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A Typology of Consulting Services

How to translate "management consultant speak"

The terms "consultancy", "management consulting" or "business consulting" can in essence refer to many different advisory disciplines. Management consultancing basically is about helping organisations to improve their performance. The scope of management consulting ranges from focusing on a specific area of a business (for example, its marketing & sales capability or a manufacturing process) to developing company-wide IT solutions, to recommending long-term strategic developments. The variety of advisory services, sector and expertise areas however is vast. There is almost no topic or business challenge without a related consulting service.

Sometimes management consultants use their own "buzzwords" to describe specific consulting services. Some people dismiss them as cliches, but they all have specific meanings and are valuable. The issue is when clients who are seeking out consulting services or consulting firms mis-understand these concepts. Take for example "transformation services" - sometimes this means transformation of a client's IT (such as with Accenture), recovery & restructuring (such as with McKinsey) or business transformation (such as with Deloitte). The same term may therefore stand for completely different business challenges, expertise areas or consulting services. Client organizations sometimes use a different language to present their business cases, so translating "buzzwords" into real clients' challenges and priorities may be necessary.


A typology of consulting services

Over the past years, experts have proposed several different typologies how to define and value the consulting industry. Yet in practice representative bodies such as the MCA, FEACO and analyst firms such as ALM Intelligence (formerly Kennedy Consulting Research & Advisory), Gartner, IDC or Source Global Research all apply different definitions of the consulting market.

Since its foundation in 1999, Cardea AG has been focused on optimizing the added value of employing consulting services for clients. By providing transparency in the consulting market, Cardea supports clients in making the right decisions when retaining external consulting services and has unmatched insights into the global consulting market.

The approach followed by Cardea is our own typology of consulting segments and topics:

Typology of Consulting Services


Strategy consulting aims at developing and/ or implementing corporate, divisional, and functional strategies. Organisational consulting services revolve around organizational changes such as restructuring, organizational development, carve-out or shared services. Process consulting deals with designing, optimizing and implementing core and support processes of businesses, often combined with IT services (IT architecture and systems implementation). HR advisory services revolve around human capital matters and/or offerings aimed at the HR function, e.g. development of HR strategies and HR processes, talent management, compensation & benefits. Closely related are training & development services aimed at learning, leadership and people development and HR technology services. Functional consulting services focus on operational performance and span all relevant aspects of a company's value chain (e.g. supply chain consulting, procurement consulting, logistics consulting, marketing & sales consulting, etc.) and support functions (such as financial operations, IT Systems support, facility management, real estate, legal functions,  risk management, etc.). They often involve business challenges such as cost savings, efficiency, quality, and/ or customer orientation. In addition there are variety of consulting services which focus on specific challenges and revolve around specific areas such as M&A advisory, regulatory & compliance, branding, corporate social responsibility, and many more. 


Bringing together clients' challenges and management consulting services

Based on our experience, it's essential (and sometimes challenging) to understand a client's specific project requirements and to "translate" these requirements into potentially eligible consulting services, approaches and consulting firms. It's not always easy to define whether the client or its project initiative "needs" strategy consulting, process consulting, functional consulting or change management consulting to solve the problem. Moreover, a lot of clients' challenges need combinations of different sector and expertise areas. Selecting and evaluating the right consultants for a specific projects requires a deep understanding of the types of services, approaches and expertise areas of different categories of consulting firms, such as outlined above.

Imagine, for example, that you're a business faced with the challenge of declining revenues. To solve the Problem, the management of this company might hire a trainer to boost sales, or a operational consultant to cut down costs and improve margins, or a strategy consultant to develop new products and services which are better aligned with the company's customers' needs. There is no single solution to a specific problem or challenge.

consultingsearcher® uses concepts and mechanisms which allow clients "translate" their challenges into consulting services and respective consulting firms.

consultingsearcher® provides perfect consulting market transparency by differentiating consulting firms based on their expertise and skills. Areas of expertise may comprise a "technical/ functional" expertise such as marketing or strategy and/ or a industry expertise such as automotive or financial services. Moreover, these expertise areas are "backed up" by concrete project examples and solutions to specific business challenges. This allows clients to quickly and easily see how a consulting firm can help them.

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