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Inside View: Deloitte Consulting

Head of Deloitte's digital strategy practice on what MBAs need to succeed at the consultancy firm.

Thu Aug 13 2015

Amped up by a growing consulting business that is powered by new technologies, Deloitte is in need of senior level hires.

As digital reshapes the boundaries of consulting, the so-called “big four” professional services firm is in need of talent to handle large-scale digital transformations for FTSE 100 clients.

Long-term strategy consulting is back with a vengeance. It grew by 44% to £537 million last year, and now accounts for a tenth of all consulting activity, according to the Management Consultancies Association.

Data analytics has become a key focus area for the consulting firm. But digital has required a different environment and brand identify to be created — important for attracting both consultants and clients.

In this interview with BusinessBecause Matthew Guest, head of Deloitte's digital strategy practice for EMEA, says there is a need for a different skill-set to manage strategy consulting.

MBAs from business schools the world over are keen to work at the firm. Deloitte is a leading recruiter at Duke Fuqua, Michigan Ross, UCLA, Kellogg, and Columbia business schools.

Is there still a demand for MBA educated consultants?

There’s definitely a demand for more senior people because the reality is, although I’m taking in a number of people as juniors to train, experience counts, so [that] you’ve got a perspective on what can work in different circumstances.

[But] MBA is a qualification. It’s not something I always look for or do not look for. I have MBAs on my team, but I recruited the person — their psychology and mind-set is important to me.

It’s said that strategy consulting is back with a vengeance. What demand are you seeing for strategy consulting?

The market is hot. However the type of work has changed from what it was like before 2007-08. Our clients generally want a lot more than just a report that looks great on their shelf; they want something actionable, and they want the strategy consultant to take a role in driving action in the organization.

The downturn has maybe just reminded people that good financial stewardship is just as valuable in a small business as a large one.

What expertise is needed for consultants to address complex long-term problems?

It requires the same fundamental ethos of a consultant. It’s about focusing on value, rather than just the beauty of the creative expertise.

There is a resurgence of generalism as the fundamental skillset — a consultant can’t overly focus on one domain or industry, simply because the economy is in radical change and different industries are all contributing different pieces to that dramatic change. If you don’t touch across all of them, then you’re not able to give as good advice anymore.

Do you expect to see more demand from companies to utilize digital?

They have no choice. We are in the middle of an economic system change. The digital economy is the biggest economic change since the industrial revolution.

Those of us who are deeply immersed in this line of work accept [that] it’s fine not to know what the future is — but you need to understand how to get organizations in a place to be flexible enough to deal with change. 

Is much of the demand around data and analytics? 

Data and analytics has become part of the fabric of how we do business. It’s almost instrumental.

The tools are becoming to us what the office productivity tools — word processing and spreadsheets — were to the previous generation.

What difficulty have you had attracting consultants with digital expertise?

I would say [a] STEM background is not actually that important to us. It’s being able to think in a logical manner while still having creativity [that is important to us], [and] also being intellectually inquisitive and not being focused on a particular way of thinking.

As an organization we have a wide range of backgrounds, and tech skills in all manner of areas — from deep analytics to coding.

[But] it’s the mind-set that’s important, not necessarily the training.

Millennials are identified as a key demographic. How do their motivations differ from previous generations?

I wouldn’t say [that] it’s that difficult to attract them.

I think that the variety that has always attracted people to consultancy is still an important attraction. We focus heavily on giving people responsibility as soon as we can.

We’ve created an environment about an open collaboration. When people walk into our office for their interviews, they don’t see us as an old management consultancy firm. That’s helped us to not have a problem in recruiting people — across the board.

Are there concerns that businesses can develop digital strategies in isolation from the rest of their enterprise?

There is. Fundamentally, a digital strategy is your corporate strategy.

Sometimes we’re asked to do a digital strategy with a particular business line, but people rapidly realize that to be effective in a digital economy, it [a digital strategy] needs to be central [to their business].

[But] I would say we respect the scope of the organization and what it wants us to execute in. We don’t go in on day one and say, ‘you’re not thinking wide enough’.

You need to spend an enormous amount of time finding out a culture. That’s become more important than ever before. To be a great strategists in a world where business is radically transforming, you need to understand it [company culture] really deeply. It’s a really fundamentally important thing.