Article for Hiscox Informed – small business knowledge centre.
As London Tech Week continues, we look at how AI threatens some management consulting functions. Yet Paul Bryant discovers businesses are wary of new technologies promising the world and many are looking to consultants for help.
Management consulting hasn’t escaped threats of ‘disruption’ from artificial intelligence (AI). The Economist recently produced a special report entitled: ‘AI providers will increasingly compete with management consultancies’. Even the Harvard Business Review has run an article with the headline: ‘AI may soon replace even the most elite consultants.’
Those headlines mask a more complex reality.
AI encroaching on consultants’ turf
Developments at McKinsey provide evidence of the growing overlap between AI and consulting. In 2015, they acquired London based AI firm QuantumBlack, described by McKinsey to be: ‘pioneering the use of big data and advanced analytics to improve organisational performance’. The acquisition was said to be: ‘… a deliberate strategy to bring new tools, technologies, and capabilities to McKinsey clients’.
But it was not just adding technical, back-office, number crunching capability. QuantumBlack presents case studies of its own projects that are client facing, strategic initiatives, typical of the work done by large consultancies. They have worked with a:
- global engineering company’s oil and gas division to improve engineering team design and work processes
- retail bank to determine the causes of a drop in sales of some product lines in their branch network.
Independent AI firms are also encroaching. Cardiff based Amplyfi provides business intelligence, used in applications such as strategic planning or acquisition target search. It’s algorithms read and analyse the web, including the ‘deep web’, which is not indexed by standard search engines and contains documents such as patent filings, academic papers and proprietary databases.