In the world of management consulting, 2014 belongs to the technology guru. In our survey of consulting buyers, almost all said they are planning technology improvements this year, and most are bringing in consultants to help.
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About half of clients say they are going to spend more on IT consultants than they did last year. And of those planning to increase their spending, about half say they are looking at an increase of more than 10%.
Why all the sudden interest? Having spent the last few years focused on surviving the global financial crisis, businesses are looking inward once again, and many are finding that their IT operations have fallen behind the times.
Whether they have failed to keep up with the latest trends or have let the back office fall into disorder, organisations in all sectors are now in the market for big digital and IT upgrades.
And this recommitment to technology is serious business: consulting buyers say that when they are forced to make hard choices about where to put their consulting spending, they will choose technology over other areas.
Respect for the old school
You would be forgiven for thinking that the bulk of this spending will go on new technologies, such as cloud, big data and social media, but you’d be wrong.
While most businesses plan to invest in both new and traditional technology this year, old-fashioned IT actually has a slight edge. Businesses are savvy enough to know that the latest digital technologies only work properly when grounded in a solid IT framework.
So, which sectors are planning to spend most on technology consultants?
Pharma and biotech
Of all the sectors, this is the keenest to hire more technology consultants, with more than 60% planning to increase spending this year. But despite their enthusiasm, this remains a relatively small sector, and so the actual number of opportunities may be fewer here than in comparatively larger sectors.
Banks and insurance companies have long been friends to the technology consultant, thanks to their constant need to upgrade to the newest and best systems, either to comply with new regulation or to launch new products.
And 2014 promises to be a particularly good year. Most of the financial institutions say their investment in technology consulting is going up this year. With new regulatory pressures driving demand for IT systems and a huge segment of their retail clients wanting to handle all their banking online, IT consultants will be in big demand.
Retailers have a whole raft of tech-related projects lined up in 2014. These range from improving their social media presence to navigating the shift to online and omni-channel retailing, and they will be employing armies of consultants to help. While it is true they will never love consultants the way bankers do, they are definitely looking to enter some marriages of convenience this year.
Whether businesses are looking at new or traditional technologies, playing catch-up or jockeying to stay on the cutting edge, they have technology at front of mind in 2014 – and the smart consultant will, too.
BJ Richards is senior analyst at Source Information Services