Independence Day

The big consultancies are gathering more and more power. They have quickly branched out from the core business of management consulting, IT consulting, accounting etc., to take on Digital Transformation, customer experience and now even creative communication services. And at first glance, this can sound like a good idea for clients. They can get everything from the same vendor, and (hopefully) get an integrated solution for their business. But the truth is, that by buying integrated services from a large consultancy, you end up getting exactly what the consultancy wants to sell you. I’ve written in the past about the dangers of being sold what the consultancy has to sell (usually IT services in the form of software solutions or SaaS). This is a great profit model for the big 10 consultancies, but it comes at the expense of unbiased advice. Think about it, if you were a consultant, and that you knew that you and your firm could make more than 100% extra on additional services based on the advice you give, in which direction would you lead your client?

Ok, let me make a disclaimer. This can sound like a self serving post, since Acoustic is a consultancy built on the concept of never selling off-the shelf IT solutions, and does not have any bindings to any technology providers, but hear me out. An independent consultancy (any of us), that sells only consultancy services, has no other motives than serving the clients’ needs. There is no upside in recommending a solution that stretches the clients’ best interests. Sure, we produce solutions, not just reports, and those solutions must be built, but we don’t lock ourselves to providers. We choose the right solution provider, for the right project and the right client at the right price and the right time. No ulterior motives, just solving problems that end consumers/businesses grapple with.

Which leads me to the core message of this post: Has independence and impartiality been sacrificed on the altar of perceived efficiency and integration? Are we moving to a world, where bias is seen as a strength rather than a weakness? If you are a business leader, paying for advice and solutions, I sure hope not. The ability to log at a concrete problem without prejudice is key to providing recommendations that benefit the customers and the businesses over time. It is time for a new movement, that puts the clients’ needs at the centre. That means focusing on real-word problems and solutions, not admin and back-office politics. In this world over continuous disruption, we need to be agile and open-minded to see what cultural trends, technologies and competitive sets that are coming, and respond to it in a timely and appropriate manner. That focus does not come out of implementing cookie-cutter solutions, generating reports, or keeping clients on endless retainers. That focus comes from identifying real-world problems, and implementing actual solutions (which may be digital or not).

The key to success for any business, is to relate  to the customers’ needs more accurately, faster, cheaper (or provide better value) and better than the competitors. And to really understand the shifting needs of today’s consumers, you need to innovate where it matters. Not in systems and back office functions (although they have to keep up), but in customer facing functions, customer-centric product and service development, and by generating supplementary and parallel revenue streams. True innovation is to identify current and future problems, and solve them. Sounds simple enough, but of course it’s a complex task and sometimes even a suicide mission. But as long as it’s done with only the needs of the businesses and the businesses’ customers in mind, it will generate positive ROI in the end.

Erik Ingvoldstad is the Founder and CEO of Acoustic Group.
Follow Erik on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR, follow Acoustic at @AcousticGroupSG
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[Main photo by Paula Mirandal, under CC. The image has been cropped from the original.]



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