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26/07/2016 Back

Consulting 4.0: Explorers vs. Pilots

Es gibt seit einiger Zeit eine Diskussion darüber, ob sich der Beratungsmarkt zweiteilt: In ein «low-cost» und in ein «high value» Segment. Beim ersteren kaufen Kunden hauptsächlich über den Preis, beim zweiten Lösungen. Diese zwei Arten von Beratungsprojekten existieren, sie teilen aber nicht den Markt.

It's basically true that client organizations face two Kinds of challenges: one the one side they're looking for known solutions to familiar problems, on the other side for unknown solutions in a highly undefined and complex environment. If clients use consultants for these two kinds of projects, it's said that demand is increasingly polarised between a low-cost ‘commodity’ market, and a high-value ‘luxury’ one.


Two kinds of consulting companies?

In a recent article Fiona Czerniawska (Research Source Global) compares these different kinds of consulting services which have a direct bearing on the business models of consultants like being either a pilot or an explorer: «While some may command premium prices, other work decidedly does not. That’s because, as our new report on the subject argues, one market is actually two. … While it’s tempting to think of this business model like a factory (and, for many existing suppliers, this is indeed the case), the better analogy for the future will be like flying an airplane. … By contrast, people working in high-value firms need the ability to think on their feet, …: they’re explorers, rather than pilots”.

Pilots are flying airplanes by following precise, unambiguous instructions and along prescribed routes. Explorers on the other hand do not know the means (e.g. a plane) and maybe not even know the route to take to reach a destination (or goal). Frequency of occurrence and importance of "explorer projects" will increase in the area of Consulting 4.0 (see also https://www.consultingsearcher.com/eng/Cardea-competence-centre/The-consulting-market/Consulting-4.0-The-Future-of-Consulting-or-just-a-Trend).


Two kinds of clients?

We believe that for clients and their demand for consulting the situation is different, they don’t easily sit on one side or another. There are no such clients which only need "pilots" and others which only need "explorers". There are consulting projects which require a combination of both approaches and consulting services: The "means" maybe known but the goal/ the route not and vice versa. What clients do expect from consulting firms is the flexibility and agility to adapt to different roles and approaches. This is proved by studies asking clients about what value the expect from conusltants: Clients expect from them (independently of whether they're large strategy consultants, multi-specialists or boutique consulting firms) a broad spectrum of (flexibel) delievry models and a broad spectrum of expertise/ specialist skills (Cardea Executive Survey on Consulting Market Trends).


It's the (flexible) combination which makes a difference

Successful consulting firms are forced to focus on both ends, to offer "pilots" as well as "explorers". The capability to identify and choose the right approach and means to solve their clients' biggest challenges and to define measurable and achievable goals, will be one of the most important differentiation factor of consulting firms in the future, to the value for clients (catchword "Consulting 4.0"). Whether known or "explorative" means are utilized, whether goals and objectives can be defined at the beginning of  a project or whether "agile" methodologies and "try-and-error" approaches are deployed, is largely dependent on the challenge a client faces.