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Management Consulting

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Management Consulting

Consulting, also referred to as management consulting, is a service provided by consulting firms to their clients, to help management at these companies solve complex issues that affect their business.

What is Management Consulting?

"Management consulting is the providing to management of objective advice and assistance relating to the strategy, structure, management, and operations of an organization in pursuit of its long-term purposes and objectives. Such assistance may include the identification of options with recommendations; the provision of an additional resource and/or the implementation of solutions."

Management consultancy is considered to be amongst the most interesting, intellectually stimulating and potentially financially rewarding work available in the professional services market, and as a consequence is highly sought after by job seekers, many of whom come from an accounting background.
Competition for positions at consulting firms is fierce. You will have to show your passion for a career in the field, academic intelligence and knowledge of the industry (best acquired through work experience or an internship or live consulting assignments at Aegis) to realistically be in with a chance of attracting an offer from the firms you choose to apply for.

Why Consulting?

Many consultants are selected to fulfill business needs that cannot be undertaken successfully by the client due to lack of time or other resources. The client may have greater vertical sector or functional expertise than the consultant, but the consultant can provide a powerful business benefit and improve their clients’ performance. Consultants can use their independence to manage difficult or political situations on behalf of their client, often using change management expertise and human resource knowledge.

In other cases, consultants may be hired or selected by clients for their technical expertise or to gain an independent or innovative overview in order to identify areas of improvement or development, stimulating the client to change or adopt desired practices.

What Do Consultants Do?
PricewaterhouseCoopers: What we do- Strategy Consulting

Whether specialists or generalists, consultants typically provide services across a variety of industry sectors in:

  • strategy
  • programme management
  • operations 
  • human resources
  • change management

Consultants may work within firms that specialise in consulting or may be part of larger organisations that offer wider services such as accountancy, audit, and IT development.   Business support professionals, who provide advice through government-funded initiatives, utilise consulting skills by delivering knowledge, expertise and guidance mainly to start-ups and SMEs.

Services can typically range from existing business support and development to skills assessment (e.g. Train to Gain Skills Brokers).  These specialist advisers have a proven track record of providing effective services to business, as Skills Brokers are trained to meet national quality standards.

What it takes to be a Management Consultant
Experience, Education, and Skills
Consultants have various backgrounds and credentials. Individuals with undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, MBAs, or previous work experience/expertise are all potential candidates for consulting positions. In general, competitive applicants have strong academic credentials, quantitative ability, and leadership / teamwork experience. Each specific area of consulting has specific skills and credentials that are desirable in a consultant. The following is a list of skills that are necessary in many domains of consulting.

  • Problem solving
  • Researching
  • Analytical and quantitative thinking
  • Understanding of business
  • Interpersonal and communication skills
  • Networking
  • Ability to work in a fast paced environment
  • Project management

An effective Management Consultant requires a balance of behaviors, skills and knowledge:

  • Market Knowledge & Capability: This is the application of fact-based knowledge of technical skills, business understanding, sector insight, and external awareness. 
  • Consulting Competencies: These are the core consultancy skills, tools, and techniques which are essential in delivering consulting services.
  • Consulting Skills and Behaviors, and Ethics: These define the professional skills, behaviors, and attitudes which act as "enablers" in achieving market capability, knowledge and Consulting C. They establish the level of credibility and trust between the client and the consultant.

The successful management consultant requires a combination of skills, and provides strategic and tactical solutions to a client. These include:

  • Change management skills
  • Technical and business knowledge
  • Business understanding
  • Ownership, management and delivery of solutions to clients
  • Project delivery and risk management
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to transfer skills to others
  • Creative and analytical thinking
  • Adherence to a code of conduct and ethical guidelines

Some initial observations:

  • The boundaries of what constitutes management consulting are becoming blurred. Larger consultancies are offering services from strategy to outsourcing.
  • There are low barriers to entry for individual practitioners, and thus clients are becoming more selective buyers.
  • Clients are demanding specialized technical knowledge or skills provided by the expert not the generalist.
  • The balance is shifting from traditional IQ-based measures to emotional intelligence as predictor of excellence and success.
  • The nature of work is changing. New organization models and growth in networked practices are impacting the future work of adults.
  • The value of information is diminishing as availability increases. Effective sourcing and application of knowledge is becoming a differentiator.

This competence framework builds on the current CMC model. It aims to give a closer definition of the baseline for all those operating in the management consulting profession as well as considering the skills required for the next generation of emerging management consultants.

