Management Consulting - Biggest Challenges
This article describes the biggest challenges in management consulting. Specifically, we aim to provide research regarding the biggest challenges faced today by corporate leaders — CMOs, CTOs, CIOs, and COOs. Our analysis is limited to medium- to large-sized corporations, defined by an 100 employee minimum, in Canada, and excludes sources without recent temporal relevance (examples contained within past two years). We address the largest challenges being confronted by corporate leaders in Canada through credible industry publications of survey data, and investigate how these challenges connect to corporate decision-making on hiring consulting firms. Overall, CMOs in medium- to large-sized Canadian firms have been predominantly challenged by the changes in marketing seen over the past five years. Both COOs and CTOs of Canadian corporations face major challenges in response to rapid technological change: the former are faced with decisions regarding optimal innovation and incorporation of artificial intelligence, while the latter are confronted with the implementation of associated infrastructure and security protocol for an increasingly wireless workforce. Meanwhile, Canadian CIOs reported higher-level challenges in charting business needs and expectations, including that of creating a lasting legacy for their mid- to large-sized corporations of employment. Corporations may choose to seek assistance from a consulting agency under circumstances where leaders expect to derive benefits from the unique outside perspective or specialized skills consultants typically bring.
CHIEF MARKETING OFFICERS
Today’s CMOs in Canada’s mid- to large-sized corporations tend to report difficulties adjusting to radical changes in the marketing arena. In a 2017 report of over 300 Canadian CMOs, 89% reported unprecedented changes to marketing over the past five years, while 82% described experiencing an increasing pressure to transform and acquire new skills. In a report by Deloitte, this struggle is attributed to the CMO’s role growing increasingly “complex in today’s digital, always-on world”. With 71% of Canadian CMOs reporting data analytics as their most important challenge, the digital transition of the marketing field has necessitated oftentimes difficult technological adaptation on the part of CMOs.
Several other challenges were also expressed by chief marketing officers in Canadian firms. In line with more traditional marketing objectives, Walmart’s CMO emphasized the importance of creating intimate customer relationships and delivering clear brand narratives. Meanwhile, 2017 CMO research in Canada by the Impact Centre reports on a more macro-level concern: due to the acquisition of Canadian companies and resultant relocation of marketing to acquirer headquarters, Canadian firms suffer from the lack of development of “a local talent base that will enable us to solve the marketing challenges our firms face.” The continuation of this current trend would naturally impact the growth of Canadian companies, and present a challenge to the leaders of marketing departments.
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICERS
SAP Canada’s Leagh Turner provided first-hand information regarding the challenges she faced as a COO in describing the necessary procedure of “understanding”, “relating”, and “translating” to internal organization dialogue (to a “relatable workforce”) in order to successfully engineer a problem’s solution. To summarize, COOs must be prepared to understand the intricacies of oftentimes confusing and complicated industry concepts and terminology. For example, SYSPRO Software describes a common business challenge facing operation leaders in how to identify and address unnecessary spending and reduce lost revenue, but stresses the difficulties due to “increasingly complex supply chains”, “rising compliance expenditures”, and “hidden costs”.
Another challenge described for COOs is evaluating the costs and benefits in addressing the “Status Quo.”  While not specific to Canada, an article in 2017 by the Alexander Group described four challenges faced by COOs in the law sector, most of which revolved around changes in operational leadership due to changes in technology. One COO chose to approach this challenge by framing dialogue around responsiveness without irresponsibility to new technologies and ideas. COOs may also have the responsibility to contend with adjustments to market economic and competitive landscapes being altered by advanced collaboration technology.
CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICERS
While technology has come to impact the role of industry leaders, it has always come with the territory for CTOs, even in this era of rapid innovation. In 2016, Rogers surveyed over 350 large- and medium-sized businesses’ technology leaders in order to assess top challenges, which mostly revolved around supporting the integration of technology in the workplace while mitigating potential risks associated with such dependence. Plans relevant to the former objective include the need to enhance mobility through the growth of wireless local area networks and development of organizational apps and data. Technologically-associated workplace risks grow increasingly prevalent due to a growing cyber-threat landscape, lack of adequate protection from traditional perimeter securities, and loss resulting from network downtime. As businesses become more reliant on new technologies, we can expect to see increasing pressure on CTOs to confront these difficulties. Like the COOs described above, CTOs must also make important decisions regarding the tension between innovation and irresponsibility. The CTO of TELUS, a top corporation in Canada, describes the conundrum using the example of autonomous car development, where despite “fantastic areas” of exploration, there remains difficulty in deciphering “is it a distraction, or is it a proof of concept?” He describes similar concerns impeding the growth and necessary investment infrastructure for 5G, despite “revolutionary” potential.
CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICERS
Despite CTO similarities in name and concept, Deloitte Canada’s 2017 Global CIO survey indicate that CIO report a different challenge — that of creating a lasting legacy. The survey points to a difficulty in defining both “legacy” and “business value” (which is used as a measure of “legacy”), given the significant gaps between CIO perception of value added in contrast with the business’ own stated priorities and expectations. “Savvy CIOs” are encouraged to internalize an inter-temporal mindset, evaluating not only “current business priorities and needs, but also at future business direction” as an intended destination to charter to.
Canadian corporation leaders face a wealth of challenges as they look toward a changing future. This is a future where marketing depends on data analytics, operations hinge on the innovations, and technology grows increasingly integrated with corporate infrastructure, with all the associated conveniences and potential security threats. For CMOs struggling to adapt to new marketing technologies or other industry leads lacking specialized knowledge, it may often be a good decision to bring in a consultant with some degree of specialization and skilled knowledge, at least in earlier stages to help ensure effective teaching and implementation of new technologies. This follows from the main reason to hire consultants, which is to “bring skills that your company otherwise wouldn’t have”. In fact, desired access to some specialized skill absent in-house is often cited as the “most common” reason companies hire consultants. There are other reasons why leaders in Canadian firms may choose to bring in consultants in response to difficulties faced. COOs and CIOs discuss challenges around knowing when and which innovations should be implemented versus others; oftentimes, business consultants can be useful in such decision-making by bringing “a different perspective”. This “outside eye” can oftentimes be highly valuable, particularly in the face of challenging or controversial projects easily mired in “emotions or politics.”