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Our take on things

Is generative AI the end of strategy consulting?

Let’s be frank: strategy consulting is a prime target for overhaul with generative artificial intelligence (GenAI). Change is coming — it just remains to be seen in exactly what form: 

  • Will AI make the profession obsolete?
  • Can companies rely on AI alone to tackle the challenges currently entrusted to consulting firms, eliminating human expertise?
  • Or will this heavyweight industry, steadily growing for decades, adapt to an AI-driven landscape? If yes, what will value-for-money strategy consulting look like? 
  • And what should strategy consultants — and our clients — be doing now to intelligently ride the GenAI wave?

Juniors, the sands are shifting

Strategy consultants will be familiar with the Knowledge Pyramid: the epic journey from lowly junior swamped in data, graduating to information and knowledge with a few more years under our belts, to ultimately reach the holy grail of wisdom.

For years, the consulting food chain has been stable (and, equally, heartily resented by juniors and clients alike): packs of juniors turn reams of data into (ideally useful) information; sparser seniors digest this into knowledge and present it to clients as (ideally insightful) guidance. And take the credit, naturally.

Flippant, sure, but true. But at consulting firms that want to stay competitive, it’s not going to be that way for long.

An extinction event?

Junior consultant job description:

  • Gather data

  • Identify relevance

  • Analyse relevant data

  • Extract patterns

  • Generate insights

  • Deliver to senior colleagues

You’ve caught my drift — that’s exactly what AI excels at.

And it can do it at speeds, volumes and consistency levels that boggle human minds (with bias and accuracy caveats to work on, just as there already are with human analysts).

So will junior consultant roles become obsolete? Certainly, replacing the wide end of any structural pyramid with non-remunerated machines is a business edge worth considering.

I think the future’s rosier for junior consultants, though. Freed from the humdrum data jockey role, future recruits could get stuck into the good stuff earlier. With data gathered and prepped, they can take on a more valuable analysis role, adding the human-touch layers that AI hasn’t (any, many argue, will never) master.

History points to us senior consultants needing extra brains on this, too. As the data available to consultants and clients has increased, so have expectations for the depth of analysis and richness of insights delivered.

Once upon a time, consultants shifted from transparent projector sheets and marker pens to PowerPoint; from calling companies to request copies of annual reports to accessing troves of global data online. As our basic sector model changed, (self-)expectations of how much and how fast consultants could deliver rocketed up. With generative AI, the model’s shifting again.

Age before algorithms

And what about senior consultants? Indulge me in making the case for why we’ll still matter in an AI-driven landscape.

AI is in its infancy, while we’re going a distinguished grey. Decades of experience might be a puny timespan to a super-strength computer but the gut instinct, people skills and tact that those years hone are tough (if not impossible) skills to teach.

And with so much data now available (and rapidly, cheaply and sweepingly analysable), pinpointing truly relevant insights will remain a valuable skill.

It’s part art, part science — and it’s what makes for an exceptional strategy consultant.

It’s here that years in the job simply can’t be replaced. Happy for us at The Strategy Office: a collective of senior-only strategy consultants.

Value-for-money strategy consulting? We must be in the future.

Of course, we can’t skip the data jockey steps that our larger competitors assign to their juniors. But with AI, we can pace through them to the curation and insights stage. So you’re not paying for seniors to crunch data. But you’re not paying for juniors to do it, either.

That feeds into how we do things differently at The Strategy Office:

You’re not paying massive overheads (or underheads)
We’re a flexible collective of seniors, bringing in the best brains for each project we win. No vast real estate costs. No vast bottom-of-pyramid salary burden. Just senior rates for senior work, cost-effectively getting you the answers you need.

This also opens us up to smaller companies, bringing top-level analysis to clients who’d be turned down by larger consulting outfits.

You get what you’re sold
The senior consultants who pitch you will be the ones on your project. We don’t do things like the big firms: the sell from the top, who then disappear and are replaced by juniors, and miraculously reappear when it’s time to roll in more of your business.

We’d know — those big firms are where we all earned our spurs.

We’re entrepreneurs, too
We left the big consulting names because we knew there was more out there for us. The Strategy Office’s collective spans scale-up and startup (co-)founders in fintech, medtech, e-transport, climate-conscious dining and more.

Our level of hands-on experience is rare at the big firms, and that wisdom’s ready and waiting to benefit our clients.

So, how to intelligently ride the GenAI wave?

Senior strategy consultants shouldn’t see GenAI as a competitor, but learn how to leverage it. Time to hand repetitive task automation and churning out data-driven insights to the machines. We’ll keep bringing intuition, creativity and emotional intelligence to the table.

I’ve already integrated GenAI into my work for The Strategy Office: it’s creating graphics, images and drawing-board ideas, upping my productivity (and cost-efficiency for clients).

In parallel, we’re advising clients on integrating GenAI into their firms. To describe audience reactions to the business opportunities we’ve showcased during our introductory workshops, flabbergasted isn’t an overstatement.

Change management is paramount in firms’ transitions to AI-driven business strategies, too. Enter the seasoned sages of strategy consulting, poised to help you navigate the shifts ahead.

The future will belong to those who adapt, innovate, and harness the best of human and artificial intelligence.

Our GenAI workshop’s tailorable to any organisation — to schedule yours, get in touch with Remco here.

Remco Groeneveld is a strategy consultant at The Strategy Office. As a consultant and executive, he has a hefty dose of strategy and M&A experience, a strong operational background and proven negotiation skills, with industry knowledge in aluminium, telecoms and hospitality. He’s also an involved co-founder of SOIL, a fast-casual vegan restaurant concept.

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