AI and management consulting: Hand in hand or eyeball to eyeball?

The current technological revolution is well underway and shows no signs of slowing down. Steering the ship: information technology, AI and machine learning are all at full speed ahead, travelling to every nook of every continent. The global machine learning market is projected to grow from $7.3B in 2020 to $30.6B in 2024, but at what cost?

Global Machine Learning Market, by Component, 2017–2024 (USD Million)

As an industry focused on data collection, analysis and interpretation, management consulting has long-since possessed cutting-edge tech and complex software systems to maintain its specialism. So, what happens when tools and software, such as Google Analytics, Statista, Tableau and Domo, become globally accessible? Organisations can now promptly and effortlessly generate reports and insights into various business areas- a task once placed in the hands of consultants.

Are companies becoming less dependent on consultants?

Rapid digitization has shifted many decision-making practices from humans to machines. With countless software and tools out in the open for a company to explore, the need for consultants is questioned. Many are now investing in software-enabled systems that obediently track, log and store data. Companies are increasingly choosing to develop in-house AI departments, causing a reduction in the dependence on consultants.

There has been an awakening within companies, opening their eyes to see the significance of data and choosing to collect more of it on their own. Public software can analyse massive amounts of complex data, gifting businesses with deep insights at a fraction of the cost and time that a consultant would.

Will AI take over the role of a management consultant?

The industry is facing a whole new pool of competitors, from Google, Microsoft and data science pros. How can management consultants compete against cheap, often even free, rivals? One prediction is that a huge shift will take place in terms of the services being delivered. The role of a management consultant will no longer be to collect and analyse information but to make sense of the information that client’s extract for themselves.

Consulting firms may have to prepare for a significant decline in client’s willingness to pay for services. Consultants could have to shift their efforts to intangible services such as mentoring, coaching and negotiating to survive industrial changes. 

Despite fierce competition from fresh rivals, management consulting still retains its unique capabilities. For example, external influences are endlessly altering due to the very nature of reality and society, which cannot yet be covered by an AI system. Human’s don’t have to be coded to know that there’s a global pandemic influencing every aspect of business, they’re living it.

Even obtaining a state-of-the-art AI-powered solution, equipped with endless data, doesn’t mean that the business will be able to realise the best solution. A huge and unique part of management consulting is formulating and implementing the correct solution in an organisation, relative to the context and external pressures, which AI is yet to mimic. 

An opportunity for expertise

The industries top players have already displayed innovative reactions to the shift and certainly aren’t afraid of change, embracing it as an opportunity for expertise. The development of BCG Gamma has shown that the surge in AI availability to the public is expanding the need for specialised and specific services. BCG has long been well-known as an employer of the best-of-the-best professionals, with unmatched human capital being at the forefront of its USP. The company is continuing to show the value of its employees, while simultaneously acquiring innovative tech companies to maintain its unrivalled resources.

Management consulting firms should choose to continually invest in and advance its business‐domain capabilities- such as coaching, mentoring and negotiating. With this, companies can continue to customise solutions and technology to meet the requirements of clients and provide superior value.

The opportunity of management consultants lies within these unique capabilities that cannot be matched by AI. As AI availability continues to flourish, survival lies within being able to prove to clients why outsourcing these services is more favourable overall. For BCG, unmatched human capital triumphs. How will you prove it?