On-Demand vs. Big Consulting Part 4: The Market Will Choose the Winner

Disruption theory tells us that visions of long-term market dominance by legacy leaders are mirages, castles built on quicksand. Customers aren’t tied to business models, methodologies or big-name brands built by massive marketing budgets: They’re tied to solutions.

Changes to the business landscape always happen, and it comes from agile competitors and their clients, who ultimately choose new, innovative approaches that better fit their needs.

Today, on-demand knowledge via independent professionals and agile boutique consulting firms are driving disruption in the big consulting industry, much as Uber and AirBnB drove disruption of taxis and hotels. Here’s why.

Enhancing Value Via Agility and Efficiency

Imagine an organization’s board of directors having a long, passionate internal debate about data science and analytics. The conversation ends with, “Find an expert who can help us solve our Big Data problem and bring them in here fast.”

Accessible through on-demand knowledge workforce management systems, the person or team that can solve the board of director’s challenge in the quickest, most efficient manner is more likely an independent specialist or a small firm of experts rather than a big consulting firm. Why? Because agility offers clients real value.

The recent Ardent Partners State of the Contingent Workforce report succinctly summarizes the emerging reality: “talent is actively being engaged in new and different ways, work is being optimized via project alignment and skillsets rather than costs and budgets.” We increasingly inhabit a business landscape that puts flexibility and agility first, and that’s certainly true in the area of accessing and leveraging talent.

While a big firm might add heft in terms of number of consultants and length of reports, they’ll also add unnecessarily long and expensive engagements. However, with more personalized relationships with clients and small-service delivery teams clients can rest assured that their needs will be analyzed and their solutions customized.

Real-World Example

Close relationships impact everything an expert does, and for the client’s benefit. Enterprises looking for external expertise to meet their business needs no longer need to buy solely for brand reputation or an instantly recognizable logo; they can simply buy results — and they can do so at a lower cost with equal or superior quality.

One case study will prove the above claim. General Electric, founded by the legendary innovator Thomas Alva Edison, has long been a pioneer in innovation. When GE decided it needed to catalyze innovation in the booming realm of advanced robotics, it decided to search externally for on-demand expertise to help with its R&D initiatives.

Since robotics is such a fast-moving area, GE made agility a priority — the R&D team needed to move quickly to increase the chances of beating competitors to the market, and pulling in a leading subject-matter specialist to provide expert help was their chosen route. Bringing in a big consulting firm for a typical, one-year engagement wouldn’t work for GE here, because speed-to-market and agility mattered a lot.

Within 48 hours of posting the project on the Catalant marketplace, GE received multiple proposals from expert candidates. John’s profile stood out because of a hybrid skill set that aligned perfectly with GE’s multidisciplinary approach to technological innovation.

John leveraged a Wharton MBA and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering with an emphasis on advanced robotics. John seamlessly integrated these two disciplines to develop a methodology for the market analysis of robotics, and he worked effectively with GE’s team to meet R&D goals they’d set out.

What was the result? John’s final deliverables empowered the CMO and GE’s Head of Technology for Global Research to invest financial resources with much greater confidence in product development, and also with a deepened vision of its future positioning. “By tapping an external expert, GE’s leaders ensured that this high-visibility project received the skillful analysis that would chart a successful path for the company’s future,” says the Catalant/GE case study.

The best advice for leaders on the client side is to explore all available options to find the best solution to meet your needs. As more options emerge, the availability and cost of bringing in the right on-demand knowledge experts will favor clients who weigh all their options carefully.

Series Conclusion

As we saw in Part 1 of our on-demand-vs-big-consulting series, we explained why the structural inefficiencies of big consulting firms tend to negatively impact clients. In Part 2 we explored the factors that lead clients to continually select big consulting firms even when it’s clearly not the best business choice. In Part 3, we offered a framework for adopting alternative methods to talent acquisition. In this last part, we brought flexible work methodologies to life with a real world example. What this 4-part series has illustrated is that change and new possibilities are quickly emerging in human resources, and that the market, faced with both traditional and an array of innovative choices, will ultimately decide who wins in the future of work.

Do your due diligence by resisting the urge to call that brand-name consultant and, instead, learn more about Catalant’s tech-enhanced talent marketplace.

Featured in: Enterprise Change

About the Author

Chuck Leddy
Chuck Leddy

As a content developer with a B2B focus, Chuck has worked for clients such as American Express, ADP, GE, Cintas, Office Depot, the National Center for the Middle Market, and more. He has published hundreds of articles, features, blog posts, and interviews on an array of subjects.