Contours of consulting changed with COVID: IBM

‘For long, the focus was on short-term value extraction’

In the context of Big Blue’s recent rebranding of its global professional services business, Global Business Services, as IBM Consulting, Kamal Singhani, Country Managing Partner, IBM Consulting, India/South Asia said the consulting industry was witnessing unprecedented demand as clients were increasingly looking for a trusted partner to help them navigate to the future. Edited excerpts:

What is the rationale behind the recent rebranding of Global Business Services as IBM Consulting?

Business transformation is accelerating for organisations in every industry as they seek to emerge stronger from recent disruptions. They are now pursuing digital across every aspect of their operations and embedding technologies like hybrid cloud, AI, security, etc., to be leaders and become future ready. This demands the right technology solutions, skills and support to execute and succeed. As a result, the consulting industry is witnessing an unprecedented demand.

IBM Consulting is a response to this unique market opportunity and it further strengthens our positioning as a strategic business partner for clients. It allows us to meet clients where they are in their journey and makes it easier for them to consume different pieces of technology. The move also represents a renewed investment in business consulting, as a front door to the partnership with IBM, in all capacities. IBM Consulting offers increased clarity and visibility for clients, drives adoption of AI and helps them modernise and manage their applications in a hybrid cloud environment.

IBM has always been in the consulting business… what has changed now with the rebranding?

The consulting industry has for many years been focused on short-term value extraction, advising customers on siloed and off-the-shelf products, and not thinking about a project in the broader context of their clients’ responsibility to partners, people, and the planet.

In IBM Consulting, we are unique as we collaborate with clients on holistic, interconnected solutions. We lead projects through the lens of empathy and openness. In other words, we multiply business results by accelerating together. With deep expertise in many industries, we offer strategy, experience, technology, and operations services to many global companies. Also, we believe in the power of technology, responsibly used to help people, partners and the planet.

What does this change mean for India, a critical geography for IBM, in terms of market opportunities?

India plays a significant role in IBM’s growth and talent strategy. We work directly with several Indian brands such as Parle, State Bank of India, Amul, IOCL and others, to apply hybrid cloud and AI technology to help them achieve digital transformation.

At IBM Consulting, we believe open ecosystems, open technologies, open innovation, and open cultures are the key to unlocking opportunities. Our growth strategy for India has four key pillars: 1. Industry-specific solutions and assets for digital transformation, 2. Investment in talent to develop skill sets across critical areas of hybrid cloud, AI, intelligent workflows and application modernisation, 3. Strengthening partner ecosystem through strategic collaboration with hyperscalers and providers of cloud solutions/services and 4. Growth acceleration in the fastest-growing vertical, IBM Consulting.

What organisational rejig and people redeployments are expected in India as part of this change?

With IBM Consulting, we are re-focusing our teams, offerings, and culture around a new ethos — Accelerate Together — reflecting our commitment to deliver rapid business value while championing diversity, openness, and commitment to both teams and outcomes. We’re simplifying our brand architecture — strategy, experience, technology, and operations — to make our range of capabilities easier for clients to navigate. As part of this, we now have IBM Strategy Consulting, IBM Experience Consulting, IBM Technology Consulting and IBM Operations Consulting.

What are the company’s people scale-up plans with this new positioning?

With the unveiling of the new brand, we have expanded hiring at double-digits across our global delivery network, including 55,000 fully cloud-trained consultants. Some 70% of these professionals have deep industry expertise. We are adding delivery resources across regions and practices, including people with technical skills in Red Hat. We are looking to attract the best and the brightest talent.

IBM Consulting is pushing the boundaries of consulting where open teams, irrespective of backgrounds, technologies, and ways of working are brought together. That includes designers, data scientists, and many other roles. While the brand IBM Consulting is a signal to the market around our positioning and competitive focus, we are a diverse team, all focused on an expanded view of what’s possible in client partnership and the consulting category.

How will this repositioning help IBM to increase its share of the consulting pie?

With IBM Consulting, we are looking to redefine consulting with multiple approaches such as IBM Garage, a unique method that acts as an end-to-end model for digital transformation for clients, and Dynamic Delivery that accelerates outcomes with modern methods and tools. IBM Consulting’s growth will also come from being part of IBM, and leveraging the differentiators including the scientific advantage our clients gain from having access to IBM Research and IBM technologies (hybrid cloud platform and AI software).

We have 140,000 consulting professionals in over 150 countries who help us co-create, co-operate and co-execute for our clients. IBM Consulting pioneered IBM Garage and so far, in 2021 we have done more than 4000 garages where we co-create with our clients. Our strategy is built on an open hybrid multicloud approach and embedding AI with intelligent workflows to reimagine our clients’ core business processes. The global consulting market had a value of $132 billion in 2020, according to research by Statista. IBM has always held a unique position at the intersection of business, technology and society.

Have the contours of consulting got redefined over the years with its scope changing dramatically?

Consulting is a unique profession; it is shaped by clients and their evolving needs. The contours of consulting have changed drastically with COVID.

Business leaders now need to transform processes and systems across their organisations with outcomes delivered along the entire lifecycle of a project. Organisations are now looking for a new breed of consultants who are trusted advisors, understand their challenge, bring a fresh perspective and are grounded with expertise in business and technology. New-age consultants are no longer the typical ‘always on the road’ kind of professionals who go in and out of client meetings armed with presentations.

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