You have a basic overview of what management consulting is, and what challenges lie ahead of you to get into such a firm (If you want to get a basic idea of what consultants do – check it out here).
But you’re still unsure of some terminology that surrounds this industry – what is strategy consulting? What is operational consulting? What is turnaround consulting? What is social impact consulting? Where do certain consulting companies play, what fields to they operate in, what kind of work do different firms actually do, and how do they differ from each other? After reading this article, we hope you can answer some these questions.
One place to start off is to understand the difference between strategy consulting and execution consulting.
What is strategy consulting and execution consulting?
As a consultant, when you act as a third party to offer an outside perspective to solve a business challenge for a client, that is strategy consulting. You assess and define the problem, draw out a roadmap over a defined time frame using your industry knowledge give them advice on how they should solve this problem in an organized, methodical manner.
Say a client comes to you and says, “I have a problem with my sales, how do I fix these issues?” You objectively assess the problem, and give them a roadmap, saying these are 3-4 things you should do over the next 12 months for example. This is strategy consulting.
But execution goes one step further. If you’re actually going and supporting them in their day to day operations of implementing that strategy to improve their sales, that is called as execution. It’s as simple as that.
The firms that you may have heard of (McKinsey, BCG, Bain etc.) fall under this strategy consulting.
Execution consulting is interesting because it includes names you may have heard of (Accenture, KPMG, Deloitte, PwC, EY etc), but also names you may not have heard of unless you’re involved in a relevant industry (Partners in Performance, Delta Partners etc.) Note that a lot of technology consulting companies are involved in execution as well.
What do strategy and execution consultants actually do? Generalist vs specific firms?
Let’s go a level deeper – what do these consultants actually do?
If we take a look at McKinsey’s website, their consulting expertise is diverse, including areas such as Digital, Growth, Marketing & Sales, Implementation, M&A, Operations etc. They also work across a wide variety of industries – retail, FMCG, healthcare, logistics, automotive, telecom, you name it.
What’s interesting about such firms is that they do different kinds of projects, across different industries. These are called generalist firms
But there are also certain firms called specialist firms. As the name suggest, they have strong expertise generally in 1-2 specific topics. KPMG for example focuses a lot on audit, and it’s the same with the other Big 4 companies – PwC, Deloitte, EY. But it’s not just audit.
There are consulting firms that specialize in social impact – Dalberg, FSG, Bridgespan.
For operations related problems, there are firms like Partners in Performance.
For pricing, there is a firm called Simon-Kucher and Partners.
For turnaround consulting (to help businesses understand how to reshape a business in light of problems affecting their performance), there are firms including AlixPartners, Alvarez and Marsal etc.
If you have a few years of experience, and if your experience caters to a specific domain, then applying to these specialist consulting firms probably becomes much more simpler, because they are looking for folks with expertise in a specific field and if you have that expertise, they are all up for grabs.
Do some research, find out what specific companies do in terms of industry and nature of projects, and find out what kind of work certain offices do.