Does the traditional management consultant still have a role to play?

EY´s acquisition of Doberman, McKinsey’s acquisition of Veryday, and Deloitte’s acquisition of Acne Advertising. These are all examples of the latest years’ trend with big management consultancies widening their offering with creative competencies.  For Cupole, becoming a part of ARC ensures creative competencies at arm’s length. What is the big picture – does the traditional management consultant still have a role to play? Cupolean Alexander Schultz shares his thoughts about the future of management consulting.

A couple of weeks ago, Cupole hosted a Clubhouse talk to discuss the future of management consulting. Joined by representatives covering creative professionals, private equity, fashion, and the traditional management consultancies, our talk aimed to clarify three main key questions:

  1. How has the business of management consulting changed?
  2. What is the impact of creative professionals on management consulting?
  3. How should management consultants adapt to these changes?

Looking back on the history of traditional management consultants, we could agree that the industry has had a somewhat damaged reputation. Management Consultants are being regarded as rigid types in strict suits, leaving behind little more than complex 300-page slide decks that no one understands. No smoke without fire, these types of deliverables still exist, leaving frustrated clients behind. However, the industry of management consulting is changing and improving. As management consultants, we understand the vitality of allocating time to create anchored decisions with the right stakeholders, not only on board-level, as well as presenting recommendations in a way that is easy to grasp.

But an important question persists: does the profession have a magic brew for creating business value, or is the need for management consulting to transform bigger than ever?

We could agree that the position that management consulting holds still creates value that neither in-house competencies nor consultants from other industries can contribute with. To be more precise, the unique value lies in prioritizing decisions that bring value to the business and its ambitions, notwithstanding the nature of the activity. Where creative professionals will more often see solutions connected with the creative expression of a company or brand, management consultants will take into consideration a more comprehensive array of concerns. Furthermore, an external consultant has the time to dig deep into your business and make it accelerate quickly by running faster than the internal organization by spending all awake time on the specific problem.

However, management consultants do have shortcomings. The generalist perspective might sound like an opportunity to bring in a team that will solve everything. And maybe we have thought so ourselves at some points, to be honest. Finding where it is time to bring in a deeper understanding of specific topics or open up for dialogues with creative professionals earlier will be essential to keep challenging the status quo and create a competitive advantage.

The modern management consultant must be fast-paced, show pragmatism at a new level, and anticipate digital transformations. Simultaneously, the future management consultant needs to have access to in-depth skills and broad knowledge that cannot be found through a google search.

To succeed in the future, management consultants of tomorrow need to:

  1. Understand how creative expression and communication can contribute to a company’s growth, the importance of a strong brand, and how brand-building contributes to profitability
  2. Add expertise and detailed knowledge within certain areas at arm’s length, and at the same time, see the wider picture. The combination of the two is vital to create business value with capabilities the clients can’t hold themselves.
  3. Understand how strategies and recommendations can be tailored to the company’s capacity for implementation and find iterative approaches to form the strategy continuously. A modern management consultant dares to throw away fancy and complicated models to maximize client value.


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Photos from event