[Update July 2014] Made minor corrections and changes
What is business consulting?
Business consulting involves working with clients in solving their critical business problems, helping them make better business decisions.
In business consulting, a consultant works hand-in-hand with the client in coming up with a good picture of how the current business processes are, what are the future state requirements and what steps are needed to do the gap analysis between current and future state and provide the best alternatives to close that gap.
Business consulting in IT firms
All the big IT firms have business consulting groups which provide technology enabled business transformation across various verticals such as financial services, healthcare, telecom and consumer goods etc. These IT firms also have horizontal practices which specialize in cross-industry capabilities such as analytics, assurance services, and strategic services.
Asia’s leading IT firm and India’s #1 IT firm TCS has Global Consulting Practice GCP; Infosys has Infosys Consulting. Earlier Infosys Consulting was a subsidiary of Infosys, which later merged with Infosys Technologies and they became a single entity Infosys. On the same lines, HCL Technologies has ETS group which stands for Enterprise Transformation Services. Similarly, all the major IT firms have their business consulting groups.
Role of a business consultant
To understand business consulting, it is imperative to understand the role of a business consultant.
Put in simple words, a consultant’s role is to identify, analyze and solve client’s problems. Consultants are expected to work in a dynamic environment juggling with critical business problems. They bring their knowledge, skill set and their domain competence developed over the years to help solve client’s problems.
When on a project, a consultant may work as a business analyst, prepare various documents such as requirements documents, and work hand in hand with business users at client locations. Also, the consultant may work in assurance and ensure with his/ her domain skills that the system is functionally appropriate and meets the desired business requirements of the client.
When a consultant is not working on a project/ assignment, he/she is involved in working for the consulting practice and is expected to work with senior management in devising response to client’s proposals, develop collaterals, and share his knowledge with the team and work on various business offerings with senior management.
Working on RFPs
While working for the consulting practice, consultants work with various groups within the firm along with the sales and presales team and help them come up with response for proposals.
So the role of consultants, while working on RFPs, is to estimate how much manpower would be needed, the scope and timelines of the project and they work on RFPs to address specific areas related to their work.
This involves using one’s domain in helping the client. A consultant who has worked in retail industry for more than a decade would be a perfect fit for providing domain consulting about business processes in retail industry and help a client who is in retail sector to solve client’s business problems. Similarly, a consultant who has substantial experience in banking and financial services may help a bank in transforming its business processes.
This involves creating business requirements documents, working hand in hand with the client/users to understand how the systems should be changed to minimize the impact on client’s users and adapt to the new business requirements.
Whitepapers/ research papers
Whitepapers are documents which are designed to showcase the capabilities of a company. They act as marketing tools and these papers help build a strong case for the IT firm about how they might approach various business situations. These papers help in getting leads for sales teams and also create awareness among potential customers about various business problems.
Typically, consultants have to write case studies after coming back from projects or assignments.
These case studies have multi-fold benefits. One the one hand, these case studies are helpful for internal knowledge sharing within the firm; on the other hand, these cases showcase the capability that an IT firm has and these cases are used in future to pitch for clients in similar line of business. This capability helps in getting new business from existing clients and also in pitching to new clients.
Common thread among consulting groups of various IT firms
The common thread running among the consulting practices of these firms is that:
- All of them focus on providing business process and IT transformation
- Their goal is to provide practical solutions to their clients using the expert pool that these firms have.
- Their focus is on reducing the IT spends of their clients
- While reducing the IT spend, the focus is also on achieving operational efficiency for the clients
Differentiating factors among business consulting in various IT firms
1) Firms which have been in business for long have huge knowledge base, so firms which have huge geographic presence, who have large number of projects have built huge learning curve over the years and so they also have cross utilization of the skills and are better placed in helping the clients compared to those firms which are smaller in size.
An example would be TCS which has many projects and is front runner in IT and have expert pool build over the years
2) Smaller players are better placed serving specific segments. For example, Polaris has focus on banking and financial services, as BFS vertical is the front runner in their revenue generation. So it may be better able to cater to clients who belong to this segment.
Similarly, HCL technologies may have an edge in SAP based consulting since they acquired HCL AXON a few years ago and thus bought in SAP competence in an inorganic way.
3) So, different IT firms may target different verticals based on their expertise in particular areas.
|About the Author: Ankit Arora is a business consultant with Global Consulting Practice of TCS. Before joining TCS, Ankit has worked with ETS group (Enterprise Transformation Services) in HCL Technologies. Ankit is an MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and has more than 6 years’ experience in IT industry. He can be reached at email@example.com and his LinkedIn profile|