Nigeria: Consulting: Staying Relevant In A Changing World

Last Updated: 24 March 2015
Article by Mary Iwelumo

Life is changing faster than anyone ever imagined and industry players are learning to embrace change in a dynamic world. Factors such as regulation, globalization, technology and consumer behavior continuously demand changes within our environment, particularly the business environment.

The consulting industry is not left out. There's a "new normal" and in Africa, the Consulting Practice has had to adapt to remain relevant in this "new normal". This article discusses three of the dominant factors changing our world and articulates a Consultants' Creed, especially in Africa, to staying relevant.

1. Regulation

Navigating regulatory hurdles is a daunting task with companies thinking of how best to comply and yet compete effectively in their respective industries. With new regulations come higher demands and new levels of accountability. This is regularly seen in the Professional Services industry

2.Technology

Technology, especially the disruptive kind, continues to alter various aspects of life, upsetting the status quo. In economies such as Nigeria, customers are increasingly embracing new forms of living – with convenience and speed atop their demands. The internet has provided a platform for new ways of transacting – commercial and otherwise.

The rising middle class in Nigeria is fast becoming a digital community with many embracing the new lifestyle of reduced dependency on cash. This reduced dependency on physical cash is driven by the policies from the Central Bank of Nigeria and enabled by technological advancement.

3.Globalization

Globalization is producing significant changes in the African economy through international trade and foreign investments. Africa's demographics, natural resources and growth potential continue to attract foreign investors seeking higher returns on investments. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has risen by an annual growth rate of about 6.6 percent over the past decade with the extractive, manufacturing and services sectors accounting for the bulk of these investments.

With increasing international trade and foreign investments, globalization presents opportunities for indigenous companies in Africa to improve their competitive position. African companies are gradually going global, expanding business operations beyond their borders. This expansion into new geographies especially within Africa has increased in the past decade and can be termed as being two – sided. Local industry players are seeking expansion beyond their home markets and foreign multinational companies are seeking more presence in Africa. The two – sided expansion is creating a dynamic market and promoting more competition. In coming years, this trend is expected to shape competition as local industry players are gradually forced to compete with multinational companies in their own home markets.

A Consultants' Creed

In pursuit of excellence and relevance in this constantly changing world, there are certain behavioral traits that consultants should demonstrate in all interactions. These traits are encapsulated in what has been termed T.A.L.K – a Consultants' Creed.

Teamwork: Working with teams provides a better platform to approaching tasks at hand. Teams create an environment for sharing and collaborating; thereby making the whole far greater than the sum of parts. In this era of technological advancements and globalization, sharing and collaborating has transcended physical borders, with virtual teams and meetings becoming common. Today, resource and knowledge exchange has gone global and consultants are presented with opportunities to build and maintain global teams with diverse skill sets. Beyond leveraging on internal teams, partnering with the client is very crucial. Teaming up with the client as a trusted partner is a key requirement for meeting client needs in rapidly changing business environments.

Agility: In the new normal, responsiveness is vital and a primary distinguishing factor. With various trends redefining today's business environments, the ability to perceive changes and respond effectively is invaluable. By anticipating and responding quickly to changes, consultants are able to seize opportunities and stay ahead of competition. In helping clients navigate through the rapid pace of change, the ability to anticipate trends is a requirement for providing innovative strategies for better competitiveness.

Learning: Developing new ways of thinking is vital to responding effectively in changing environments. By proactively seeking to expand their knowledge base and skillsets, consultants create better ways of meeting growing client demands.Daily changes are gradually rendering yesterday's tools unsuitable for today's problems.Being able to challenge the norm and review existing models, is a crucial habit of successful consultants. For the successful consultant, learning is endless with significant investments made into trainings and intensive research.

Knowledge: Meeting growing client demands starts with an in-depth understanding of the client and its role in its business ecosystem. Knowledge about the client, its industry dynamics and trends helps to create value for the client. This starts with building and maintaining a lasting relationship that promotes seamless information exchange with the client. It is achieved by maintaining open communication and seeking to walk in the client's shoes. Equipped with accurate information and the right methodologies, consultants are able to proficiently evaluate situations and develop unique solutions to client problems.

The Creed provides a foundation for adapting to the rapid pace of change in today's business environment. Demonstrating the Creed traits diligently, the consultant faces a future of continued relevance and importance in the rapidly changing business environment in Africa.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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