What is the role of a consultant?

Shannon M July 21, 2020
  • 1. A misunderstood industry: More than giving advice
  • 2. The role of the consultant
  • 3. The different types of consultants
  • 4. The characteristics of the consultant profession

According to the Harvard Business Review, the consulting industry is worth more than $2 billion in revenue in the United States alone. As a result of the globalization of markets, the diversification of tasks and an evolving business landscape, consulting has gradually integrated all spheres of the global economy. The profession of consultant, symbolic of this phenomenon, however, remains largely unknown and its multiple roles are poorly understood by the general public. 

Table 1. Hierarchy of Board Objectives ( Harvard Business Review )

A misunderstood industry: More than giving advice

According to the dictionary, consulting is a practice of giving expert advice within a particular field. But it's much more than that. More than the simple role of giving recommendations, the consultant faces a multitude of tasks, adaptable to each industry and each client project.

First of all, a company will call on a consultant to provide it with specific information; this may involve a cost study, a market analysis, a behavioral survey, etc. The consultant thus offers expertise that does not exist within the company itself and benefits from an external, independent and objective perspective on the client's issues. The role of the consultant is therefore to resolve these issues, through the formulation of a diagnosis and appropriate recommendations. He will then participate, to a certain extent, in implementing the proposed changes. Answering a question, understanding why the company is asking this question, finding a tailor-made answer: these are the main objectives of consulting.

However, the consultant goes further. More than solving a given problem, its role is to give the client company the ability to deal with possible developments in the problem it has been confronted with and offering it greater flexibility and will work towards efficiency. organizational, thereby optimizing the contribution of the workforce and its ability to evolve and face new challenges. This concrete and long-term contribution gives all its value to the consulting industry.

The complexity and scope of the consultant's role have favored the development of different branches of consulting. So we no longer talk about consultants but about consultants.

The role of the consultant

Human Resources/HR Consulting

As the hiring and workforce management process has become extremely complex and globalized, HR consultants enable companies to reach the full potential of their employees and to unearth the talent suited to each situation. They will take charge of different roles such as selection, talent identification, coordination between employees and the company, etc.

Types of jobs: Recruitment Consultant, Human Capital Consultant, Employment Consultant, HR Consultant, Staff/Employee Relations Consultant, etc.

Management Consulting 

Particularly useful during an episode of transition or expansion of a company, management consultants benefit from expertise in a certain segment of an industry and will respond to the managerial and organizational needs of their clients.

Types of jobs: Business Consultant, Risk Control Consultant…

Strategy Consulting

The consultant will help a company to understand and intervene in the face of possible operational problems or within their work strategy. This involves maximizing the functionality of business plans in order to improve performance 

Types of jobs: Strategy Consultant, Organizational Development Consultant, Consulting Advisor…

Information Systems Consulting

The primary role of information systems consultants is to develop software solutions and design a Tech architecture on a company scale and adapted to its needs in order to gain competitiveness compared to their competitors. They master strategic know-how and an understanding of the drivers of technological development and digital transition.

Types of jobs: Telecom Analyst, Cybersecurity Consultant, Technology Consultant…

IT consulting

In the same dynamic as information systems consultants, IT consultants will recommend hardware and software as well as computer networks in order to enable a business to build efficient systems and improve internal processes. 

Types of employment: Application systems consultant, Data management consultant, Network consultant…

Operations Consulting

Operations consultants will assist companies through very diversified missions depending on the industry. We can distinguish different categories of operations consultants:

Different types of consultants

Marketing consultant

It involves developing strategies to successfully promote, sell and distribute a good or service to a target clientele. On a larger scale, the marketing consultant works to expose a new brand. But also a new product in the eyes of the public and to transform it into a lucrative and sustainable business.

The role of the legal consultant is to identify, prevent and resolve all legal problems that a company may face. They can manifest themselves in different areas of law: labor law, contracts, business, intellectual property, real estate, technology and innovation or even trusts…

Public Relations/PR Consulting

Managing and calibrating the flow of information between the public and the client company represents the main role of the PR consultant. But it also has the ability to help a company build the reputation that will be exposed to the general public. As well as investors and partners, employees... In short, the PR consultant controls what others think about the leadership and political and strategic decisions of a company.

Social/Digital Networks Consultant

The social and digital network consultant will work alongside a company to increase traffic on its website and its pages on social networks. Its main means of action are SEO, SEA and different digital marketing techniques.

Other types of operations consultants exist, their roles mainly referring to their field of application: healthcare consultant, personal consultant, security consultant, etc.

Different characteristics of the consultant profession

Financial Management Consulting

Financial management consultants enable their clients to make the best financial and tax decisions thanks to their expertise. Their role is to protect, restructure and maximize a company's profits.

Types of employment: Financial Advisor, Financial Analyst, Fundraising Consultant…

Environmental Council

Consultants specializing in issues related to the environment will be contacted by companies keen to reduce their ecological impact and their carbon footprint. But also in order to comply with current standards and regulations. 

Types of employment: Environmental Consultant, Environmental Audit Consultant, Air Quality Consultant, Environmental Project Manager…

The consulting profession is divided into different categories. It is characterized by a range of essential capacities corresponding to its various roles:

  • Analytical skills to analyze and solve a problem effectively
  • Communication and leadership skills to communicate meaningfully with customers and understand their needs
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Professional but also geographical flexibility
  • The ability to work in a team.

Being a consultant means prioritizing and knowing how to deal with flexibility and constant mobility. Dealing with a diversity of settings and situations. But also intellectual challenges and collaborative work spaces. This demanding profession is paid accordingly. The median salary for a consultant reaches $83,620 in 2018 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook. From entry-level to executive positions, consulting brings together a multitude of profiles and roles and it is not uncommon, over the course of a career, to do consulting between two jobs. 

A consultant can work for a consulting company or even be freelance but can also be employed within a company, like structures like Google BizOps, Disney Corporate Strategy & Business Development. The latter will thus develop an in-depth knowledge of the company in question and exploit this expertise.

Therefore, like the current economy, the consultant is a versatile and flexible being. He benefits from specific expertise in a particular field and his role is to put it at the service of a company in order to resolve its various questions and to help it progress and reach its full potential.


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