Why consulting firms are tapping into independent consultant networks

01 December 2023 Consultancy-me.com 4 min. read

Talent is the cornerstone of consulting, but due to the skills shortage in the Middle East it is becoming increasingly challenging for consulting firms to meet client demand. Vikram Malhotra, Managing Director MENA at Outsized, outlines how consulting firms can effectively gain access to skilled talent through the use of independent networks.

Recent research shows that around half of organisations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE face a shortage of specialized skills.

The shortage of specific skills within the local talent pool has compelled consulting firms in the Middle East to expand their search for skilled professionals globally. Firms are either leveraging their global networks to arrange secondments from other locations or actively seeking to bring in entirely new talent from around the world.

Why consulting firms are tapping into independent consultant networks

Evolution of skill demand in consulting

The demand for consultants in the Middle East has been influenced by several factors, including client trends, in-house availability, and a shift from many end-clients towards more agile business models using external support.

As per Outsized’s latest Demand Trends Report, there has been a noticeable growth in demand in the MENA region for skills related to digital transformation, project management, risk, and supply chain management.

In the face of surging client demand, consulting firms are encountering a critical challenge: effectively capitalizing on these opportunities. Hindered by gaps in niche expertise within their teams and the inefficiencies of traditional hiring, these firms are struggling to keep pace.

The new secret weapon: Independent talent

Progressive consultancies are now unlocking the power of highly skilled independent talent, a strategic move transforming these challenges into opportunities and reshaping their approach to meet evolving market needs. This follows the trend seen in global markets, where many consultancies are moving to more agile models and utilising blended workforce models.

Five ways how firms are getting ahead by integrating independent consultants into their delivery models:

Drawing on specialist expertise
The freelance revolution offers consulting firms an unprecedented opportunity to both access specialist expertise for their core offerings, as well as capitalizing on demand in adjacent areas. With a pool of skilled professionals ready to integrate into projects, firms can rapidly adjust to new requirements without compromising quality. Specialist talent platforms for consulting clients help by offering curated and bespoke always-on virtual benches.

Addressing capacity challenges
In today's fast-evolving business environment, managing workforce capacity efficiently is crucial. Traditional recruitment for permanent positions is time-consuming and can hinder responsiveness to emerging project needs. Independent consultants provide a swift solution to this challenge.

Reducing fixed costs
Adopting a leaner business model, many forward-thinking firms are turning to independents to cut down on fixed costs. By engaging talent only when needed, firms minimize idle time inherent with permanent staff. This approach not only reduces operational costs but also enables firms to pass on these savings to clients.

Embracing fresh perspectives
Integrating freelancers into the consulting workforce brings fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. Freelancers, with their diverse backgrounds and experiences across various firms and industries, contribute significantly to creative problem-solving and knowledge transfer. This influx of new ideas is invaluable, especially for tackling complex challenges or revitalizing stagnant projects.

'Try before you buy' for both sides
The independent talent market is also an excellent resource for scouting future talent. Working with freelancers allows firms to assess individuals' fit and performance before offering permanent roles. Importantly, it’s a two-way street, as it also offers sought-after independents an opportunity to see if the employer is a good fit for them.

As with everything, the devil lies in the details, not least when it comes to operationally critical aspects that affect delivery quality and the reputation of the consultancy. Thus, firms wanting to leverage independent talent need to make sure they have the right internal capabilities, or the right external partner, to attract, vet and onboard external expertise.

The rewards for getting it right are significant. By strategically leveraging the freelance market, consulting firms can not only enhance their service offerings but also maintain a competitive edge in an ever-evolving market. Embracing this shift towards a more agile consulting model can be a critical key to success, and a driver for profitability.