What’s Special About Business Transformation in Scotland?

On the one hand Scotland is a devolved administration with its own parliament within the structure of the United Kingdom. This does alter the backdrop a little from the neighbour south of the border. However, more to the point is that Scotland is seeking to follow its own path and change the way society works. That begs for expertise in transformation.

Is There a Wealth of Talent Available?

At first glance it looks like the field is relatively empty. Yes, there are the usual international consultancies plying their wares – although none with any particular hint of taking note of the Scottish environment.

To get a feeling for what you might be faced with I tried a quick search on Google for “Business Transformation Consultants Scotland”. The result was very disappointing.

  •    4 Paid Ads – all for big consultancies focused on digital work or jobs
  •    5 Job Ads
  •    4 Digital/IT consultancies
  •    1 Strategic consultancy – and the only one solely based in Scotland, the rest are branches of multinationals

No creativity. No innovation specialists. No programme governance specialists. No coaching/mentoring.

When I removed Scotland from the search it didn’t get any better with 16 results:

  •    7 Paid Ads
  •    1 News article
  •    3 Job listings
  •    5 International Consultancies

I recognise that this is only the tip of an iceberg but the search algorithms are pretty good at sifting out the irrelevant. So what is returned is a combination of those with the most established presence and those who are paying to get their names in front of the searcher. Many of the bigger players focus on working on framework contracts in the Public Sector. That’s not a particularly good procurement model from either end but I’m not going to challenge that here. However working on frameworks frequently means delivering at least cost – sadly the focus ought to be on best quality but try getting that past the purchasing body. Besides – when did an SME ever engage people through framework contracts? They usually want a much closer relationship with their advisers.

Try searching yourself and see if the results are markedly different. I’m betting they won’t be.

What is This Telling Us?

Aside from a government agency (Scottish Enterprise) who are focused almost exclusively on large corporates there is no sign of a distinctly Scottish flavour to change or transformation. Yet this is in a society that has delivered huge amounts of innovation over the generations. So it appears that somehow the tools, techniques and IP have dissipated with the assumption that businesses know what they are doing.

On the other hand, Scottish business has to reinvent itself just as much if not more than elsewhere. A small country of 5.5 million relies on a few key sectors to generate its wealth. Yes, there’s the financial sector which is the second hub in the United Kingdom after London. Then there is energy and a growing expertise in renewables. Apart from that the biggest revenues are driven by food and drink, together with hospitality.

Amidst all of this there are thousands of smaller businesses – some of which are world-leaders that are all but invisible. Yet presumably they need help from time to time, so where are they supposed to look?

A Lack of Co-ordination

There simply isn’t anywhere that they can turn to find a selection of great consultancies. The ones who are offering genuine transformation and innovation advice. Step back from the Digital stuff for a while – that’s flavour of the month right now but isn’t the whole answer.

Instead there’s no register of who’s who. Nor any index of skillsets or depth of experience. So overall the inquirer is left shooting in the dark to try and find appropriate help. What’s missing is a hub where they can put their requirements and ask for contact. There are a couple out there – like Bark.com – but they aren’t really helpful in getting the requirements out into the open to enable a sensible discussion. Paid hubs that allegedly will feed business to participating consultancies are pretty much worthless. They don’t have traction with a target audience of businesses and are also singularly lacking in specific understanding of transformation consulting. As a consultant I wouldn’t use them. As a client I wouldn’t trust what they were selling.

What About Experience?

A lack of this is highlighted when a single consultancy based in Scotland boasts that between its core team of 6 people they have over 50 year’s collective experience. Many of the others make no reference to the depth of experience in their teams.

You can’t beat longstanding experience. So why would you engage with relative newcomers to the process of business transformation. I’ve personally got over 40 years’ experience in the field and can draw on a wealth of other consultants with similar long track records. I’ve personally worked alongside or even managed consultants from Deloitte, PwC, PA Consulting, Atos, Cap Gemini, EY and Bain to name a handful of the big players. None of them were dreadful but they all focused on their own methods rather than getting under the skin of the client’s problems. Also none of them evidenced much in the way of taking on board cultural differences in the geographies where they were working.

In addition the business schools aren’t turning out graduates who are focused on practical application either. Instead there remains the idea that their MBAs are likely to seek work in the corporate consulting sector. (Having spoken at a number of their events aimed at deciding a career post-graduation I have witnessed the expectations first-hand.) That consulting sector is so focused on big companies that there seems little left over for the Third Sector or SMEs.

What’s The Answer?

To find a really good transformation consultancy, no matter where you are, you need to be able to answer some very simple questions. What is the pain you are trying to alleviate? What is the timescale you want to deliver over? Are you prepared to have your thinking challenged? Are you prepared to partner for the WHOLE journey to optimise the advice and input?

If the answers to all these are out on the table and the response to the last two is in the affirmative, then that’s the story you need to put out with your requests for help. Don’t focus on a narrow band such as planning or something similar – there are consultancies out there but try and get one that understands the local business landscape. They will likely have strong roots in the country and aren’t simply a branch of something with a different cultural background.

So Now What?

Are you based in Scotland? Are you looking for consultancy help with a proposed transformation? If so get in touch and have a conversation. We look forward to helping you transform in ways that take account of where you are as well as what you do.

For more insights click here.

Rob Wherrett can be contacted at https://robwherrett.com/contact/

© robwherrett.com 2020. All rights reserved