There are a lot of small businesses that self-identify as consultants. Like quality and beauty, the definition of what a consultant is depends entirely on the perspective of the observer. Most so-called consultants are actually just independent contractors or subcontractors providing outsourced labor. In my opinion, a true consultant is one who improves their client’s situation.
In the same way that few parents actively encourage their children to skip college to pursue joining the building trades, not too many folks pressure their offspring to become management consultants.
However, it seems that in general, the market for consultants is steadily increasing in both the public and private sectors.
Exhibit A: ICFI
According to Gene Marcial of Forbes:
Don’t think that some of the large U.S. blue-chip corporations, such as Anadarko Petroleum, Thomson Reuters, and Baltimore Gas & Electric or some key government agencies such as Centers for Disease Control, Environmental Protection Agency and Dept. of Energy aren’t using outside help from consulting companies? They do.
In fact, these particular organizations are clients of one U.S. expert advisory group that has become a critical part of their operations: ICF International (ICFI), one of the fastest growing consulting companies whose stock has more than doubled in price in three years.
According to its website, ICF International “provides professional services and technology solutions that deliver beneficial impact in areas critical to the world’s future.” Publicly traded on NASDAQ, the company’s rise in stock price isn’t an anomaly. According to Tech Target, IT consulting alone is expected to grow by more than 5% in 2015:
Accenture, during its Q3 earnings call, actually pointed to rising demand for industry-focused software solutions involving mobility, analytics and cloud.
Cloud projects, in particular, are lifting specialized service providers. David Hoff, chief technology officer at Cloud Sherpas, a cloud services provider based in Atlanta, said the company is experiencing about 40 percent growth, adding that he expects the trend to continue. He acknowledged that the company’s perspective is filtered by its cloud orientation, so may not reflect the industry as a whole.
What’s the Point?
Consulting firms that truly improve their clients’ condition demonstrate clear value. The benefit to both public and private entities is being able to leverage expertise on an as needed basis, without paying a premium to bring such talent on board full time.
Image courtesy Wikimedia