Is Consulting Disrupting Itself?

Consulting is being disrupted. And just like higher education, Covid may have been the trigger to convince the laggards that it can be done.

Is Consulting Disrupting Itself?

Is Consulting Disrupting Itself? 2560 1707 Visible Pathway

Author: Chris Rodowicz  |  Reading Time: 5-6 minutes

 

The world can be a cruel place.

The covid pandemic is really exposing unrelated and unexpected cohorts of workers to the prospects of long term unemployment. Up until now they were performing well and in very good and solid positions. They were enjoying genuine long term, successful career trajectories.

One such cohort is the tertiary education community. I read recently (The Guardian 7 October 2020) that a whopping 10% of Australian university jobs have been slashed during Covid. In real terms that’s more than 12,500 skilled, well paid jobs gone and they are probably unlikely to return in the short term if ever. I visited Sydney University right after reading the article, at lunch time on a Monday when the place is normally heaving with people, and was honestly shocked by how empty it was. The main pedestrian thoroughfare is normally a buzzing place full of students and staff going from a to b and interacting with each other. But this day it was deserted.

Uni of Sydney or a ghost town

But what really interested me in the article was the comment made by some of the senior teaching staff (that still had their jobs). They were saying they were being asked to create more reusable course content during the pandemic, which they say makes them more expendable.

Disrupting education

Well, unfortunately they are right. They are actually being disrupted, and they’re doing it to themselves, from the inside. Now that is cruel. Often disruption comes from outside. A new market entrant or startup that comes in to the low end of an under served market, under the radar so to speak, and undercuts the price of the incumbents. Once they gain market share at the low end with a minimum viable product (MVP) they develop their product or service to enhance their value proposition. This allows them to start to move up market nipping at the heels of the incumbents.

The incumbents then find it very hard to respond appropriately to this new threat anywhere near fast enough. Why?  Because they are not agile businesses and are already heavily invested in their legacy business model and customers. Their inability to react and adapt is what makes them so vulnerable to this style of attack.

Examples of this type of disruption have been seen in transport, banking, insurance, healthcare, legal services and now education. Industries often dominated by large to very large corporations that have large market share also have inflexible, entrenched business models.

Education in general, be it for individuals or for businesses, is being disrupted.

Education for individuals

When Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning) launched in 1995 it initiated the disruption of education for individuals. The traditional face to face, geographically limited business model of attending a course at a pre-determined scheduled time to learn guitar, how to build houses or how to use lotus123 (yes I am that old) was completely overturned. Now you could learn any number of skills over a weekend, at night, whenever it suited you, at your pace and at a fraction of the traditional cost.

MOOCs democratised individual education

The introduction of MOOCs around 2010 marked the moment when university courses and lectures could be delivered online using reusable content. And it makes sense right? Those lectures had been delivered 100’s of times in exactly the same way using the same visuals, worksheets and exercises given by the same profs for decades. The content was already being reused over and over. Making it ‘digital’ demonstrated how scalable and affordable education actually could be. And how it was now possible to study for an MBA, to be a doctor or to become an architect from anywhere in the world without leaving your own home!

But as with any seismic change in our society there was a large cohort of laggards who for whatever reason did not believe it would ever happen or that it could be done successfully. I think that Covid has hammered the message home to those people still with their heads stuck in the sand saying it can’t be done. In fact it can and is being done all around us.

What about business education?

Not too different to individual education except that this time the skill does not stay with the person or sit on their resumé. It stays within the business and is something that no individual takes with them when they leave. I like to think of it as up-skilling the business. How is this done traditionally? Using consultants, subject matter experts who you engage to work with your business to tackle whatever challenge your business is facing.

Again a significant number of the consulting engagements I have been exposed to use reusable content at their heart. What the consultant does is to contextualise it to a particular business situation and then to facilitate the execution and process. Up until very recently consultants were still saying how intrinsic their being personally involved on site in the project was to its eventual success. But their own statistics don’t support that point of view with anecdotal evidence collected by consulting firms suggesting only about a third of the projects consultants deliver are deemed successful by the client.

Then along comes Covid and now they cannot go on site and must set tasks for the business to complete in their own time using their own resources. These consultants were forced to adapt very rapidly to the new model of virtual consulting and hey presto they now talk about it like they invented it. Unfortunately not all consultants are going to cross this chasm though.

The old consulting business model is dying

Consultants are also struggling with the reluctance of clients to continue to pay their sometimes eye-watering day rates. Rates that were based on their old finite resources and ‘money for time’ business model. Now that they are consulting virtually their value proposition is being challenged.

The obvious next step is that consultants produce ‘reusable content’ that covers the business theory relative to their problem. When applied to their customer’s business it produces a specific set of tasks to be completed by these same customers. The difference being they using their own resources and doing it on their own timeline. This is what Visible Pathway does. We are leading the way in digitising consulting with the first self-serve, on demand digital consulting platform.

Go to our project library to see what projects we have produced to date and what we are working on right now.

Our team collaborates with world class consultants, who possess specific domain expertise relevant to small business, around their existing content producing it as ‘digital projects’. Once again disrupting from within but this time in a voluntary manner as opposed to those uni profs doing themselves potentially out of a job.

Each project either solves an everyday problem for small to medium businesses or teaches them the skills to sustainably and profitably grow their business. They’re delivered without the need for the consultant to be in the room making it affordable and available when you need it.