x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Not a good time to be a consultant in the Middle East as cynicism grows

Growing cynicism about the consulting sector is forcing firms to work harder to retain clients, industry figures have warned.

Growing cynicism about the consulting sector is forcing firms to work harder to retain clients, industry figures have warned.

In contrast to the past decade, when companies spent big to bring in armies of shiny business school graduates armed with reams of vague PowerPoint slides to modernise their business practices, consultants say the industry has fallen out of favour among Middle Eastern companies.

Companies in the region were feeling "consulting exhausted", delegates told an event organised by the London Business School.

As a result, it was becoming harder to convince firms of the benefits of bringing in international consultants to review their business practices.

"Our Middle Eastern clients aren't spending in the same way as they did before the financial crisis, they are becoming increasingly sophisticated buyers," said Katie Sumpton, a principal at Booz & Company.

The consultancy sector has been cutting jobs as cut-throat pricing among rivals saps profitability.

The large professional services firm KPMG said this month that it had made cuts to its Dubai-based mergers and acquisitions division as a result of low deal volumes.

Those firms looking to sustain a presence in the Middle East were finding it increasingly important to measure and track the returns they produce for client companies, said Peter Clark, a partner at Aleron Partners.

"Our response has to deliver more value now there is a growing scepticism among clients," he said.

"We can't sit in our offices typing up a bit of theory - a growing trend is linking our remuneration to their bottom line."

Companies were being forced to specialise and prove their worth in fields including business analytics, said Mounir Ariss, a partner at Peppers & Rogers Group, a management consultancy.

"The consulting world has changed significantly," he said.

"Client organisations expect consultants to become more operational and demonstrate their direct impact on the client's business, while ensuring a good level of knowledge transfer to the client's team and an increasing level of subject matter expertise and specialisation from their consultants," said Mr Ariss.

 

ghunter@thenational.ae