Consulting firms are facing technological challenges. Clients are demanding new service lines in areas of digital – such as mobile, big data and the cloud – which are redrawing the industry landscape.
The big professional services groups and strategy houses, as well as nimble boutiques and the mid-tier firms, have had to adapt.
Deloitte is on the same path as many, but it was one of the first to establish a separate digital unit. Its new office in London has a different feel to it. Open spaces purport a firm trying to distance itself from the corporate image expected of a Big Four accountant.
It is all part of its strategy to lure new talent, and to carve a slice of one of the consulting sector’s most promising service areas. Growth is being driven by disruptive technologies such as social media, analytics and cyber security.
Digital and tech services increased their share of consulting revenues in the UK by 6% in 2013, now accounting for about 25% of income, according to the Management Consultancies Association.
Paul Thompson, partner at Deloitte Digital, explains why his group is on a hiring spree and what it looks for in business school students.
Is there increased demand for consulting firms to offer clients services in digital areas?
Absolutely. We recognized probably about three to four years ago that increasingly clients were looking for digital services, and in order to offer those we needed to look at the skillsets that we’ve got. For us it was a question of both the type of skills and how they are delivered.
In the UK we’ve got 440 people within the Deloitte Digital team – and that’s just the people who are focused on a day to day basis, a core team. There is a wider halo team of at least 200 people involved in digital projects. It’s grown very fast [and] it's very very strong – double digit plus growth rates.
What types of digital services are you offering?
We started with traditionally clients looking at digital strategy: how they can take advantage of the opportunities being presented through digital. There was very much at least an understanding [of digital], and what the opportunities were around the digital wave.
The other piece was very much around e-commerce-type solutions. That was where it initially started for us, but it’s grown out into other key areas [such as] understanding the impact across the whole customer journey – digital marketing and engagement, [and] around social media and transforming marketing.
[We are] also looking at the sales automation and what digital opportunities there are for more traditional sales channels – helping people to become mobile.
The other skill that has become really important for us is analytics. One of the characteristics of digital becoming more mature in organizations is that the customer journey needs to be contextually sensitive. It needs to be delivering marketing messages that make sense to the consumer and that’s driven by analytics.
What type of candidates are you looking for?
To address the digital challenge we need a range of skills, some of which traditionally have been within Deloitte. For example, we need people who approach problems from a strategic perspective, but we [also] need to get creatives in place, people with an artistic background.
We need to have people who can design digital products, the people who understand the technology, and the engineers. So in a way the breadth of skills we require has got quite broad... And therefore we’ve had to look at a number of things to make sure we can attract, retain and deploy that talent. We’re hiring very aggressively within digital across all of those skillsets.
Is there a lack of consulting talent skilled in these digital service areas?
There is enough in the market... Of talent that has the right skills, but also has the right approach in terms of working in these collaborative teams.
We’re looking for a very high bar in terms of the quality of individual. We are looking in areas where traditionally we may not have looked. We are looking at talent from industry, agencies, other consultancies, graduates, business schools. We are looking across that range of areas. Digital is not necessarily where you’ll find people with years of experience.
Would business school hires come into strategy roles?
Not exclusively. We do have people that come from strategy but we have people who have been involved in terms of helping clients when in industry establish and build a digital customer experience, [and] those people are very relevant to us. They have very strong first-hand experience.
Digital and technology services account for a quarter of income, according to the Management Consultancies Association. Is this the next big growth area for consulting firms?
We have many areas growing rapidly [but] it is definitely one of our four strategic priorities. The reason it’s so important is [that] we believe digital isn’t just going to become another channel – it’s becoming fundamental to the way businesses operate.
Also internally within organizations [that are] engaging with their own employees, the benefits from digital are potentially huge.
There’s not really an industry that doesn’t have some fundamental opportunities. It’s so broad in its impact.
What are the benefits of establishing an independent unit within Deloitte?
It’s made a very important statement both for our clients and the talent we’re looking for: that we are bringing together a new set of skills and they are addressing client challenges in a new way that’s very agile, very collaborative [and] very flexible, while still being part of Deloitte.
We deliberately established a separate location – a studio in Clerkenwell. It’s got a very different look and feel for us.
We needed a space that reflected how we wanted to work – lots of open space where we can do agile projects, but also… because we want to attract talent from different cities.
That tangible demonstration of what’s different has been very important.