Big data is rapidly reshaping business — the $41 billion-by-2018 market is spurred by the surge of large data sets, of analytical tools, and of digital disruptors like Uber and Airbnb.
But companies are struggling to steer their organizations through the data deluge.
This is a boon for management consultancy firms, which are seeing a windfall in demand for digital service lines. “A large number of their clients ask for services related to digital transformation, as they want to find a better way to engage with their customers via the digital medium,” says Stephane Ponce, global consulting lead at INSEAD, the world’s top-ranked business school.
This is good for MBA jobs. Business schoolers have had a decade’s long, and lustrous love affair with consultancies. Martin Kihn, the writer, coined the phrase McHarvard.
Today, MBAs still adulate consulting. And firms love MBAs too.
“There are growing opportunities to work in consulting for people interested in digital transformation,” says Zoe McLoughlin, head of consulting at London Business School, who was previously an international recruiting manager at Boston Consulting Group. She says BCG, and McKinsey, have said there are opportunities in digital areas for MBAs.
Below, BB speaks to six other prestige consulting firms, which are seemingly desperate for MBAs with data analytics expertise.
Matthew Guest, head of Deloitte’s digital strategy practice in EMEA, has a zest for big data analytics: “Data and analytics have become part of the fabric of how we do business. It’s almost instrumental.”
He says: “The tools are becoming to us what the office productivity tools — word processing and spreadsheets — were to the previous generation.”
It posted $12.2 billion in global consulting revenue in 2015, up from $11.4 billion in 2014. And Deloitte hired 15,000 more people. “There’s definitely a demand for more senior people,” Matthew says, including MBAs; Deloitte is a top recruiter at Duke Fuqua, Michigan Ross, and Columbia business schools.
Mazhar Hussain, from KPMG’s Digital, Analytics & Innovation team, says big data is the currency of the future: “Data is helping us shape and develop digital strategies.”
KPMG’s data rush is marked. It established the Centre for Advanced Business Analytics at Imperial College, and struck a deal with McLaren to use its analytics tools. Advisory revenue last year topped $9 billion, up by 9% annually. KPMG added 12,000 to its workforce in 2015.
“There’s a huge demand [for talent] because the industry [digital] is blowing up,” Mazhar says. KPMG seeks “this new digital native that can help us explore digital as a business opportunity”.
But there’s also demand for the traditional MBA profile: “There’s a huge need to bring in that expertise.”
Gregor McHardy, managing director for technology consulting at Accenture UK, suggests disruption is fuelling growth: “With digital disruption, our clients are reviewing their business models and assessing what they need to do to reinvent themselves — which requires strategy consulting input.”
Fees from strategy consulting grew by 16% in 2014, according to Source Information Services, the industry research group. Accenture’s consulting revenue was $16.2 billion in 2015, up 3% from 2014. It added 53,000 more employees.
It has been an “aggressive year of hiring for strategy skill-sets”, says Gregor, who adds: “We work closely with a number of business schools.” Accenture hires from schools including IMD, IESE, and Oxford Saïd.
Increasingly, an understanding of data analytics is required, Gregor says. “Our teams are increasingly bringing data and analytics skills into project analysis and execution.”
Phil Dunmore, head of consulting for the UK at Cognizant, says “well over” 60% of the firm’s consulting pipeline is driven by a demand for digital: “Digital is at the heart of our organization as well as our clients.”
Most companies are keen to pull off digital transformations, for fear of being over-taken by tech-savvy challengers such as Uber, Amazon, or Google. But 70% of tech transformations fail, according to McKinsey & Company.
“We are at a stage where strategy without technology is no strategy at all,” Phil says. Revenue at Cognizant, which also provides IT and business outsourcing services, surged 21% to $12.4 billion in 2015. It hired 10,000 more employees.
The Fortune 500 company wants consultants with “digital DNA”, Phil says, but experience in this area is often limited. An MBA degree is attractive.
Peter Hewlett, a principal at A.T Kearney, says digital is transforming businesses: “It affects the level of competition, the demands of their customers, their operating models, their cost bases, and their revenue.”
A.T Kearney helps two-thirds of the Fortune 500 see “through the threats” to the opportunities that beckon with digital tech. A.T Kearney has revenues of $1 billion and 3,600 employees.
Top talent makes those figures possible, says Peter.
“There will always be a need for the MBA profile — the MBA skills learned, along with their work experience” adds value to the firm.
But competition is tough in cyber space. “Since the global financial crisis, clients are focused even more on ensuring they hire firms with the right individuals, the right skills and the right experience. So sourcing the right people to join the firm is as important as ever.”