I believe these questions are relevant for your industry, your company, and your life. For this reason I have chosen Simon’s framework to address the state of the consulting industry.

Why do consultants do what they do?

Consultants help solve complex problems, right? Yes, but consulting with a cause is the new craze.

We live in a world of unprecedented challenge and change. There are more than 1 billion people living in poverty. Unemployment, especially in our youth, is at an all-time high in many countries. Corruption and political unrest is having a devastating impact on economic conditions and recovery efforts around the world.

At the same time, businesses are facing the significant challenges of population, talent and capital shifts. Innovation is disrupting the world with the creation of entirely new business models. The financial crisis drove significant regulatory reform for all industries. Governments are challenged as the demand for citizen- centric services is on the rise while tax revenues are on the decline. Every region and every industry has wide and reaching challenges. These are global issues on regional fronts.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that taken through the lens of “Why?”, these unparalleled challenges create an unprecedented opportunity to do good. Many consultants have made addressing these global issues their personal purpose.

Sure, consultants still love solving complex business problems, but they are doing so with an eye toward the higher calling of delivering projects in a way that helps their clients speak to the problems of our society today. The exciting part is that research now shows that companies that are inspired by purpose and that actually activate their purpose have higher customer loyalty, greater innovation, higher quality, better employee engagement and higher profitability!

Consultants who are not just known for being smart and hard charging, but who are also recognized for being purposeful and collaborative are transforming the industry — now that is crazy good change!

So if you are like many purposeful professionals who want their work to contribute to the good of mankind, then maybe consulting is for you.

What do consultants do?

What we do as consultants should align directly to the purpose we aspire to and the problems we hope to solve. Our profession should stay true to practicing the art of consulting where the majority of the solutions delivered are uniquely tailored to the business challenges at hand. An organization’s business model should never dictate the “what.”

Whether you are a partnership, public company, private company or corporation shouldn’t influence your “what.”  A business model should not lead to “products” being pushed on the market largely motivated by a need to address margin pressures or meet quarterly earnings forecasts. Each consulting organization’s portfolio of offerings should be shaped more by their purpose statement and less by their business objectives.

At EY, we have a tool called a “purpose audit” that is part of our Purpose-Led Transformation offering. It is a purpose integrity check to help ensure that a company’s brand, strategy and business model are properly aligned to the stated purpose. The real power of unlocking this tool lies in the conversations with the client and their employees. They have the best view, and I have found that they are both quick to offer input and call out any misalignment.

Consulting organizations that have a stated purpose, an offering portfolio that is in alignment with that purpose and consist of talent that are engaged and motivated by that purpose are the ones that are driving change – and that is crazy good change!

So if you are looking for a job in consulting, be sure to ask lots of questions. Make sure there is a strong fit between the consulting firm’s purpose and your knowledge, experience and passions.

How do consultants do what they do?

The most significant
source of crazy good change
is coming in how consultants
do what they do. In consulting
today, there are unprecedented
changes taking place,
but for sake of brevity
let me mention the
following three:

  1. Digitization is driving disruption …Consider the estimates in EY’s Megatrends 2015 report that the number of broadband connections will rise from 2 billion today to almost 8 billion by 2019. Or that 50 percent of the consulting workforce will be made up of Gen Y and Gen Z by 2020. Mobile devices are driving the adoption of social networking on a broad scale. Social networking is creating a massive big data problem. The profiles, preferences, behaviors and needs discovered in social media are driving advanced analytics. Sensors are being put into every imaginable device, including wearables, drones, etc. leading to the Internet of Things. Cloud technology is the new “infrastructure” that will allow us to consume technology as a utility.The above trends has led to an anytime/anywhere society. All of which will significantly change how consulting services are acquired and delivered. Most importantly, digital is not a separate business, or a separate competency group. In some form or fashion, digital is part of every consulting project delivered. As a consultant you will be a part of the digital revolution as you work in a digitally enabled environment and as you support consulting projects that address the opportunities of creating powerful digital experiences for customers and employees.
  2. Digital disruption is resulting in rapid innovation …Innovation coming out of the digital disruption is creating new industries, new companies and new jobs. Digital has led to the creation of the “unicorns” – $1b+ startups – like Facebook, Twitter, Uber, LinkedIn and Waze. We are also seeing the advent of “smart” – smart health, smart cars, smart homes, smart factories, smart cities, etc. These new business models have already and will continue to change how consulting services are presented and placed into action.Serving as a consultant in this sensor-connected world will present mind-blowing challenges and incredibly exciting opportunities to solve big problems in a new way. Performance analytics is great, but advanced analytics is a must. Best-in-class cyber security operations are critical, but predictive threat intelligence is required now more than ever. Whether you are talking about digital, analytics, cyber security or any other consulting capability, the bar has clearly been raised by rapid innovation.
  3. Rapid innovation is fueling even greater globalization …Innovation is being adopted and consumed across an ever-increasing global landscape. We continue to see a shift from East to West (China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc.) and North to South (Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, etc.) in terms of population, talent and capital. The United Nations reports that 54 percent of the world’s population currently live in cities, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 66 percent. This is creating huge infrastructure challenges in the areas of transportation, energy and health. These new global realities will have a huge impact on how consulting services are brought to and received by customers.If you are a consultant who likes to work and live on a global scale, then you are in luck. There has never been a better time to see challenges from a global lens and be a part of connecting the dots of a global ecosystem of talent and partners to create a breakthrough solution to a global problem.

I am truly inspired by what I see as positive, purpose-led change in the consulting industry. Consultants work across an ever-shifting global ecosystem to transform industries, improve businesses and enhance the communities where we all live, work and play.

You, too, can be part of this crazy good change by checking out the consulting industry and embracing the power of purpose in your career!


About the author: Bob Patton is the EY Americas Vice Chair of Advisory Services. He has extensive experience working with Fortune 500 companies in the consumer products, utilities and high-tech industries, as well as experience working with key public sector organizations. In 2011, Bob was recognized by Consulting® magazine as one of its Top 25 consultants honored in the category of Excellence in Leadership. In addition to his LinkedIn profile, you can also interact with Bob on his Twitter account, @BobPattonEY.