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Digital transformation & Consulting

25 May 2020
Digital transformation & Consulting By Nirmin BEN ABDELOUAHAB, Grande Ecole Programme Student

The digital era the world is undergoing has impacted all businesses, the consulting industry included. The consulting firms’ clients are willing to become more digital. Since the needs of the clients have changed, several consulting firms have modified their business models to follow this trend, to satisfy the clients’ new challenges and  also to remain competitive.

To this extent, companies are aiming for a well-organized and successful digital transformation, along with efficient change management. But how do consulting firms deal with change management while performing digital transformation? And how did the consulting industry change regarding digital disruption?

Before answering this question, we should first know what we mean by a digital transformation. It is not only creating a company’s website or implementing an information technology (IT) solution in one department. Digital transformation or digitalization has a global scope, it is a disruption of the whole company, and involves the integration of digital technologies into all areas of the business. This transformation is a mindset and cannot happen if there are people making obstacles for change. The change is no longer about the IT or the software and the hardware, but it also includes the processes, the data and the people. That is where we distinguish IT and IS (Information System) consulting, and where consultants believe that change management is necessary for the success of the transformation.

In order to define change management, and to give us a bigger insight on this subject, we interviewed Mr. EL MERRAY Hamza, a Senior Consultant at EY who conducted several digital transformation missions in his career. He defined change management as: “All the methods, techniques and means that are implemented in order to support a transformation under optimal conditions of success in order to efficiently achieve the expected results”. However, change management methods are not the same for all the types of organizational changes. Digital business transformation for instance is very different from the other changes. It combines high levels of interdependence, scale and dynamism pursuing a fundamental disruption of the entire organization in order to build a new strategic direction.

Therefore, this transformation has to be well communicated to the people within the organization. They should be well prepared, and they should know the reasons and the benefits of the change, how it will be done and also the role of each person in the process. The change should be continuously monitored, to ensure that everyone is involved and motivated, and that the plan  is meeting its goals.

Whenever there is a new project, companies are far more interested in the technical aspects and the human factor is forgotten.

In a digital transformation, employees can be reluctant to embrace change. It is a natural reaction to any new situation, but it should be managed in order not to cause problems to the company. In fact, resistance to change is a major obstacle of digitalization that can lead to its failure. And here comes the role of the consultancy firms where consultants should explain the extreme importance and benefits of change management and justify the return on investment companies will achieve.

This change management should be well organized, and we can summarize the biggest steps for a successful one as the following:

  • Communication: It is indeed the first strategic act of change management. It aims to make sense, raise awareness and change the mindset of employees to engage in change.
  • Training: Any change is the result of learning. The training allows employees to acquire the skills and behavior needed to run the new organization. It can be an effective lever provided that it mobilizes the key principles of adult pedagogy: meaning, action, cohesion, recognition, well-being, etc
  • Support in the long term. Forced changes such as business mergers or cost reduction require time a certain period of ‘mourning.’ The implementation of a network of change promoters, the practice of co-development and the reinforcement of team cohesion make it possible to define a mobilizing collective action plan for the future.

Digitalization became crucial for companies, which lead consulting firms to enter a new market: Digital transformation consulting. But, it also became crucial for the consulting firms themselves. They started to digitize their processes and operations to keep up with the trend and to provide a reliable and quality service to their clients. They began to implement several innovative strategies to their digitalization projects. One of the most significant changes in the consulting industry is that long-cycle and premise-based opportunities are considerably shifting towards cloud-based and short-cycle projects. The technologies used enable consultants to complete the work within shorter timeframes and with a hyper- customization involved.

Conventional consulting firms face a big challenge with this new way of doing things. They have to quickly revise and modify their processes to keep up with the pace. They should no longer take a lot of time to deliver their services, instead, they should think of new systems with which clients can interact and that adapt rapid and dynamic solutions. Deloitte was the first company to react to this new expectation by creating its digital platform that delivers market-ready products and solutions.

This subject raises a big question: How can consulting firms help their clients in a successful digital transformation, while they still have to digitize their own business model?

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