11 November 2014

Looking forward: Digital Disruption and Management Consulting

20 years ago nobody was sending email, information was available almost exclusively from physical sources and business processes were designed almost exclusively in-house.

But advances in technology have drastically changed our behaviour both as consumers and in the workplace.

An ulterior effect of the information and networking age has been an increase in the flexibility of service offerings by professional services firms. Although the big four still hold most of the market, recently there has been a rise in niche firms, offering services more suited to smaller organisations.

These subjects were covered at a recent panel event hosted by the Master of Management Society at the University of Sydney Business School. The four distinguished guests shared their experience of how industries in Australia are being disrupted and included the following:
  • Matthew Gilmour - Founder of Ozforex , an international exchange company that was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange for $442 million
  • Emily Yue - Founder of Expert 360, a firm that connects businesses requiring professional services to top freelance professionals and consultants, most of whom have previously had careers at the top firms and agencies
  • Damien Tampling - Head of Digital Strategy, Transformation and Investment Practices at Deloitte
  • Christopher Kurwie - Senior Associate at Venture Consulting, a company specialising in working with digital, media and telecommunications companies

Panellists, left to right; Matthew Gilmour, Founder, Ozforex; Emily Yue, Co-Founder and COO, Expert 360; Damien Tampling, Partner, Deloitte; and Christopher Kurwie, Senior Associate, Venture Consulting; and host, Emma Cowan, current student in the Master of Management program

Naturally, with three consultants at the table and many aspiring consultants in the audience, there was a lot of discussion on the topic of the management consulting industry.

Damien, the panel’s representative of the Big Four, accepted that the level of disruption in the industry will possibly see the established players become smaller in the coming years, driven by a combination of factors.

From a technological perspective, the online channel used by Expert 360 (described as internet dating meets consulting services) has facilitated a much larger and more diverse market for professional services than what existed previously.

A lack of flexibility in the established firms is another reason for change in the industry. Emily Yue nominated this as the primary reason for Expert 360 being established, as it allows start-ups and smaller enterprises to hire specialist staff as needed, for specific lengths of time, eroding the advantage of larger corporations that can afford to have specialists employed full-time.

Furthermore, in seeking to value add and offer greater expertise to companies, many specialist consulting firms are focusing on specific industries and company sizes; Chris Kurwie’s employer, Venture Consulting, is an example of such a firm.

Discussion among the panel was not confined to the consulting profession; the guests also had the opportunity to share their insights on entrepreneurship and innovation in general. In reflecting on how Venture seeks to make companies more innovative, Chris noted that it tends to entail either the specialisation or diversification of services. Matthew Gilmour exemplified specialisation as a source of innovation, having founded a company that deals only in a specific area of financial services. In his view, the opportunity to innovate tends to be grounded in “fat margins and red tape”: where this can be found, there will often be an opportunity to innovate.

Equally important was his view, upheld by the panel, that most successful entrepreneurs will acquire knowledge and experience in their chosen field prior to creating their own enterprises. Matt’s prior experience in working in foreign exchange for large institutions as well as Emily Yue’s stint as a consultant for Bain & Co. justifies the importance of this prerequisite for being an entrepreneur. In light of this, Matt suggested the stories of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg creating billion-dollar enterprises straight out of college should be seen as the (very rare) exception, rather than the rule. If you intend to be an entrepreneur, perhaps it will pay off to continue your education post-university, pursuing a position at an established company to deepen your understanding and connections in the industry prior to trying to go at it alone.

As experienced professionals and industry leaders, the panellists did an exceptional job of representing themselves and their companies.

This was the second event of this kind that has been hosted by the Master of Management Society, following an alumni event held three weeks earlier.

Max Evans
Current student in the Master of Management program at the University of Sydney Business School and Analyst at CitiBank

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