What is Strategy Consulting?

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Strategy consulting is one of the most competitive and lucrative destinations for bright graduates, but it is also often misunderstood. Luckily, we’ve compiled a guide to help you understand the ins and outs of this prestigious sector.

What is Strategy Consulting?

Strategy consultants advise organisations on high-level decisions in an unbiased fashion, using deep industry knowledge to deliver the best results. It is a type of Management Consulting, which generally implies advising at the highest-level of a company.

Strategy consultants work across every industry, with private and public sector bodies on a wide range of issues.

For example, a company is looking to save money in a shrinking market, so it decides to close one of it’s manufacturing plants. They want to know if this is a worthwhile course of action, which of their plants should be closed, how much money it will save them, how much it will cost them, and how they should restructure their supply chain to manage this loss of production – this is where a strategic consultant comes in.

Industries and Issues Addressed

Strategy consultants work across a wide spectrum of industries, including finance, healthcare, technology, consumer goods, and the public sector. They help organizations tackle diverse issues such as enhancing market positioning, restructuring operations, optimizing supply chains, and driving innovation. Their work is pivotal in helping companies navigate complex challenges and seize new opportunities.

Example Scenario

Imagine a company in a shrinking market that needs to cut costs by closing one of its manufacturing plants. The company faces numerous questions: Is this the right move? Which plant should be closed? How much will be saved? What are the costs involved? How will the supply chain need to be restructured? A strategy consultant would analyze the company’s data, market conditions, and operational details to provide a detailed recommendation, ensuring that all potential impacts are considered.

Why Do Organizations Use Strategy Consultants?

Expertise and Focus

Organizations turn to strategy consultants for their specialized expertise and the ability to focus

exclusively on strategic issues. Executives often juggle multiple responsibilities and might lack the time or resources to dive deeply into specific problems. Consultants bring a fresh perspective and dedicate their efforts entirely to solving the strategic challenges at hand.

Comprehensive Analysis

Consultants are known for their rigorous approach to problem-solving. They ensure that every aspect of a decision is thoroughly analyzed. Their extensive industry knowledge and experience enable them to uncover insights that might be overlooked by internal teams. This comprehensive analysis helps organizations make well-informed decisions that are crucial for their future.

Legal and Confidentiality Needs

In some situations, the use of consultants is driven by legal and confidentiality considerations. For instance, during mergers and acquisitions, sharing sensitive information between companies is restricted until the transaction is completed. Consultants can act as independent intermediaries, gathering and analyzing information from both parties to develop a strategic plan that can be implemented as soon as the merger is finalized.

Essential Skills for Strategy Consulting

Analytical Skills

Analytical skills are paramount for strategy consultants. They must be able to gather and interpret large volumes of data, identify key issues, and develop structured solutions. These skills are tested rigorously during the recruitment process, particularly through case study interviews. Strong analytical abilities enable consultants to dissect complex problems and devise actionable strategies.

People Skills

Interpersonal skills are equally important in strategy consulting. Consultants spend a significant amount of time working closely with clients, which requires excellent communication and relationship-building abilities. They need to understand client concerns, present their findings convincingly, and negotiate solutions that align with client objectives. Building trust and rapport with clients is essential for successful consulting engagements.

Time Management

Effective time management is crucial in the fast-paced world of strategy consulting. Consultants often work under tight deadlines and are expected to deliver high-quality work promptly. They must prioritize tasks, manage their workload efficiently, and stay organized to meet client expectations and project deadlines.

Flexibility

The dynamic nature of strategy consulting demands flexibility and a continuous willingness to learn. Consultants must stay updated with industry trends and new methodologies. They should be adaptable, ready to pivot their approach based on new information or client needs. Continuous improvement and learning are key components of a successful consulting career.

Leading Firms in Strategy Consulting

Pure-Play Strategy Firms

The most prestigious firms in the strategy consulting sector are known as pure-play firms because they focus exclusively on strategy consulting. The top three, often referred to as the “Big Three,” are McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and Bain & Company. These firms are renowned for their rigorous recruitment processes, high-impact work, and strong client relationships. They offer unparalleled opportunities for those looking to specialize in strategy consulting.

Firms with Strategy Practices

Several firms offer strategy consulting services alongside other types of consulting and professional services. Notable examples include Accenture, Capgemini, L.E.K. Consulting, OC&C Strategy, and Oliver Wyman. These firms provide a broad range of consulting services, which allows them to offer holistic solutions to their clients. Working in such firms can provide consultants with diverse experiences across different types of consulting engagements.

Big Four Professional Services Firms

The Big Four accounting firms—PwC, EY, Deloitte, and KPMG—have also developed substantial consulting practices. While traditionally known for their audit and tax services, these firms have expanded their consulting divisions to include strategy consulting. They offer a wide array of services, from financial advisory to technology consulting, providing comprehensive support to their clients. Opportunities in these firms can be particularly appealing for those looking to work in a multidisciplinary environment.

Conclusion

Strategy consulting is a prestigious and challenging field that offers significant rewards for those who excel in it. The role requires a unique combination of analytical, interpersonal, and time management skills. Whether working with top pure-play firms or within broader professional services organizations, strategy consultants play a crucial role in helping companies navigate complex decisions and achieve their strategic goals. For graduates with the right skills and determination, a career in strategy consulting can be both fulfilling and highly rewarding.