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Is operational consulting still relevant in the digital world?

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Last year I left a large-scale systems integrator to take up the role of UK Managing Director for Proudfoot, an Operational Consulting firm, with a proud 75 year history. Before moving, I thought long and hard about the relevance of operational consulting in the digital world, after all isn’t so much of what we now do influenced by technology? 

Technology is changing the way businesses work, creating new business models, changing current jobs, and creating new roles. Technology companies are setting internal targets for the revenues associated with the digital revolution, digital coming front and centre of strategy and market positioning. So here are my thoughts; the reasons why I think that operational consulting is as relevant today as when I joined a boutique consulting firm in the 1990s.

What is Operational Consulting?

Firstly, let’s consider what Operational Consulting is. At its simplest, I believe Operational Consulting is about helping client organisations translate strategy into action, into results. It is what I do; it is what Proudfoot does. While there are many people and organisations who position themselves as strategic, a strategy is worth nothing unless it is implemented. 

What does this mean in practice?  For me, it is about going to where the work gets done and changing behaviours, changing the way that work actually does get done. It’s about working with people, helping them understand the need for change, helping them act, and ultimately, it’s about helping them get to the finishing line. 

Working with our clients we might change business processes, we might change how performance is measured and managed, we might change organisational roles and responsibilities, but we always do this in conjunction with people who the changes affect.  We support them on the journey.

The World Changes

Clearly the world is changing around us.  Giving away my age now, I remember the 1979 FIAT advert “Hand Made by Robots.” The balletic grace of machines building cars heralded in a brave new world of automation.  However, I also remember the industrial unrest and sense of despondence in the area that I grew up in as technology displaced jobs.

While at university I recall the Wapping Dispute, with print workers protesting the implementation of new technology in the newspaper sector that allowed journalists to import stories electronically, rather than relying on the more traditional and labour intensive hot metal linotype approach.  More job losses ensued.

Today, the focus is increasingly on the professions.  What will the impact of Artificial Intelligence be in medicine, in law, in accountancy? 

Yet, today the UK has a vibrant car manufacturing sector producing quality products for both domestic and export markets.  The digital media sector is creating new jobs, jobs that we could not even envisage 25 years ago.  As technology disrupts and reconfigures sectors previously the preserve of professionals, things will change, people will have to adapt.  And people will.

What does this mean for Operational Consulting?

My view is that being in business, running a business is not about being the passive passenger in the back seat of a driverless car. There is a reason a well-known airline is running a maintenance digitisation programme using an IT provider for the technology but is using Proudfoot to digitise the people.

I defined Operational Consulting as supporting organisations to translate strategy into action.  Leaders need to help their employees to see the need for change, help them work in new ways, and help them get to the finish line, deliver the results. 

And this is what we do. 

Typically, our clients have complex and often competing issues hitting their inbox at remarkable speed.  For example, the impact of Brexit, the impact of skills shortages, as well as the impact of new technology.  We help leaders take action, identify the 20% that will deliver the 80%.  By going to where the work gets done, we help leaders engage across the whole organisation, helping everyone understand the need for change, helping them embrace new ways of working.  We help organisations get to the finish line, and the finish line after that.

Is there a need for Operational Consulting in a digital world?  If people are involved, we believe there is.


Proudfoot designs, implements and accelerates operational transformation – realising tomorrow’s results today. What if you could? With Proudfoot, you can


Published in Linkedin on March 7, 2017 by



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