Experts face new challenges in Middle East consulting sector
- United Arab Emirates: Thursday, February 21 - 2013 at 16:19
- PRESS RELEASE
Increasingly sophisticated clients, growing consulting cynicism, a shortage of home-grown talent and complex family-based corporate governance are just some of the latest challenges the consultancy sector faces in this region, according to industry experts who spoke at a recent London Business School thought leadership forum.
Experts from Peppers and Rogers Group, Aleron Partners, Boyden Middle East and Booz and Company also agreed that Middle Eastern clients are today becoming more and more "consulting exhausted".
"Our Middle Eastern clients aren't spending in the same way as they did before the financial crisis, they are becoming increasingly sophisticated buyers," said Katie Sumpton, Principal at Booz and Company. "On one hand, we are seeing a shift towards large scale implementation programmes, and a greater need for consultants to work 'sleeves rolled up' with clients to execute the strategy, rather than pure strategy assignments. At the other end of the spectrum, we are seeing demand for very specialised, niche advice in a particular business line or function."
"Our response has to deliver more value now there is a growing scepticism amongst clients," added Peter Clark, Partner at Aleron Partners. "We can't sit in our offices typing up a bit of theory - a growing trend is linking our remuneration to their bottom line. We have to think about where the real expertise lies, delivering a team where the top consultant and all levels underneath have credibility."
Recruiting consulting talent from the region is proving one of the greater challenges facing consultancies, the panellists said. Increased demand for specialist advice is driving recruitment at a higher level from within the industry, yet changes in the business landscape are requiring a different skill-set that is still in short supply in the Middle East.
Mounir Ariss, Partner at Peppers and Rogers Group, said: "The consulting world has changed significantly. Client organisations expect consultants to become more operational and demonstrate their direct impact on the client's business, whilst ensuring a good level of knowledge transfer to the client's team and an increasing level of subject matter expertise and specialization from their consultants.
"One such area of expertise is Business Analytics. Driven by social media proliferation and mobile ubiquity, companies will face a huge explosion in data production. In the next five years companies will be increasingly challenged to make sense of this onslaught of data and use it to respond to their customers with value. Customers on the other hand will have increasing expectations in the level of services and customisation they receive across any available channel. We are going to need different skill-sets to what we have today to deliver real-time insight and multi-channel marketing."
An increasing challenge facing experts in the Middle East is the complex and opaque family sensitivities often at play within local organisations. Whilst executive boards and hierarchical teams appear transparent on the surface, consultants are increasingly learning that job titles are not indicative of where the true corporate power lies.
"Particularly in this region, the family organisations transitioning to the second or third generation can be difficult for consultants, where the lines between power, ownership and management become blurred," says Matthew Lewis, Managing Director at Boyden Middle East.
"The independently wealthy, internationally educated new generation have brand awareness, and social media know-how. But they can't lead the organisation. Our challenge concerns hiring senior management with the right soft skills to put the framework in place around the younger generation and fill that gap."
The panel discussion, moderated by Eithne Treanor, Managing Director and Founder of ETreatnor Media, was followed by a lively Q&A session with the 80-strong audience, which comprised London Business School Executive MBA students, alumni and recruiters.
The event was the latest in a series of thought-leadership forums organised at the School's Dubai Centre, in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) where its Middle East headquarters is based. The forums discuss key issues and trends facing industries in the region.
The next event is TMT (Technology, Media, Telecom) Insights in the Middle East on 20th March at the DIFC Conference Centre.
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