Sailors will lash themselves to the tiller and pray as they ride out a violent storm. Consultants are just the opposite. They think of themselves as heroes, charging through frothing seas to help save hapless boatmen.

Having visited more than 30 consulting firms over the last six weeks, I’ve heard my share of rescue stories. With grease pencil in hand, partners will scrawl over x/y grids and s-curve charts to show the undulating mini-tsunamis of their world. Their message is simple: The online chaos that is driving consulting services will not abate anytime soon.

Clients, though, are increasingly unwilling to jump aboard just any passing dinghy. They’ve awakened from the fear-inspired buying frenzy of the last two years. So as the e-business craze morphs into “enterprise Webification,” consultants’ unbridled optimism is being tempered by pessimistic clients.

Over the next year, we’ll see the demise of many consulting firms. Many of these boats are already awash to the gunwales, and the merciless beating from the market—both stock and demand—will ultimately force them under.

Clients will avoid these derelicts and make a safer bet. The major firms will be flooded with new business, and you’ll hear much about the resurgence of old-guard firms. That doesn’t mean clients are always making the right choice. It’s just that these battleships won’t sink.

Heard on the street
The Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF) will hold its annual conference Dec. 5-7 in New York. Roland Berger will be honored this year with the group’s lifetime achievement award, named in honor of Carl S. Sloane. Berger’s namesake firm is Germany’s best known contribution to the consulting industry, and many folks will be interested to hear his views on the future of consulting.
Inside Consulting is written by Tom Rodenhauser as a free weekly supplement to The Rodenhauser Report. The report informs senior advisors and business executives of consulting trends and best practices. Subscription cost is $295 per year for 10 issues. Copyright 2000, Consulting Information Services, LLC. Reproduction is prohibited. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.