McKinsey/TCS: strategy consultant benefits & best practices

By Georgia Wilson
Business Chief North America gains insight from McKinsey and TCS strategic consulting best practices and benefits, as well as he impact of COVID-19...

Tasked with partnering with organisations around the world to transform how they operate, integrate technology and build long term capabilities, Kweilin Ellingrud, Senior Partner at McKinsey explains that “strategy consultants help answer strategy questions such as: ‘What should our 3 to 5 year strategy be?’ or ‘How should we launch in this new market?’ The benefits of having a strategy consultant are that consultants can push your thinking, bring innovative ideas and a landscape survey of industries. Businesses typically use strategy consultants (or management consultants) when they are thinking about their long-term strategy, a new market entry, or when they are tackling a new area, such as how to use digital and analytics to grow their business.” 

Agreeing with Ellingrud, Dave Jordan, Global Head of Consulting and Services Integration at TCS, comments that “one of the major benefits of employing the services of a strategy consultant is their ability to remain objective and impartial in front of a business’s adversity and potentially difficult personnel decisions for the future. A strategy consultant is able to analyse the overall structure of the company and identify cost-saving areas and ways to make processes more efficient; whether that is through innovative technology or new procedures and ways of working.” For instance, Jordan highlights that organisations have known for many years that software development has been essential for businesses to deliver exceptional customer service. “However, delivering an agile IT function alone is no longer enough. This is where the services of a strategy consultant are beneficial for a business, supporting them to implement agile principles and approaches throughout the organisation. As with all transformations, this can be a tall order. It involves altering the DNA of the organisation, and how it senses and responds to the marketplace. Asking every function in a large organisation to adopt new principles all at once is a huge undertaking likely to produce both false starts, occasional resistance, and cynicism. Having this third party consultant can reassure the senior management of an organisation that this is the right course of action.”

Developing an effective strategy

When it comes to developing a business strategy, Ellingrud explains that “an effective business strategy needs to be grounded in the mission of the company and the organisation’s objectives. The strategy needs to take into account the strengths of the company in order to decide where to play and how to achieve success. Importantly, the strategy also needs to articulate what the company will not do and not focus on. We see that more dynamic and frequent resource allocation, both in terms of talent and capital, can lead to better results, so once the strategy is set, truly investing in your best talent and critical capital, versus taking a peanut-butter-spread approach with scattered and broad investments, is key to success.” With this in mind it is important to “to balance aspirational and meaningful goals. For example a company looking to double the number of customers it serves, needs to be balanced with a very practical and achievable implementation plan, as well as objective milestones to measure success along the way.”

The impact of COVID-19 for strategic consulting

With industries around the world facing widespread disruption due to the impact of COVID-19 both Ellingrud and Jordan agree that “the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every single one of us and in every walk of business. Strategic consultants have had to be agile in their responsiveness, identifying short term trends that can deliver immediate business continuity and aid recovery, while retaining focus on the long term horizon, where highly adaptive companies and individuals will be the big winners in the race to become part of the new generation of essential businesses,” comments Jordan. While strategic consultants have faced the sample level of disruption as all other industries, Ellingrud does highlight that “at the same time, it has been striking how well and how fast many businesses and individuals, including consultants, adapted to this significant and rapid shift.”

In order to combat this disruption Jordan adds that “just like the banks revolutionised in the 1990s and 2000s, competitive success will demand more than simply picking the most obvious decision in the now. Speed is key to success, but only if the result is a strategically aligned and collaborative model, enabled by highly integrated, streamlined systems and infrastructure.” Since the outbreak consulting companies have helped articulate the potential recovery scenarios from COVID-19, the implications for each industry and explore what the ‘reimagine phase’ might look like for each industry, as well as what things may need to change in the future. “In just a few short months COVID-19 has changed the world. The pandemic has had a worldwide impact, creating a “new normal” unlike anything most of us have experienced in our lifetimes. This new reality has presented organisations with endless challenges and causes for concern. However, there are new opportunities emerging from this pandemic, that a strategy consultant is able to identify. A strategy consultant has the ability to look at the situation from a purely objective point of view and advise on the best next steps.”

Looking to the future, Jordan explains that “given the unpredictable nature of the virus, it is difficult to pronounce definite economic and industry outcomes. But directionally, it is clear that organisations and individuals need to gear up for a period of fluidity in the new normal. Although current, short term needs have shifted, organisations need to continue building upon their strong digital technology foundations to pursue certain economic behaviours. These include a focus on purpose-centricity with near term adaptability and resilience delivered through a strong digital foundation.” Building on Jordan’s beliefs for the future Ellingrud details that “Virtual meetings and client interactions are likely to continue in the future, with regular communication and brainstorming via videoconference continuing to be an important focus.” However, “more broadly, there will be a lot of focus on accelerating recovery with a dual focus on health and economics—protecting both lives and livelihoods.”

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