Where do we come from? Where are we going? A question that has been put to a lot of discussion by Dan Brown in his latest book “The Origin”.  The question seems ever so relevant especially in the context of consulting which is seeing the advent of a technological revolution that could change the outlook of the industry as a whole.  There is no doubt in the fact that we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the financial world – Bitcoin being the current game changer.  Who would have even thought that money could change hands without the inclusion of a financial intermediary, across strongly encrypted networks providing high data security and acting as an accounting system giving accurate information on the flow of accounting transactions, using block chain technology, between two parties – well that is precisely what the Bitcoin revolution has been doing – in other words this has been a revolution questioning the existence of an intermediary in the form of banks and a regulatory authority monitoring the banks.
Being consultants, it is imperative that we keep track of some of the latest advancements which could provide the industry with a lot of challenges and opportunities.  For instance big data analytics is a disrupting technology to change the face of consulting especially for sectors like retail, travel, media and telecom. The revolution could change the face of decision making by use of sophisticated data analysis and algorithms to aid in risk management.  Analysis of employee productivity, inventory management, pricing policies based on responsiveness of the market, conducting market feasibility analysis and prepares business plans based on real time data are some of the huge opportunities available for consultants using the big data technology.  It is imperative for the consulting industry to take the opportunity of being active throughout the digital value chain and bring in out of the box ideas to the table making the optimum utilization of time.
Artificial Intelligence, with focus on Quantum computing is the next big game changer.  AI is expected to bring in savings of atleast USD 15 trillion through automation at workplaces.  It is important for the consulting industry to embrace AI tools and techniques to reduce costs and improve quality and speed of deliverables given to clients.  AI tools could be used to bring about drastic changes in consulting in areas of tax, legal and audit.  The future outlook to consulting would definitely be reduced human interference on research and documentation, a task that would be easily done through AI within minimum time.  It is imperative to note that AI cannot survive without human intervention as certain unstructured problem solving skills are required to be combined with the efficiencies of AI to create the desired output in most scenarios.  The consulting industry needs to be proactive to accept the challenges of AI especially in the processes involving book keeping, accounting etc.  The future lies in the fact that the industry would see more of AI tools being developed and used for audit processes, valuation of companies, mergers and acquisitions.  AI is the future for transaction advisory services and corporate acquisitions and cross border services.  The time is not far when AI robots would replace human consultants for these services.
The challenge to the consulting industry would be to recruit digital experts to ensure that they have the best talent at their disposal. Digital innovations are going to play the pivotal role in consulting and will impact the strategy, recruitment needs, thee investments, and the profitability of a consulting organization.  It is important to keep pace with technological changes including cloud computing, AI, big data, internet of things and so on to ensure that the industry is always one step ahead of the competition.  It is indeed a big opportunity to see the fact that the Internet of Things is already playing a big role in developing smart cities and in project management consulting. Consultants can link cutting-edge digital insights to the business bottom line in ways business leaders can understand and relate to. They can transform financial services (again increasingly in customer-facing areas, like retail banking) and in infrastructure, energy and utilities and manufacturing, by linking data analytics to systems and products.
This is definitely a challenging and interesting phase for the consulting industry.  Consulting should constantly evolve, by acquiring new capabilities to match the changes in the economy.  The traditional model of extended assignments producing long-term strategic plans is outmoded. In the relentlessly changing Digital Age, with its foreshortened business cycles and agile innovation culture, business must mobilise fast, fail fast, succeed fast.  As Mark Twain rightly said Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover”
About the Author:
Mr.Balakrishnan K heads the Direct Tax and Corporate Finance Division at JB ARSEN. He specializes in advising clients with respect to transactions from a tax and regulatory perspective including assistance in mergers and acquisitions and international tax. He also specializes in advising Corporates and individuals on process and operational controls and in finalization of effective financial strategies.

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