Understanding the Past, Building the Future – Management Consulting

As we continue to celebrate our 100th anniversary, we went to our newest practice, Management Consulting, with 3 simple questions:

  1. How have things changed in their fields in the past 100 years?
  2. What are the biggest challenges they – and their clients – are about to face?
  3. What’s the most exciting thing they speculate is coming along?

Here’s what they told us.

(By Stephen Coco, with Rebecca Atamian and Dhruv Gupta)

Towards nimble operations and a free-agent workforce

Business revenue growth has changed dramatically over the years, with the rate of growth slowing since the Great Recession and a larger focus now on revenue derived from products and services inspired by technology.

“Outsourcing will become a medium for innovation and will free up resources whose capacity can be repurposed towards market expansion.” Stephen Coco, Global Practice Leader, Management Consulting

The speed of technology evolution has required an increased focus on differentiating products and services – and organization structures that support their delivery – to enable nimble operations. There has also been a progressively increasing focus on shared services across divisions, on the automation of administrative processes performed by a smaller administrative workforce, and on outsourcing throughout the organization. This reduces fixed costs while enabling the organization to invest in talent critical to innovating and delivering products and services.

Increasingly organizations are striving for flatter reporting structures that allow employees to work on cross-functional teams. That creates a less hierarchical environment appealing to younger talent.

The workforce has become more remote, creating the need to restructure roles so that they can be performed “offsite”. The dawn of the free agent workforce is giving rise to more temporary project teams consisting of freelance employees and contractors. Looking ahead, we expect the definition of “employee” to fundamentally change from a 1:1 employee:employer relationship to a 1:many as younger generations of workers are interested in curating a lifetime of experiences, not a resume of promotions. Work extends past “regular” 9-5 shifts as workers are expected to be responsive for longer periods during the day.

Online collaboration tools have exploded onto the scene in recent years and their use has been embraced by an always-online, increasingly-mobile workforce. Holographic technology being piloted at Xerox’s PARC facility will be the future of telepresence. For the work environment, this extends the limits of collaboration with regards to whom one can collaborate with, at what times, where and how.

A surprising 360-degree reversal just within the last decade is a shift towards employees coming “back to the office”, as well as a bigger emphasis on work-life balance (e.g., not responding to email or taking phone calls on nights and weekends) in a time where the line is increasingly blurred between the two.

Vanishing workforce

While talent is not scarce everywhere, certain occupations such as skilled trade workers, sales representatives, civil engineers and technicians will face shortages over the next 25 years. Furthermore, turning the 400% population growth in Africa over the next 90 years into workforce growth through corporate educational partnerships, internship and exchange programs, and capability evaluation is a tremendous challenge and opportunity.

Retention will continue to be a key challenge for businesses fueled by a generation of workers who will continue to switch jobs more frequently than past generations, a competitive global marketplace vying for talented individuals who tend to see working as an independent contributor (i.e., consultant or contractor) to multiple organizations the core of a sustainable (and highly engaging!) “career”. Moreover, research indicates that younger employees who are part of the Millennial and Z generations are more likely to start their own businesses compared to previous generations, making engagement and retention a top priority and challenge for businesses in the near future.

Outsourcing the future

Outsourcing will not only be viewed as a cost-saving measure for organizations. Outsourcing will become a medium for innovation and will free up resources whose capacity can be repurposed towards market expansion, internal incubators for “passion projects-turned-profitable products”, and programs to better cater towards the expectations of a workforce that is increasingly inclined to attrite for the “next best thing”.

Customer care center analytics can teach us about customer behavior by tracking and analyzing calls, text analytics can search and index key phrases that help explain the intensity of customer issues and evolving technologies such as text-to-speech can help build out entire customer profiles infused with learned customer sentiment and behavior.

Moreover, outsourcing will increasingly leverage software robots for process automation. Robotic process automation (RPA) will allow business processes to be performed faster and less expensively, but with greater accuracy, a higher and more consistent quality, and endless scalability. Finding ways to engage RPA in day-to-day operations will be not only one of the largest challenges in the coming years, but will also yield some of the most significant impacts on future business operations.

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