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102519988-protest-uber.600x400Taxis, media, hospitality, delivery, education or dry-cleaning… Uberisation is gradually taking hold of every sector of the economy. Can consulting escape this fate?

Not according to Gaëlle Ottan, who has founded Myexperteam, a fledgling collaborative consulting platform allowing phone or videoconference interactions between entrepreneurs and experts.

She sees this model as a way of offering a cheaper and more specialized service to SMEs. Such platforms already exist in the United States, where they are more developed than in France. But (so far) the phenomenon won’t be keeping consulting firms awake at night. “I will never say never so long as I am spending my time explaining to my clients that Uberisation can happen one day. Still, I don’t see a new economic model emerging,” states Bertrand Semaille, CEO of Eleven.

It is a view shared by Pascal Simon, a partner at the Emerton strategy consulting firm. “Freelancer pools have always existed, notably in the field of interim management, there’s nothing really new. Perhaps this kind of platform can accelerate vocations for consulting firm veterans and provide a boost to their commercial approaches, but it doesn’t go much further,” he underlines.

Consulting firms feel all the less concerned as Uberisation, in their eyes, tends to impact the less qualified industries – leagues away from consultants’ prestigious degrees – and areas of consulting far away from their target market. “Executive coaching could be hit much harder than strategy consulting. Or firms that don’t do much more than make resources available, which doesn’t make up more than 10% of our activity,” indicates Bertrand Semaille. So direct competition is out of the picture. 

Actually, do freelance consulting platforms and firms offer the same kind of consulting? The firms are obviously convinced that the answer is no, highlighting the intrinsically personal character of their relation with their clients as well as the value added by their proprietary processes and methods. “Clients approach us to buy a guaranteed level of quality and expertise from a diverse team (made up of partners, project managers and consultants) rather than a non-guaranteed one from a single individual. They also purchase significant analytical firepower and recognized strengths in project management,” observes Emerton’s Pascal Simon.

Firms’ specialization could offer an additional defensive layer against Uberisation, according to Mehdi Messaoudi, operations manager with Ares & Co: “In a specialized firm such as our own [editor’s note: in financial services], the quality of interventions relies on the impact of consultants who have in-depth knowledge of both the sector and its specific issues.” Not to mention that the last ten years of purchasing policies show that smaller players are a disadvantage.

Indeed, freelance consultants do not play in the same category as strategy firms. But should they be casually swept aside? “I see some complementarity. We have called upon some very specialized experts on behalf of one of our clients, with their agreement. And as often, the result has been variable, depending on the profile and level of actual expertise of the given person. Some experts have raised some highly pertinent points, others have turned out to be less interesting.The global impression is positive though, on the whole we are able to extract a great deal of value. This experience supports the idea that consulting firms will continue to play their role as a filter, carefully identifying quality on behalf of their clients,” explains Raphaël Butruille, a partner with Vertone.

Such experiments, however, remain occasional: when firms ask experts for advice, they usually turn to senior advisors.

Gaëlle Ginibrière for

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