There are two reasons for the proliferation of single shingle consultants. One, a market is changing drastically and the people who truly understand the change are outnumbered by the number of companies needing answers. It’s a supply and demand thing. My first appreciation of this was in the 90s, prior to mainstream usage of the web, when the lack of open computing protocols created disparate systems bogging down business. I walked about a trade show called InterOp and every 3rd badge said consultant. Pent up demand, disruption and chaos breed consultants. This was an environment not unlike today’s digital marketing world.
The other reason for a proliferation of consultants is an excessing of employees. Consultancies can be face-saving, while one looks for a full-time job.
Technology has impacted both sides of consultant growth. (It always does.) On the one hand, it had caused business disruption… in good exciting ways. It continues to open business, commercial and marketing doors. Many companies want to jump on the bandwagon and participate and need experts for hire. On the bad side, it had replaced lots of jobs. Many people have been replaced by software and the cloud. If the algo can do your job, it will. Program media buying, for instance, has replaced people buying and selling media for a living.
One way to find out if your consultant is from the disruption school or the excessed school is to look at their client list. And their rate. Also, try to understand what value they bring to an engagement. What do they do for a living — in a few concrete words? Depending on the stage of business: grow, hold or harvest, that value may differ. But always seek consultants who understand market discontinuities, change and disruption. Peace.