fact that the ability to lead is strongly linked to personality and character. Several studies suggest that open-minded, conscientious people who are emotionally tuned to take charge, tend to be stronger leaders than people who aren’t. And while leadership skills can be learned, personality and character are pretty much given by the time you enter the workforce and don’t change much over time. In this sense, one could say that some people are more predisposed to lead than others, and that hasn’t changed in the past 50 or 100 or 1,000 years. We all can lead better by developing a better understanding of ourselves, so we can make the best of what we have. Our research suggests that leaders who are self-aware—who know themselves or, as we put it, are “centered”—are up to four times more effective in managing change than people who aren’t.

Seeing through the noises and hypes of technological disruption:

A “disruptive innovation” is a market-oriented change, one that revolutionizes by changing the purchasing preferences of the market. The mass-produced Model T changed the purchasing preferences of millions, despite it being based on old technology. The disruptive innovation wasn’t the car — it was the assembly line. For music, the disruptive innovation wasn’t the MP3 or digital, but the iPod. In both cases, and many more, the market changed forever because the innovation made the market better. The e-book existed for years before the true disruptive innovation arrived — the Amazon Kindle, with its built-in Whispernet connection at no cost, low-cost books, and so forth. The market responded quickly.

Disruptive innovation is a high bar that requires not only a major technology to arrive and be transformed into something profoundly enabling to a latent market needs but also needs a market that is ready, willing, and able to follow that technology into a market shift. The benefits have to be clear and compelling, not debatable and abstract.

Consulting and Entrepreneurship – how consultants are adapting to the needs of entrepreneurs:

The term consultant still conjures up an image of an expert who can make great presentations, generate recommendations and leave you to do the hard work of implementation. This may work for big companies who have specialized staff, but it doesn’t work for start-ups and small businesses who are already understaffed and overloaded.

Start-ups need outside experts who can do the work, as well as provide training on what needs to be done. That’s called leading by example, and it is actually appreciated by businesses of every size. It’s time to eliminate the term consultant, as well as focus on activities and approaches that appeal more to the growing volume of small businesses today.

The paradox of combining speed and stability to achieve agility:

The world is changing and it is changing very fast. It means organizations have to keep up with the pace of this change. This has necessitated the overall movement of organizations towards an agile age and it has captured the attention of top businesses in all parts of the world. Importance of agility extends from whole organizations to individual executives as well. This is forcing the businesses to change the way business plans are implemented. The nature of the challenges being faced by businesses, change their forms and scope very frequently and Agility in the organization has the potential to prepare the businesses to deal with these challenges effectively.

But the real challenge in adapting to Agile is the balance between speed and stability. Businesses find it very difficult to maintain stability in their execution while following an agile strategy at the same time. Leaders and managers move quickly when challenged and businesses adjust to changes and to new ways of doing things. During multiple survey conducted by leading Strategy consulting firms, more than half of the leading executives assumed that growth would result from refining the corporate focus regularly. For many businesses, these surveys also revealed opportunities to reallocate tens of millions of dollars to business areas that could deliver significantly better returns than existing priorities. Not all growth opportunities are created equal, but growth is still a critical driver of performance.

Impact of Public Policy in shaping consulting strategy:

A great challenge today is the complex nature of social problems. It translates into a greater demand of citizens which eventually necessitates accelerated change in the system. The Public Policy framework has enormous impact on every business, and changing nature of this framework is something which businesses must efficiently adapt to. This is definitely an area where consulting has a wider scope to help businesses. There are multiple factors of the public sector, which shape strategic management.

Evolving nature of Knowledge Management in Consulting Industry:

The need to manage knowledge increases proportionately with the service intensity of businesses. Service-oriented knowledge-intensive firms share some common characteristics. Services by nature are intangible; inseparable (production and consumption occur at the same time, and is therefore non-standardized), heterogeneous (customers are treated differently), and perishable. With knowledge-intensive service firms, the work is performed by professional or technical workers with high levels of skills and expertise.

Management consulting firms are good examples of highly knowledge-intensive businesses. They heavily depend on the expertise of their people, focus on customer relations, employ network architectures, the nature of their work is project-based, and emphasis is placed on applying creativity for solving client problems. Hence management consultants live and breathe knowledge because they sell business solutions and knowledge themselves. Explicit knowledge in consulting firms is typically embedded in the firm’s products and services. Structured knowledge tends to be stored on file servers and databases. A challenge for management consulting firms is to holistically address the management of both tacit and explicit knowledge.

Challenges and Opportunities for Consulting in 4th industrial revolution:

The fourth industrial revolution, characterized by the large-scale digitization and interconnection of products, value chains and business models, has arrived. It refers to the coalition of technologies across both across physical and digital worlds which is not only creating entirely new capabilities but also has striking impacts on political, social and economic systems. Industries across the world, whether big or large, are being affected, if not transformed, by this revolution. The pace of change is continuing to accelerate with its expansion.

