On the eve of his departure from these pages, our management consultancy columnist Mick James bewails the fact that the reading public only gains fragmentary glimpses of the impact consultancy makes on their lives.

This is going to be the penultimate column I write for Top-consultant.com so I thought I would exceed even my normal limits of self-indulgence and make this one about me.

This is the end of a very happy chapter in something like 25 years of writing about consultancy. And I’m not stopping—you’ll be able to find my musings and hopefully a lot more on my new blog, consultancyhome.com, and I hope that many of you will follow me there (but the jobs will still be here, so don’t lose track of Top-Consultant.com).

Why the change? Well first let me say don’t worry kids, mummy and daddy are still friends and above all it’s not your fault.

No, actually it is your fault. Unless you are a actually a consultant this is a staggeringly difficult market to make money out of. Even people who work in practice management struggle to get the recognition and reward they deserve.

It’s hard to believe in these days of digital overload, but there used to be a lot more to read about in consultancy. In the 1990s I edited whole magazine about it, the imaginatively titled Management Consultancy.

Though I say so myself, we did some good stuff, but the business model was flawed and we struggled with revenue. I never met a consultant who grasped it but the now dinosaur concept of the controlled circulation magazine it was simple: send the magazine out to a rigorously controlled demographic with ads for stuff in between the articles in the front and a load of jobs in the back.

The internet has put paid to most of that now but back then the problems with was not so much that consultants didn’t get it (Hi Mick! How’s circulation?) but that advertisers didn’t. Consultants don’t really buy anything much, but they do shift a lot of budget around. But “influence the influencers” was just too sophisticated a message apart from a few people in the IT world which was awash with money at the time. Even then we were hampered by our publishers worrying that we were cannibalising revenue from their vast stable of purely IT titles.

But just as dogs come to resemble their owners (or is it the other way round?), magazines come to mirror their advertising markets. The pressure to make Management Consultancy an IT-led editorial product became unbearable and I left, after which it went over totally to IT matters and closed shortly afterwards. Then Top-Consultant.com came along with an offer to be their reporter at large, and I was able to continue to write about the industry my way.

Regrets? I’ve had a few…could things have been different? It’s not as if Management Consultancy is the only magazine that I’ve written for that has closed down—they pretty much all have. “Digital” has taken it’s toll on everyone.

But I still believe that with a bit more investment a magazine ostensibly about the niche of consultancy could have been much, much more.

I came to this industry from a niche within a niche within a niche—a magazine called Mid Range Systems Today which focused exclusively on IBM’s S/36, S/38 and AS/400 computers. That sounds immensely boring, but these platforms were at the forefront of the growth of MRP (Materials Requirements Planning) and packaged software markets, which led to the ERP boom which underpinned so much of the growth of consultancy in the 1990s.

So my job took me all over the country visiting factories and offices and learning about such diverse areas as food labelling, vehicle manufacturing and the decline of the tobacco industry.

So when the editorship of Management Consultancy came up and I jumped at it.

My dream was that consultancy would offer a similar lens through which to view the entire world of industry and commerce government, and we could attract wider client audience. This might in turn unlock the advertising budgets of the consultancies themselves and tie ourselves to the growth of consultancy rather than the decline of publishing. Does that sound a little mad? Maybe, but have you ever heard of a little niche magazine called The Economist?

In the event the opposite happened. As the consultancy industry has gone from strength to strength it has continued its disappearing act from print. We still have articles that follow the paradigm that consultancy is either an indulgence or a con trick.

Otherwise (unless of course something’s gone wrong ) consultants play at best a walk-on part in their own stories, if they are even mentioned at all. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Perhaps that’s as it should be—it’s clients that take the risk, clients that have the vision to try and go for something a bit better than business as usual. But it’s never made clear that their use of consultants is a demonstration of their skill, rather than their deficiencies as managers.

As a result the reading public only gains fragmentary glimpses of the impact makes on their lives whether in process design, business strategy pr the physical design of products

It’s a huge and unseen presence in the world, and the vast insights that consultants gain in their work remain largely in their heads.

So I’m going to continue to plough this lonely furrow—whether working with consultants on case studies and their white papers, or through my own writing on consultancyhome.com.

Hopefully it won’t be just me listening to the sound of my own voice and you will join me there to read what I have to say. And you can read about yourselves too: over the years I’ve spoken to dozens of consultancies about their practice and their clients and their growth plans and I’m hoping to continue to do so for a very long time.

Next week we will be bringing this series to a close with coverage of the MCA’s annual report. So it only remains for me to think my friends at Top Consultant for so indulgently hosting this sometimes rather rambling collection of musings, and hope that over the years our readers have fond them either useful or entertaining. I wish them and you all the best.


All views expressed in this article are those of Mick James and do not necessarily reflect the views of Top-Consultant.com and Consultant-News.com.

Contact Mick with your views or suggestions at: mick.james@top-consultant.com
read more