What Is Management Consulting?

14-Apr 2022
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Chelsea Williams SENIOR COPYWRITER

Consulting is a broad category encompassing a wide range of industries and specializations. In this article, we’ll focus on the largest sector of consulting.

Management consulting, also referred to as business consulting, comprises 50-55% of the overall consulting market.

Read on to discover:

What Is Management Consulting?

Consulting firms solve complex problems for businesses in their respective areas of expertise. Business owners and leaders often turn to consultants when they don’t have the internal resources or bandwidth to gather adequate data and perform the kind of analysis they need to make smart strategic decisions. 

They could also choose to hire a consultant when they face complex or unexpected challenges and would like objective advice.

Management consulting, in particular, concentrates on helping clients make important operational decisions that facilitate organizational growth.

What Services Do Management Consulting Firms Offer?

Management consulting firms assist businesses of all types and sizes.

A team of management consultants might offer profit analysis for an established mid-sized tech company, research competitors for a new private equity firm or help a real estate business enable data-driven hiring with relevant market predictions.

The specific services a consulting firm offers vary by the type of clients it serves but can fall into the following general areas:

  • Business model reorganization
  • Digital technology adoption
  • Operational strategy
  • Finance
  • Training and professional development
  • HR strategy
  • Sales and marketing
  • Business process management
  • IT networking
  • Research and development

Management consultants build relationships with new clients to understand their needs, then work with a team of other consultants and business analysts to gather relevant data and follow through on the client’s project(s). Finally, they put together a formal analysis and present recommendations to the client and stakeholders.

A firm’s deliverables usually include slide decks, spreadsheets and mathematical models that compile their findings. Some specialties, such as technology consulting, may require more hands-on work and, therefore, more tangible deliverables. 

The Path to Becoming a Management Consultant

Historically, the management consulting career has only been accessible to top-tier knowledge workers. Aspiring consultants have typically needed a graduate degree to be considered, especially for the Big Four and other top firms. An MBA (often from a prestigious university) used to be a standard expectation. 

Economic pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising cost of higher education have forced employers to consider fresh talent. This widening of the candidate pool presents an opportunity for ambitious people willing to expand their skillsets to join the consulting industry.

These same challenges have also encouraged businesses that may not have otherwise sought the services of a consulting firm to look for management consultants who can help them conserve resources and thrive through difficult times.

Experts predict the field of consulting will continue to flourish. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 14% growth for management consulting as a career between 2020 and 2030 — 6% higher than the average for all occupations.

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How Management Consulting Is Changing

Despite 2-in-3 consulting firms facing a labor shortage as the business world deals with the impact of the Great Resignation, demand for consultants — especially versatile management consultants — is growing. 

In 2022, the industry is expected to become far more digitalized, with firms expanding their offerings beyond strategy and reaching more into execution. This shift will require specialized talent, which means firms are looking to hire beyond the generalist consultant profile.

Another major change in the industry is the reduction in travel. Young, new grads used to be enticed by the jet-setting lifestyle required to be a consultant. With pandemic restrictions resulting in a dramatic increase in remote work, management consulting is now primarily a desk job. Client relationships, which used to be largely face-to-face, are now virtual. 

Because remote consulting is less appealing to some young consultants and competition is fierce as the overall workforce quits rate continues to rise, firms are turning to multi-sourcing to fill in the skills gaps. Whether it’s partnering with boutique firms and independent consultants or hiring freelance industry specialists, management consulting firms are restructuring how they meet clients’ needs.

Amid massive change, it’s easy to see the future of management consulting is bright. Adaptable strategies and fresh approaches to client work are helping to evolve this popular and impactful industry.

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