Industry & Career Insights

What Does a Management Consultant Do Anyway?

Katie Hope seeks to clarify for the BBC what management consultants like McKinsey and KPMG really do. There is no end to the jokes about how consultants get paid to make suggestions, accept no part of the risk in those suggestions, and then collect their paychecks regardless. Consultants are frustrated by this, and so Hope aims to set the record straight.


Dominic Barton, global head of McKinsey, states emphatically that no business will pay money to have their time wasted, thus debunking immediately that McKinsey and other such businesses provide no true value. McKinsey has its finger in many project pies, such as assisting in restructuring programs or creating a new business model. And Barton says that in many cases, they only get paid if they deliver the promised results, so consultants do share the risk of their recommendations. An alternative strategy when dealing with “smaller” companies (“annual revenues of £25m”) is that they accept shares of the company as payment, and then those shares are sold once the company makes a splash on the stock market.

John Veihmeyer, global chairman of KPMG, thinks that effort and time spent will nevertheless continue to factor largely into how consulting is billed, but technology is steadily changing things:

“We are, in more and more cases, solving client issues or helping them realise opportunities that they have, by bringing an asset-based technology solution to bear, rather than a traditional engagement of here’s a lot of people spending a lot of time at your location helping you solve this problem.”

Ultimately, consultants get hired because they bring a wealth of experience and perspective that cannot readily be found in-house. They might be able to provide treasured benchmarking against competition, for instance. And for such reasons, consultants will be a valued staple of business for a long time to come.

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