Management consulting refers to both the industry, and the practice of, helping organizations improve their performance, primarily through the thorough analysis of existing business problems and development of plans for improvement.
Organizations hire the services of management consultants for a number of reasons, including, for example, to gain external, and presumably more objective advice and recommendations, to gain access the consultants’ specialized expertise, or simply as temporary help during a one-time project, where the hiring of permanent employees is not required. Because of their exposure to and relationships with numerous organizations, consultancies are also said to be aware of industry ‘best practices,’ although the transferability of such practices from one organization to another is the subject of debate.
Consultancies may also provide organizational change management assistance, development of coaching skills, technology implementation, strategy development, or operational improvement services. Management consultants generally bring their own, proprietary methodologies or frameworks to guide the identification of problems, and to serve as the basis for recommendations for more effective or efficient ways of performing business tasks.
Management consulting refers generally to the provision of business consulting services, but there are numerous specializations, such as information technology consulting, human resource consulting, and others, many of which overlap, and most of which are offered by the large diversified consultancies listed below. So-called ’boutique’ consultancies, however, are smaller organizations specializing in one or a few of such specializations.
Management Consulting is becoming more prevalent in non-business related fields as well. As the need for professional and specialized advice grows, other industries such as government, quasi-government and not-for-profit agencies are turning to the same managerial principles that have helped the private sector for years.
One important and recent change in the industry has been the spin-off or separation of the consulting and the accounting units of the large diversified firms. For these firms, which began business as accounting firms, management consulting was a new extension to their business.
But precipitated by a number of highly publicized scandals over accounting practices, such as the Enron scandal, accountancies began divestiture of their management consulting units, to more easily comply with tighter regulatory scrutiny that arose in the wake of the scandals.