Digital and technology advice, business transformation and strategy are the key priorities UK business leaders say they will need most help from consultants on in the future according to a new survey conducted by the MCA, the Management Consultancies Association.

The independent survey of 250 UK industry decision makers across the public and private sector was commissioned by the MCA, the trade association for the leading consultancy firms in the UK and conducted by VIGA, a global research company. The study looks at how private and public sector leaders use and rate consulting services. The survey found that use of consultants was widespread across large and small companies[1] with 84% of businesses polled confirming they used consulting services and 81% of respondents saying consultants had met or exceeded expectations[2]. Use of consultants was relatively even across company size – highest use was in the Financial services, Life Sciences and health sectors and lowest use was in Transportation and Government and in the public sectors.[3] The survey assesses the differences in what kind of businesses need most external help in key areas in both the private and public sector.

The sectors that stated that they needed most help from external consulting services for digital and technology advisory were the Manufacturing sectors (42%) and Digital and Technology (41%) sectors. Concerns over digital deployment also featured highly within the Financial Services as well as within the Retail and Leisure sector.[4]

Efficiency emerged as the top most important current business challenge across the public and private sector, followed by Brexit, digital deployment and dealing with disruption from AI and automation. 65% of Government & Public Sector leaders cited efficiency as the leading business challenge, followed by Recruitment & Retention, Productivity, Digital deployment, dealing with AI and tech and then finally Brexit. In contrast more than half of Financial Services and Manufacturing leaders saw Brexit as the leading future business challenge.[5] The results of the survey show consultants are valued most when they deliver forward looking external help like transformational support, knowledge transfer, efficiency and support with digital challenges. In the public sector consultants are valued most when they provide independent thinking and transformational outcomes. In a key positive result for the industry, 81% of respondents stated that in their experience consultants had met or exceeded their expectations. Additionally, more than half of respondents have consistently had their expectations exceeded or substantially exceeded.

Tamzen Isacsson, CEO of MCA, said “We’re encouraged by the feedback from business leaders about the value of consulting to organisations across the public and private sector, and believe our member firms are well equipped to assist businesses with the challenges of digital and technology upheavals in the future. Brexit is of critical concern to many businesses across the UK, but, as this study shows, there are many other pressing business issues that companies need to focus on to remain competitive and grow. It’s vitally important that businesses get certainty as soon as possible this month on our future relationship with Europe so they can plan and prepare for Brexit and then get on with the important job of improving the efficiency of their organisations.”

Steven Scott, Senior Vice President at VIGA, said “The findings of the study point towards a great deal of client satisfaction in consulting across a number of key business verticals in the UK. Not only does the data highlight the value and impact being driven across industries today, but also helps to illuminate emerging needs across leading UK organisations in the near future. It’s clear from our research that consultants will continue to play a key role in designing and transforming the future of UK business.”

Focusing on the enterprise level of businesses, there is a large emphasis on business transformation needs for consultative support and a much higher percentage of respondents acknowledging the need for help with change management – an area that presents a much bigger issue the larger your business becomes. In the Government & Public Sector segment, the biggest needs are business transformation, change management, and digital & technology advisory. Among the smallest organisations, the biggest needs are business transformation, quality management, and risk management.

For non-users of consulting services (16%), the bulk of respondents indicated that their organisations have refrained from using consulting services due to budgetary restraints and/or because they have an existing in-house solution. Very few respondents indicated that there are perceived gaps in the consulting services (96% no gaps, 4% yes) offered in relation to their needs when engaging consulting firms. This demonstrates that management Consultancies are largely keeping up with changes in the workforce, technology, and other disruptive more