Consulting as system and profession

Toppin, G. and F. Czerniawska (2006). Business Consulting: A Guide to How it Works and How to Make it Work. London, The Economist.

This is a useful but uneven book. Its main contribution lies in the development of a model called “the Business Consulting Ecosystem”, which describes the various entities in the consulting profession and how they interact. There are also good descriptions of how the industry has evolved over time and good interviews with many consultants and clients. I particularly liked chapter 11, which describes the markets for ideas and how companies try to capitalize on them, though that may be because one of the companies described is Index, which I worked for in the nineties.

On the negative side, the latter part (second half) of the book and the conclusions feel quite a bit like a Powerpoint presentation, with bullet points giving the outline and filler text added in. The book is also slightly dated, since it was published in 2004 and things have moved on a bit, though it does report on the transition to outsourcing and the increasing polarization between advisory consulting and implementation.

So, smart in parts, useful in general, but uneven when it comes to drawing decisive conclusions. Sounds like the consulting business.