Types of consulting firms:

1. Large, diversified organizations that offer a range of services, including information technology consulting, in addition to a strategy consulting practice (e.g. Accenture, ABeam Consulting, Capgemini, Cognizant, Deloitte, IBM, Logica, PA Consulting). Some very large IT service providers have moved into consultancy as well and are also developing strategy practices (e.g. Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys)

2. Medium-sized information technology consultancies, that blend boutique style with some of the same services and technologies bigger players offer their clients.

3. Management and strategic consulting specialists that offer primarily Strategy Consulting and Business Intelligence Models to any industries (e.g. Oliver Wyman, Bain & Company, Booz & Company, McKinsey & Company, Arthur D. Little and The Boston Consulting Group).

4. Boutique firms, often quite small, which have focused areas of consulting expertise in specific industries, functional areas or technologies. Most of the boutiques were founded by famous business theorists. Small firms with fewer than 50 employees are often referred to as niche consultancies (e.g. Insight CP, Nonprofit Empowerment Group in the USA, iProCon Ltd. in the UK, R2P GmbH in Germany, Six Sigma Center of Excellence - SSCX in Indonesia, eigen ventures in India), who help keep prices down and sometimes introduce new ideas emulated by larger competitors. If they have a unique concept and market it successfully, they often grow out of this segment very fast or are bought by larger players interested in their know-how.(e.g. Tecnova India Pvt.Ltd.,Visnova, CPL Business Consultants)

A fifth type that is emerging is the sourcing advisory firm, that advises buyers on sourcing choices related to insourcing, outsourcing, vendor selection, and contract negotiations. The top 10 sourcing advisors (as ranked by the Black Book of Outsourcing) were TPI, Gartner, Hackett Group, Everest Group, PwC, Avasant, PA Consulting, and EquaTerra. Although a fast growing sector, the largest sourcing advisory practices would likely be classified as boutiques when considering the management consulting industry as a whole - with one of the largest players, TPI, for example, citing 2006 revenues of less than US$150M during its acquisition by ISG.

Specialisms in Management Consulting
Management consultancy firms vary in their specialities and are largely dependent on the quality and knowledge of the consultants who work there.
Consulting advice encompasses a wide variety of management issues that can be divided into the following categories:

  • Strategy Consulting or Business Strategy Consulting: development of corporate strategy, new market entry, business case development, growth strategy, commercial due diligence of potential acquisitions / disposals, long range planning, re-organisation of a company’s structure, rationalisation of services and products, and a general business appraisal of the company.
  • Operational Consulting, Manufacturing Consulting or Business Services: assist in process improvement, cost reduction, review of the layout of a production department, production control, productivity and incentive schemes, address quality control problems.
  • Marketing Consulting: conduct market research and business forecasting, implement sales force training, organise retail and wholesale outlets.
  • Financial Consulting and Management Controls: installing budgetary control systems, profit planning or capital and revenue budgeting, office reorganisation and administrative arrangements.
  • Human Resources Consulting: assist in organisational design, organisational restructuring, talent and rewards strategy, advise on HR/Personnel policy, manpower planning, job enrichment, job evaluation and employee relations.
  • Technology Consulting or Information Technology Consulting: development of technology architecture, technology infrasctructure, complex programming, defining information needs, the provision of software, systems analysis and design, computer feasibility studies, implementing computer applications, computer hardware evaluations.
  • Applications Consulting: advice provided on issues related to large scale implementation of data software applications such as Oracle, SAP and Siebel
  • Environmental Management Consulting: urban area and regional development planning, international economic research, cost benefit and social analysis studies, physical, economic, ecological and sociological studies for the encouragement of quality of lifestyle.
  • Quality Management Consulting: setting of policy and strategy, customer satisfaction, performance measurement, people management and processes.
  • Outsourcing Consulting: management of outsourcing projects such as IT, HR or finance.

All management consultancies have their own specialisms. Firms such as McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company and the Boston Consulting Group have traditionally based their strengths on strategy consulting and continue to be seen by many as the leaders in their field. Professional service firms including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and KPMG have a larger breadth of consulting services, often covering all areas mentioned above. There are firms who specialise in technology consulting such as CapGemini and Accenture, firms that specialise in outsourcing consulting (also Cap Gemini) and firms who specialise in human resources consulting, such as Towers Perrin and Mercer Human Resources Consulting.
The difference between a consultancy firm and a professional services firm is becoming increasingly blurred. Nowadays it is common for large firms to provide several, or even all, consultancy specialisms. The UK's largest professional services firms with consulting arms include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young.


