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Inside View: Cognizant Consulting

Fortune 500 consultancy firm seeks talent for clients' digital transformations

Thu Oct 8 2015

Today, strategy without technology is no strategy at all. So digital transformation — the use of tech to radically improve performance — is a hot topic at Cognizant, the Nasdaq-listed consulting and technology services firm.

Phil Dunmore, head of consulting for the UK at Cognizant, says that he wants talent with “digital DNA” — the insights, thinking and approach needed to be successful in digital consulting.

Digital has been the main driver of growth for the Fortune 500 company’s advisory wing — Cognizant issued guidance of around 20% overall for full-year 2015 — and the consulting business is growing “well over company average”, Phil says.

There is demand for MBAs too, he adds, especially if the degree is combined with experience, a hunger and desire to build a successful consulting career, and a personal engagement style that builds client relationships.

Cognizant, which has 218,000 employees, said in August that it had made “significant investments” in its workforce over the past year, and is “aggressively” investing in new services.

What demand are you seeing for strategy consulting, slated as experiencing resurgence?

The demand for classic strategy consulting seems to be declining, so even though demand for consulting is actually growing, it is focused more on strategic execution than pure strategy.

Today, however, we are at a stage where strategy without technology is no strategy at all. Many companies are heavily focused on planning and implementing their digital transformation, which is accelerating this change, and there is a more iterative and agile approach to delivering strategic transformation.

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

Today, consultants need five things to be able to address complex, long-term problems:

1.     Analytical thinking: the ability to effectively analyse a situation or problem, and the ability to ask the right questions.

2.     Insight: development of insightful deductions and proposals from the analysis.

3.     Implementable solutions: understanding the realistic ability to implement the ideas.

4.     Domain knowledge: clear knowledge of the clients’ environment; clients do not want generic consulting ideas.

5.     Client engagement and trust: empathy and relationship with the client to establish mutual trust.

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

Certainly — every client is investing in digital these days. This includes how to use digital to transform the externally-facing business, the markets and engagement with customers, as well as how to transform the internal operations to drive effectiveness, efficiency and employee engagement.

In the future, once companies have fully embraced and implemented ‘digital’, we shall see organizations fine-tuning specific digital features and functionalities.

What difficulty have you had attracting consultants with digital expertise? And what steps have you taken to plug talent gaps?

Many companies — and hence potential candidates — talk about having digital expertise, but in most instances their experience is relatively limited. We are looking for some direct relevant experience combined with digital DNA — the insights, thinking and approach to be successful in digital consulting.

Which areas of digital are a priority for you and your clients?

Digital is at the heart of our organization as well as our client's. As such, all areas are a priority, from digital transformation strategy to designing and implementing digital solutions from a business and technology perspective.

Is there still a demand for MBA-educated consultants?

Yes, especially if the MBA is combined with actual consulting and industry experience, a hunger and desire to build a successful consulting career, and a personal engagement style that enables them to successfully build client relationships.

Research suggests clients are increasingly using their own managers as in-house consultants. Do you see this as a threat?

No, I don’t: most clients have been doing this for 20 years. Demand for external consulting continues to increase, as evidenced by the growth we are seeing in both our global and UK consulting business, which is growing well over company average.  

Digital has been the main driver of this demand; the need for clients to change to be competitive in the digital arena is now crucial.

In fact, well over 60% of our consulting pipeline is driven by a demand for digital. Client expectations are increasing, so as an external consultant you have to be able to bring not only insightful solutions, but also implement them successfully for clients to realize the benefits.