What is the best business model for consultants in 2015?

The folks at Source for Consulting have been publishing insight on the consulting industry since 2007. Unlike a lot of firms that focus on the industry, Source for Consulting insists on a global perspective.

Fiona Czerniawska, co-founder of Source for Consulting, discusses research on business models in a recent post:

Our research last year suggested that clients were plumbing new depths of frustration with consulting firms: “They’re dinosaurs: their business model hasn’t changed in decades,” raged one entirely typical senior executive. Clients, like consumers the world over, wanted more for less, but what they were really after were solutions which crossed commercial boundaries, combining traditional consulting teams with freelance consultants and a dash of outsourcing. Some want consulting to be a people-based utility in which consulting firms are committed to keeping the lights burning in resource terms (ensuring clients could get things done despite headcount freezes and spikes of activity) but are only paid when their consultants are being used. Others want specialisation on their doorstep: yes, expertise is important, but why should they pay for someone’s travel time in order to get it?

…Finally I think there’s a conceptual reason why 2014 didn’t see a single breakthrough business model emerge as the clear winner. So far the focus of change has been on the supply side: it’s been about restructuring consulting firms to help them address the challenges they face in putting the right people in the right jobs for the right price. This does benefit clients (giving them cheaper consulting at a time when they’re under pressure to cut costs) but it’s mostly about the consulting industry changing itself. But perhaps the greatest potential for profitable innovation lies on the demand side, exploiting rather than side-stepping the fact that so many clients are former consultants. Clients may cherry-pick individuals more than they used to during the sales cycle, but the involvement of them and their staff in the consulting process hasn’t changed significantly in decades. What happens, for example, when the tables are turned, when clients provide the expertise and work on projects, while consultants run the business-as-usual processes?