Let’s get something straight: If a consulting firm dedicates a partner to a specific area, it’s an area with plenty of opportunities, writes Alastair Cox of Source Global Research.

Therefore—flipping this—if a consulting firm doesn’t dedicate a partner to a specific area, it’s surely an area not worthy of investment and without many opportunities, right?

To take an example, let’s consider data & analytics—an up and coming area of consulting demand that has the potential to be a game changer for clients and consultants alike. In our client survey conducted this year, we discovered that 73% of respondents globally expect to increase spend on data & analytics consulting in the coming 18 months—a number that clearly demonstrates the importance of data & analytics to clients. Senior consultants are also telling us in pretty much every interview we conduct—of which we do a lot—that data & analytics is one of their “best opportunities.”

With the scale of this opportunity in mind, I’m left wondering why many large consulting firms don’t currently have a single partner—even multiple partners—with data & analytics as their sole focus. It appears that many large firms are only chasing data & analytics opportunities that arise out of larger transformation programmes or as an add-on to another project. And only at this point are these opportunities being fed through to very skilled and eager, but increasingly impatient, data science teams.

And this has two critical impacts. Most obviously, firms aren’t tapping the most out of the data & analytics market: They’re missing out on a large chunk of a very attractive and lucrative market by failing to assign dedicated partners to pursue data & analytics with the seriousness it deserves. Secondly, skilled data scientists are moving elsewhere—unhappy with inconsistent demand and too many hand-me-down opportunities from larger programmes. This leaves firms with depleted data teams and the prospect of having to turn down exciting future data opportunities or reinvest in new, more expensive data scientists down the line.

This seems utterly illogical. Investing in a dedicated data & analytics partner would allow firms to win bigger and better data & analytics opportunities. This in turn would mean skilled data scientists are more likely to advance and develop their careers with the firm— and at a lower cost than having to reinvest in the same talent down the line. As such, it beggars belief that more firms aren’t taking the leap.

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Alastair Cox is a leading commentator on the consulting industry at Source who provide specialist research on the management consulting market to consultants and their clients.