HR Leaders: Navigating Competition with Internal Consulting Practices (ICPs)

Internal Consulting Practice

By Miklos Bodnar - Business Development Senior Manager

Internal consulting practices (ICPs) have become a more common feature of the global consulting and professional services sector and present their own set of challenges and opportunities for Human Resources leaders at traditional consulting firms as they compete with ICPs for talent acquisition.

Internal Consulting Practices (ICPs)

An internal consulting practice is an in-house group established by an existing firm to provide support and assistance with making critical strategy and operational decisions. The primary impetus in creating such practices is to reduce the reliance on traditional, external consulting firms, such as McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Kearney, Big 4, Accenture, etc., as well as associated costs, while also hoping to increase the efficiency and availability of consulting services. The advantages of an in-house consulting group include a more comprehensive understanding of a firm's structure, greater availability and responsiveness for problem-solving, involvement in both strategy and implementation, and greater alignment with the client.

Some examples of major firms with internal consulting practices are: Airbus, AMEX, Disney, Google, Siemens, Ford, General Motors.

How should human resource leaders anticipate and prepare for competition with ICPs?

The most obvious challenge presented to HR leaders at traditional consulting firms is the competition for top level consulting talent, especially in a recruitment market that is already under external pressures from non-consulting industries.

While ICPs do expand the number of competitors for talent, traditional consulting companies still generally hold an advantage in many areas of employment attractiveness, and should play to these strengths. Some key factors to consider are:

ICPs may offer different/less advantageous career advancement: ICPs can be limited in their ability to expand their service offering and client base, thus capping the needed for increased staffing and partners. This inherently smaller structure could constrain career advancement and thus attractiveness.

Opportunity for travel (when desirable): As ICPs are most likely co-located with the parent firm and primarily work only for the single “client” on-site, no additional travel outside of the consultant’s primary home base is required. While some may appreciate not having to travel, there are also consultants who consider frequent travel opportunities to be an advantage associated with the sector.

ICPs may offer less exposure to different industries and projects: Consulting with an ICP may provide an extremely focused work environment, where the consultant-client interaction is far more comprehensive and the consultant has access to the parent company on a daily basis. However, this very focus can also lead to a lack of variety in the consulting work carried out. And while specialization may be a key driver in a consultant’s career, this in turn may be limited, as the consulting opportunities and problem solving will only be within the parent company’s specific industry and business focus.

Open market opportunities could be less “competitive” as a consultant has only worked for a specific client and industry: The potential limitations outlined above also play out for candidates who may consider how to maximise their future employability. A lack of exposure to different industries and types of consulting work could diminish their competitiveness vis-à-vis peers who have experience at traditional consulting firms.

The case for ICPs

As businesses become more complex and competitive, there is a growing need for customized and specialized consulting solutions that internal consulting teams are well-positioned to deliver. Working for an ICP can offer consultants greater job security, the opportunity to build long-term relationships with stakeholders, and the ability to make a more significant impact on the organization. Internal consulting practices may also be perceived to offer more work-life balance and a more predictable schedule compared to traditional consulting companies, making them an attractive option for consultants looking for a more stable career path.

What can Vencon Research do for you?

Vencon Research has recognized the growing and impactful presence of Internal Consulting Practices in the larger consulting industry and has integrated these firms into our compensation benchmarking analysis and services. Should your firm require assistance identifying the appropriate strategies to ensure your own rewards and recruitment attraction fully takes this aspect of the consulting market into account, we are available to provide you with the solutions to succeed.