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We speak to Fraser Ross, co-founder and CEO of XpertiseNow, to hear his views on the changing landscape of consulting, what this means for the big players, and his vision for the company.
Q: The consulting world is a big place, changing quickly and operating increasingly complex and challenging working environment. Where are the big consulting firms right now and what can XpertiseNow do better than them?
A: The large consultancies continue to grow. I think that’s an important thing to understand they are continuing to grow. So therefore, the demand for their services continue to grow. Now the question is “why?”. If we think about the pace of change that large corporates are undergoing, that pace of change is increasing, and their demands are increasing and changing with that change in environment.
So yes, there will be a continued role for the large consultancies, because as people say, nobody’s going to get fired for recruiting McKinsey. Corporates have large, very large, hundreds of million dollar projects, and therefore they want to partner a brand that they can trust, that has the appropriate liability, et cetera.
So the first thing is to recognize that with clients’ demands increasing, the demand for the large consultancies will also be increasing. However, there’s also a frustration with the large consultancies because they are large and, by definition, they only want large projects, and the corporate clients demand profile, they also want smaller, more discreet, specialized pieces of work.
They don’t need armies of bodies to implement a system, what they’re looking for are people with real and deep expertise in an industry or a subject area. They want to be able to source them and they want to be able to engage them easily and they wanted at a better price point. And that’s really where XpertiseNow comes in, because there’s a huge number of specialist boutique consultancies out there that have phenomenal but unrealized potential.
By us then providing them the platform and the network, they can then realize their potential. The more successful they are, the more successful we will be.
Q: Consultants have been preaching disruption to clients for a couple of decades now. And as you pointed out in your 2020 article, consulting guru Clayton Christensen said in 2013 we are still at the early history of the consulting industry’s disruption. It has taken some time, but it is finally happening. Tell us about that disruption.
A: The most obvious place that disruption is occurring is if you look at the independent freelancer environment. Some people would say it’s the freelancer revolution. There’s a plethora of platforms out there where people, now particularly with the COVID pandemic, are making the decision for a variety of reasons that they want to be more independent from corporates.
So first and foremost, you have the easy access to freelancers. And you can see that all over the world, so that’s the first change that’s occurring.
The second one is access to knowledge. You know, if we think about the large consultancies in the past, this term “knowledge asymmetry” — i.e. knowledge is power — was applicable to them. The big consulting firms did have a huge amount of knowledge that gave them a strategic advantage. Now it’s changed; knowledge is now more readily available. Access to individuals with knowledge is more readily available, either through platforms like Catalant or Fiverr, but also through platforms like GLG. This means that if you want to talk to someone who has been, for example, a Chief Financial Officer for an hour, who has experience in particular area, you can you can arrange that and pay a bunch of money, and you can get access.
This shows us that knowledge has changed and that’s changing the shape of support that large corporates can get; it is giving them more options.
Q: What are the large organizations doing to adjust to this new environment?
A: In some cases like McKinsey with McKinsey solutions, I think they’re doing a great job. You know they have pivoted their organization. From a 100%, smart people focus now to anecdotally 50% solutions in 50% people. You can also see a little bit of that in companies like Accenture. But when you then look at the Big Four, they’re not doing this, they are still a people business, because in part, their operating model — the franchise model — is not geared up to make the changes. If you then look at other players in the marketplace like Infosys, Tata, HCL Technologies, and Wipro for example – all of these large, great organizations that would love to evolve their business to be to be at the pointy end of innovation, but they’re grounded in large IT service projects. And so they struggle to move up the value chain. Of course you’ll see some successes, but a lot of these large organizations are handicapped by their own operating model, and their inability, unlike McKinsey, to make that transformational change in order to compete in the new world.
Q: What were key ideas and reasons for founding XpertiseNow?
A: It was a belief in there is a better way. There’s a better way of providing value to the end-clients, and that was by bringing a network of specialists consultants together, giving them the best, giving them access to the best technology access, the best solutions, so that they can act behave, deliver value, as if they were a large organization. They still had their own entrepreneurial spirit, they could still move at speed, but they were enabled by enterprise capabilities. And that’s really what we’re trying to do.
Q: Why is the team that you’ve built at XpertiseNow the right one to deliver such a platform?
A: There are a lot of complexities, a lot of nuances, in management consulting as a profession. And so having people from that industry who really understand the nuances, who understand how client demands change, how to shape claim demands, you really need to understand, understanding, in order to then ensure that that knowledge is built into the platform. So it really is, you know, to, to ensure that we reflect the complexities of the management consulting industry in the platform itself.