Will AI replace consultants?
The onset of AI and smart machines automating formerly-human jobs has been discussed at length as of late — often in relation to manufacturing and manual labor jobs.
And yet, a 2017 McKinsey study suggested that more traditionally white-collar jobs are at risk as well. With corporate and financial consulting in particular, a shift to AI solutions in the future would mostly eliminate the variety of cognitive biases that a human consultant carries with them, theoretically rendering a “robo-consultant” more appealing. Already, we’re beginning to see companies utilize AI to help them make critical business decisions, or to otherwise function as a pseudo-consultant to consumers:
Alexa gives financial advice:
In October 2016, UBS Group AG teamed up with Amazon’s Alexa that allowed people to ask the artificial intelligence helper a variety of financial questions — from “how is the US economy doing?” to “what is inflation?” and more. A product of the Swiss bank’s “Wealth Management Innovation Lab,” the “Ask UBS” feature is likely one of the first of many such AI-based features to come.
Albert increases Harley Davidson NY sales leads by 2,930%:
Using AI firm Adgorithms’ AI-driven marketing platform (known as Albert), a New York City Harley Davidson dealership automated much of its marketing campaign optimization, increasing their leads by 15% within one month, and by 2,930% within three months. Albert was able to evaluate what was and wasn’t working for Harley Davidson’s marketing across digital channels at an exponentially greater capacity than any human could.
The US market for corporate advice was $58 billion in 2016 — and almost of all of this advice is both human-based and expensive. While we may not be near a close alternative to the highly-personalized, strategic advice a talented consultant can deliver to each individual client, there’s no question that when it comes to analyzing and presenting data — a not-insignificant portion of a corporate consultant’s job — AI can do this better.
In their recent Harvard Business Review article, Barry Libert and Megan Beck (coauthors of “The Network Imperative: How to Survive and Grow in the Age of Digital Business Models”) predict that, in the near future, “Quant consultants and Robo Advisers will offer faster, better, and more profound insights at a fraction of the cost and time of today’s consulting firms and other specialized workers.” And, while it’s uncertain when and even if we’ll come to see this ultimate form of disruption in the consulting industry, business leaders at consulting firms shouldn’t wait to start embracing automation wherever possible in order to stay relevant in their evolving industry.