For the next five years, it is being estimated that the share of investments required for Industry 4.0 solutions will account for more than 50% of planned capital investments. Today only 20% of the companies have digitized their core processes along the value chain. In the next five years’ time, 85% of companies will be implementing it. Many businesses are riding this wave to create value and earn profits, while others have crashed, burned and lost. So how today’s consulting companies can beat the odds? Inventing the future will require companies to forego the constraints of our previous models of success, lead with belief to create what will be the alliance of both evolution and innovation. However, the bottom line is the still the same: business leaders and senior executives need to understand this changing environment, challenge the assumptions and relentlessly and continuously learn and innovate. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is still in its nascent state. But with the swift pace of change and increasing disruption to business and society, the time to join in is now.

There are no old roads to new directions:

Over the years, many consultancy firms have made significant contribution to the growth and financial success of their clients. But despite this, the consulting industry today is in state of continuing transformation, insecurity, and uncertainty.

How will the consulting firms respond to these serious threats and challenges? There is obviously no single uniform response. Under the widespread changing scenario, consulting firms will have to change their existing strategies and restructure their practices in order to survive. In order to have a competitive advantage and stay in the business, consulting firms have to think of creative and out of the box business strategies. Lowering of information costs can work in favour of them. Companies can make good use of analytics to make sense of the information at their disposal. The basic results will help to realize the value that the information holds and how it can be used in business to either earn more revenue, or reduce operational costs.

Digital Technology – Big Data Analytics in consulting:

Big data and advanced analytics are creating opportunities for businesses. Yet only 4% of companies are able to combine the right mix of its resources like people, tools, etc. to take advantage. Organizations need strategic and not merely technological solutions to realize the value of big data. Techniques such as optimization, scheduling, data mining, text mining, segmentation, forecasting and statistical analysis, etc. are used to provide insight and valuable advice to clients.

Big Data Analytics enables consulting companies to approach problems and make decisions, backed with data, and to act on it in logical and structured method. The core of the approach is the ability to abstract a model of the real-life problem that is easy to use, yet sufficiently realistic to support robust decision-making. These models helps in providing deep insights, and quantifying the risks benefits analysis associated with solutions to complex client problems.

Adhocracy for an agile age:

Adhocracy is a flexible, adaptable and informal form of organization that is defined by a lack of formal structure. The concept of adhocracy was first proposed essentially as a flexible and informal alternative to bureaucracy. Adhocracy’s defining feature is that it privileges decisive (and often intuitive) action rather than formal authority or knowledge.

While the formal structure of operating businesses help in maintaining order and decorum, the new age model of adhocracy enables companies to achieve agility and adaptability. Adhocracy may not be the best solution for situations where extensive data mining and research are required or when prior knowledge on the subject is limited. However, in scenarios where knowledge and wisdom acquired by employees are adequate and reliable, adhocracy can be quickest and most efficient alternative. Organizations need to understand which model would suit their requirements the best and work full throttle towards adapting and implementing the same.

It is not the strongest or most intelligent of the organization that survive, it is the one that is most adaptable to change:

Well, though originally this was a Charles Darwin statement about species and their preservation in nature, it fits perfectly well with the existence and prosperity of organizations in the modern age. Severe competition has become the most gruesome characteristic of the corporate world. Both individuals and members of an organization’s managerial team, need to prepare themselves to adapt successfully to a rapidly changing business environment.

Organizational change is not optional to keep pace with business. "Adapt or die" may seem like a harsh directive, but there does seem to be a certain necessity to constantly move forward and adapt to new opportunities and challenges.

Operations and Supply Chain consulting – The solutions enabled by technology:

Supply chains and operations are undergoing radical restructuring as they face the challenge of improving performance in a world of unprecedented complexity and opportunity. Globalization has diminished boundaries and opened vast doors of unexploited market potential. Companies are constantly looking for new avenues to expand and diversify their market portfolios in order to boost revenues and gain cost leadership. One major roadblock in achieving this is coping with the different dynamics of supply chain and operations in varied geographical regions.

Supply chains and operations should be viewed as sources of strategic competitive advantage which can help organizations identify and invest in the right operating models to unlock the full value from their strategic asset. Technology plays a pivotal role in enabling companies to achieve this.

Be prepare to disrupt to avoid becoming a victim of disruption:

What Disruption can bring to you? The dawning of a new age? A manifesto for the reframing of society, governance and business?

The interaction between the trends, developments and ideas shaping the future could result in any one of the above scenarios - and many more. As professional futurists, we believe the disruption is to rehearse the future and prepare for a range of possibilities rather than simply adopting a singular viewpoint.

The reason why it is so difficult for existing firms to capitalize on disruptive innovations is that their processes and their business model that make them good at the existing business actually make them bad at competing for the disruption. Hence organizations need to understand that and be prepared to disrupt to avoid becoming a victim of disruption.