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Digital Disruptors and the Future of Consulting

In my role as leader of the Analytics Practice for Cisco® Consulting Services, I often meet with clients who remind me of how the nature of consulting is changing. Traditionally, a consultant’s value and relevance to the customer has been derived from his or her business background and knowledge of specific industries or areas of expertise. The consultant comes in and takes a look at the client’s critical business issues, then makes top-down recommendations based on his or her specialized business experience.

This traditional model is being challenged by what I call “digital disruptors”—consultants whose credibility comes not just from their past experience, but from their ability to extract value and insight based on data that is gathered at the operational base of the organization: the network. This bottom-up approach is turning the consulting industry on its head—driven by data gathered on the network and turned into business insights by analytics.

Consider, for example, a major enterprise that has made a large investment in infrastructure for video collaboration. The company’s leaders want to see what kind of value they are getting back from their investment in order to evaluate further investment in collaboration. Cisco Consulting can help this customer not only because of our industry expertise, or even because of our knowledge of video collaboration technology—but because we can take an analytics-based, digital-disruption approach to the customer’s challenges. The key is our ability to tap into the video infrastructure itself, combine network and other types of data, and give the client a view of how the infrastructure is being utilized.

The insights that grow out of this process can help the company achieve its business goals by optimizing that usage. By monitoring the use of Cisco TelePresence® and other video collaboration assets, we are able to quantify hard travel savings and predict the optimum locations for collaboration asset deployment. We have also provided a recommendation that increases utilization of video collaboration assets by more than 20 percent, and have identified an additional $50 million-plus that can be captured in hard cost savings. Using this information, our client’s executives are better able to understand the value they are capturing from their IT assets, and how to prioritize their future investments.

In recent conversations with other clients, we are discovering that organizations are starting to replace traditional management consultants with teams of young digital disruptors who, for a fraction of the price and armed with an analytics approach, quickly turn operational data gathered from the network into business-relevant, actionable insights. These teams tend to operate at the intersection of data science, user experience/design, and business architecture. In today’s fast-moving business and technology environment, these teams can help executives find the shortest path to making the best decisions.

Big Data and analytics are redefining the skills and talent executives are seeking to help them fine-tune their organizations’ performance. We like that idea so much that we’ve started to build those capabilities into the core of Cisco Consulting, offering clients our own teams of digital disruptors.

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