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How UK consulting is seeing ‘unprecedented change’, says PwC

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Sunil Patel, head of clients and markets in PwC’s consulting group, has revealed the biggest topic of conversation with its clients at present is about growth and uncertainty: "How can they capitalise on the current climate of uncertainty? What opportunities does it create for them?".

His comments follow the release of a new report on the UK management consulting market by Source Global Research, to which PwC’s Patel was a contributor. He says: "We’re currently in an unprecedented period of social, political and technological change. Significant disruption always creates opportunities and challenges, but it does mean our clients are having to adapt and transform more quickly than ever before, and so are we.

"Brexit clearly poses one of the main sources of uncertainty for many UK organisations. Those tackling it best are already reviewing in detail some of the higher risk elements - such as trade and customs impacts, supply chain processes and workforce implications - in order to put thoughtful plans in place and better position themselves to adapt to the post-Brexit world."

The report itself - which is based on research focused on medium to large-sized management consulting firms - indicates a 2017 market growth growth rate of 6.1% to reach £7.4bn, but if smaller players are also factored in the market total rises to £10.4bn.

In summarising the underlying trends, the report states: "2017 was a mixed year for UK consultants, largely owing to lingering uncertainty around Brexit and questions about whether the economy would enter into recession. Clients didn't necessarily hold fire on new discretionary spend, but they were more inclined to defer where they could, meaning that some clients were very much dedicated to a cost-cutting agenda while others focused on growth questions. This widely different client approach made it a great year for some consultancies, while others faced a more challenging time."

According to Patel, PwC has observed another important emerging market trend in the move towards ‘payment by outcomes’ - i.e. once specific milestones have been delivered. "This is particularly true in the public sector and manufacturing industries on cost reduction projects," he says, "but also now with clients who are launching a new product or entering a different market."

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