Industry Expertise · February 24, 2022

Management Consulting Industry Trends Focus on Engagement

Like many in the management consulting industry, the pandemic dramatically upended your world. Consultants have long relied on industry experts sharing insights and knowledge on a face-to-face basis—usually at a client's worksite. Amid COVID-19 related travel and workplace restrictions, however, almost all consultancies migrated online and were forced to rethink the consulting business model. This included recalibrating what engagement looks like, from client interactions to team dynamics.

As we emerge from the pandemic, some changes will prove temporary. But the online-first mentality figures to be a key driver of management consulting industry trends over the coming years. Here's how.

Online connections provide a lifeline

When COVID-19 swept across the globe, wide-scale lockdowns and closures created a mad rush to integrate videoconferencing services such as Zoom, Cisco's Webex and Microsoft Teams. Businesses had to consider a transition to the fully remote office.

Admittedly, the transition was clunky at times. But once users determined how to effectively use their mute button and camera settings, the value of the technology grew exponentially, as did the acceptance of virtual meetings by clients, workers and consultants.

Like most management consultants, as you adapted to the new reality, you likely found that productivity jumped with the reduced travel time and emphasis on hitting the road only in critical situations. Because many professions enjoyed similar benefits, the push online is unlikely to subside. In fact, by 2024, global technology research firm Gartner predicts that only 25% of business meetings will be face-to-face.

Service providers respond

Not surprisingly, the mainstreaming of virtual meetings has fueled high levels of innovation—and merger and acquisition activity—in related technology firms. For example:

  • Zoom bolstered its online event production capabilities and added automated multi-language translation services through acquisitions.
  • Cisco's WebEx bought a firm that specializes in producing large-scale, multi-session hybrid conferences. They also bought firms producing advanced polling functionalities and technology that integrates chat functionalities from multiple providers.
  • The company formerly known as Facebook renamed itself Meta and set its targets on leading the race to define the metaverse, which some see as the next generation of the online world. Among other things, the metaverse is being designed to emphasize the integration of users into web-based virtual communities through avatars or digital versions of themselves.
  • Microsoft rolled out Mesh, a platform that will enhance its Teams platform by elevating users' digital presence. It followed up with the multi-billion dollar acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a game developer that has excelled at the use of avatars and immersive online spaces.
  • A host of online coaching software startups developed platforms that streamline scheduling, client service, client communication, billing and payment processing for small- to mid-sized management consulting practices.

Digital future aims to enhance clients and consultants

As for the future of management consulting, the innovation required to make digital connections as seamless as possible will continue to ease the delivery of your expertise in multiple formats. For example, you'll increasingly discover new technology that helps improve customer response times, speed product development, strengthen security measures and sharpen data collection efforts.

Meanwhile, the management consultant industry's growing digital standards will continue to change your existing practice. Expect to see more streamlined collaboration platforms, improved talent searches and easier access to ongoing education and training.

It's highly unlikely that face-to-face connections will ever go away. But as you take the pandemic's lessons forward, online and virtual ties that complement such in-person sessions will continue to fuel management consulting industry trends that shape deeper and richer experiences on both sides of the engagement.


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