Mapping Research & Knowledge Support in International Consulting Firms

Mapping Research & Knowledge Support in International Consulting Firms

Knowledge and research functions are crucial within a consulting business model and with their growing footprint internationally, strategy consulting firms are placing much thought into how they are organizing these function within their organization.

In response to the high demand for quality research, knowledge and research functions are taking on more of an analytical role within a consulting organization. The tasks that knowledge and research professionals are performing are transitioning from a closed library model into a more open value-added research model. In parallel to this transition, consulting organizations are opting to disperse their research and knowledge teams globally by investing in offshore and research centers. These trends are based on Infomineo’s most recent benchmark on research and knowledge support in strategy consulting firms, including seven of the biggest strategy consulting firms, namely McKinsey & Company, The Boston Consulting Group, Booz Allen Hamilton, Bain & Company, A.T. Kearney, Oliver Wyman and Roland Berger.

The report revealed that McKinsey is placing the highest level of investment in their research and knowledge (R&K) support function, with roughly 1,605 R&K professionals supporting the organization, with a ratio of 10.8 R&K professionals to every 100 consultants. BCG holds the second highest ratio of 5.3 R&K professionals to every 100 consultants with 549 personnel in R&K roles. The other four consultancies benchmarked have a ratio that ranges from 2.3-4 R&K professionals to every 100 consultants.

As the level of investment in research and knowledge functions increases, consultancies are choosing to increase their R&K coverage globally by investing in offshore locations. McKinsey ranks highest in terms of the level of offshore research clusters with 46% of their R&K function located in offshore locations, mainly in four knowledge centers distributed in USA, India, Poland and Costa Rica. Oliver Wyman is a close second, with 41% of their R&K function located in offshore locations. On the other hand, Roland Berger and Booz Allen choose to locate their R&K support functions within their central offices, with only 14% and 5% respectively located in offshore locations.

“Leading organizations structure their research functions through three tiers – onshore operations, offshore operations and use of outsourcing partners. This offshoring and outsourcing strategy allows them to benefit from scale effects, leveraging lower cost and more specialized resources.”

– Martin Tronquit, Managing Partner, Infomineo.

The benchmark highlights another interesting phenomenon regarding the type of profiles these R&K support functions consist of. Based on the LinkedIn profiles reviewed for the purpose of this benchmark, there are generally two types of profiles within R&K functions – librarians and analysts. Librarians typically hold degrees in linguistics, history, and journalism while analysts have backgrounds in subjects that are more business orientated such as management, business administration, and economics. Past experience and current tasks performed are also different with analysts holding responsibilities that require more analytical skills and spending less time in gathering and organizing data.

Based on the benchmark findings and feedback from consultants, consulting firms seem to be shifting the roles of their R&K functions from hiring librarian profiles to hiring analysts. This trend was noticed in all the benchmarked consultancies although some still have a considerable percentage of librarians in their R&K teams. Bain and Oliver Wyman currently hold the highest level of librarian profiles within the R&K functions with an average of 22% of librarians in their R&K teams.

Yahia El Ghandour, Associate at Infomineo.