Management consulting is becoming more prevalent in non-business related fields as well. As the need for professional and specialized advice grows, other industries such as government, quasi-government and not-for-profit agencies are turning to the same managerial principles that have helped the private sector for years.
An industry structural trend which arose in the early part of the 21st century was the spin-off or separation of the consulting and accounting units of the large diversified professional advisory firms most notably Ernst & Young, PwC and KPMG. For these firms, which began business as accounting and audit firms, management consulting was a new extension to their business. But after a number of highly publicized scandals over accounting practices, such as the Enron scandal, these firms began divestiture of their management consulting units, to more easily comply with the tighter regulatory scrutiny that followed. In some parts of the world this trend is now being reversed where the firms are rapidly rebuilding their management consulting arms as their corporate websites clearly demonstrate.

Rise of Internal Corporate Consulting Groups

Added to these approaches are corporations that set up their own internal consulting groups, hiring internal management consultants either from within the corporation or from external firms employees. Many corporations have internal groups of as many as 25 to 30 full-time consultants.
Internal consulting groups are often formed around a number of practice areas, commonly including: organizational development, process management, information technology, design services, training, and development.


There are several potential benefits of internal consultants to those who employ them:

  • If properly managed and empowered, internal consulting groups evaluate engagement on projects in light of the corporation's strategic and tactical objectives.
  • Often, the internal consultant requires less ramp up time on a project due to familiarity with the corporation, and is able to guide a project through to implementation—-a step that would be too costly if an external consultant were used.
  • Internal relationship provides opportunities to keep certain corporate information private.
  • It is likely that the time and materials cost of internal consultants is significantly less than external consultants operating in the same capacity.
  • Internal consulting positions can be used to recruit and develop potential senior managers of the organization.

Note: Corporations need to be conscious of and consistent with how internal consultant costs are accounted for on both a project and organizational level to evaluate cost effectiveness.
Internal consultants are often uniquely suited to

  1. Lead external consulting project teams, or
  2. Act as organizational subject matter experts ‘embedded’ with external consulting teams under the direction of organizational management.

A group of internal consultants can closely monitor and work with external consulting firms. This would ensure better delivery, quality, and overall operating relationships.
External firms providing consulting services have a dichotomy in priority. The health of the external firm is in aggregate more important than that of their client (though of course the health of their client can have a direct impact on their own health).

What's the difference between Consulting & Advisory?

A common example in the financial services sector might be the following: if a company is performing an acquisition, a professional services firm may advise on the acquisition. If the decision to acquire goes ahead, the professional services firm may then be required to come in and perform the mechanics of the acquisition, which may include due diligence and legal services (these fall under the category of 'Transaction Services').
Generally speaking, there are restrictions to professional services firms on who can be advisory/consultancy clients, and usually a client cannot be both an audit client and a consultancy client as this violates in the independence of the auditor.

What do Graduate Management Consultants do?

As graduates, Analysts / Associates are expected to go through a steep learning curve from the start after basic training. The role and responsibilities of Analysts / Associates will vary hugely depending on area speciality and company, but typically graduates will do interesting things such as conducting complex analysis, modelling and preparing client presentation materials. Graduates should also be prepared to do the 'less interesting' work such as documentation.
As the work is project driven, a consultant's working week could be spent in an exotic international client location or conversely, a dour business park, or simply in the consultancy's head office. A consultant must be flexible and willing to travel, although the extent to which this is necessary will also vary from firm to firm and speciality to speciality.

Top Management Consulting Firms

The vault.com prepares a list of the top 50 consulting companies to work for each year. The ranking considers company culture, practice strength, prestige and compensation (6 percent), among a few other options. The top 25 for 2011 are:

  • Bain & Company (8.492)
  • Boston Consulting Group (8.176)
  • McKinsey & Company (8.159)
  • Analysis Group (7.251)
  • The Cambridge Group (7.178)
  • Deloitte Consulting LLP (7.162)
  • Oliver Wyman (7.123)
  • A.T. Kearney (7.089)
  • Triage Consulting Group (7.024)
  • Censeo Consulting Group (6.903)
  • West Monroe Partners (6.899)
  • Cornerstone Research (6.897)
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (6.89)
  • Alvarez & Marsal (6.844)
  • Trinity Partners, LLC (6.84)
  • Booz & Company (6.814)
  • Milliman, Inc (6.795)
  • Strategic Decisions Group (6.774)
  • PRTM (6.769)
  • Gallup Consulting (6.761)
  • Diamond Management & Technology Consultants (6.753)
  • Health Advances, LLC (6.729)
  • Strategos (6.704)
  • The Brattle Group (6.696)
  • Monitor Group (6.694)


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In this Article

What is Management Consulting?
Why Consulting?
What Do Consultants Do?
What it takes to be a Management Consultant
Types of consulting firms
Specialisms in Management Consulting
Rise of Internal Corporate Consulting Groups
What's the difference between Consulting & Advisory?
What do Graduate Management Consultants do?
Top Management Consulting Firms

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