The diligent invention and innovation by research teams in companies around the world have helped to keep-up with the pace of technological expansion in computer processing power for several decades. This led to the ability of technology companies to put more computing power than the whole Apollo space program into the bags of more than a billion people worldwide.
Everything around us including music, books and even movies have taken a digital physiognomy. There is a considerable amount of threat to both people and their enterprises due to these increasingly intelligent digital technologies and unpredictable customer expectations.
The last few decades have been an amazing time for consultancies with full of revenue and opportunities provided by these technological advancements. Clients were desperate for solutions to help them match these changing times. This has led to the growth of management consulting in size and scale, expanding multiple technologies and even marketing specialties. The increase in the divergence of the large international consultancies into other specialisms is the first step to what fallouts in an inevitable shrinkage forced upon the industry.
The same forces that are causing a feeling of disequilibrium for the firms that consultancies serve are also causing the same challenges, trepidation and uneasiness for the consulting firms. One of all the major game-changers of the consulting industry is the inception of Artificial Intelligence.
Intervention of Artificial Intelligence
Mechanical muscles made human labor less in demand, so are mechanical minds making human brain less in demand. You might misinterpret this as an economic revolution which is more appropriately a robotic evolution. When you think of automation, you think of giant, efficient and precise but really dumb robots blind to the world doing their own work. They were a scary kind of automation, but they were cost effective in narrow situations. These are the old kind of robots (just mechanical muscles), and the real threat is by the new kinds with Artificial Intelligence.
Chatbots, roboadvisors, and other implementations of artificial intelligence have taken over people’s imaginations and led to the practical implementations of artificial intelligence. People are becoming increasingly comfortable with artificial intelligence.
But what does the consulting industry has to do with artificial intelligence?
In the short run, maybe consultants don’t have as much to fear from artificial intelligence as compared to the workers in transportation, retail, or manufacturing. But, in the wider bandwidth of things, over time innovative technology vendors will inexorably build upon openly available artificial intelligence frameworks made publicly accessible by companies like Microsoft and Google (which are looking for an increase in the sale of cloud services) to automate some of the tasks that lately cast undergraduate analysts or Indians do now for the large consulting firms.
Today, we comprehend our business and our interactions with our customers well enough, what was once a mystery, and then we try to identify patterns inside it which then eventually allows us to create algorithms and procedures that can be captured in Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) and then ultimately in code. This process is similar to the heuristic technique. The power of artificial intelligence is the ability to move the role of machine to the left in The Knowledge Funnel, far away from pure manual coding by a human, to the computer programs that write themselves and eventually to heuristic identification and algorithm creation at some point in the near future. This is ultimately made possible by crowd computing, machine learning and deep learning. The fact remains that as computer programmers and the artificial minds their creation becomes more adept at watching the work that consultants do and recognizing the patterns in their recommendations.
Is the Threat Even Real?
These are challenging times for large consultancies and small independent consultants as consultancies are forced to respond to these attacks from three sides: Increasingly Available Intellectual Property, Internal Consultants and Artificial Intelligence. A huge part of that three-pronged attack will come from an ever-growing multitude of automation engineers taking over the cubicles around the world to design people out of jobs. In the same way that mechanical engineers build robots to substitute our human muscles with machine muscles, automation engineers and computer programmers are creating inexpensive machine minds with sufficient artificial intelligence to replace our more expensive human brains. Professions like that of the automation engineer will attract workforces from around the world in increasing numbers, but not nearly enough to counterbalance the losses in job opportunities that these engineers are tasked with eliminating. Only time will tell how quickly and how broadly artificial intelligence (AI) threatens the core business of consultancies.
Think, if you are in the consulting industry, what is your strategy for responding to this threat?
Because, make no mistake, the threat is real. The only question is how quickly it will substantially impact the bottom line. Sooner or later Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for better solutions will rule. With the contributions of these two technologies, time invested in primary research and data analytics can be substantially reduced. Now decision making can be quicker and more fine-tuned based on the client’s desires and behavior. Behavior patterns can be well drawn out, and quick actions can be implemented.
However, for your comfort, let’s make a dulcet statement; say consultants are a balance of EQ and IQ so AI and robotics can’t replace the EQ and sensibility part.