Peter Reed

Lead Advisory Partner

Pete joined Headforwards in 2022 as lead Partner in our CIO Advisory division. He has worked as a senior IT Executive for over 20 years, his most recent industry role being Chief Information Officer for AXA Health. At AXA, Pete provided IT across both UK and Global business lines supporting strong business growth and profitability.

“To some extent, the big consultancies have grown fat on the “nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM” principle”” says a Financial Times op-ed from late September which explores why the Big Four professional services firms are scaling back after their post pandemic boom. 

Last year’s book, “The Big Con, how the consulting industry weakens our businesses, infantilizes our governments and warps our economies” from economists Mazzucato and Collington pulled no punches in highlighting how businesses and organisations have relied on consulting at the cost of developing their own internal capabilities to the detriment of their business and the wider economy.

There’s no doubt that businesses can and have gained significant benefit from working with consultancy firms. But the question you really need to ask is not how other organisations have benefitted, but how your organisation will benefit. Organisations are unique beasts, so it’s important to be clear what your needs are, and what solution would deliver your required outcome.

Consultancy firms are full of industry expertise and experience, but that doesn’t mean the actual individuals or teams working on your business will have that. The real value that will deliver for your business will come from skills and expertise, not brand and scale. This shift in emphasis will start changing the consultancy landscape going forwards. Deep, niche advice backed by industry expertise is now a necessity, rather than a perk. 

The rapid expansion of tech, data and digital means that businesses in almost all sectors need a coherent approach to harnessing technology and data. The opportunities and challenges for business have become expansive, presenting a layer cake of complexity. With data alone, businesses find themselves trying to navigate data collection, data management, data analysis and governance and regulation. Fail to maximise the benefits of data and you’re putting your business in a position where it’s going to struggle to compete. But engaging in it meaningfully needs a depth of pocket and strategy. Add cyber, cloud and AI to the list of challenging opportunities. 

We recently hosted an Agile on the Board event for CIOs and CTOs, discussing the topic of climate change. Technology leaders are some of those at the forefront of dealing with climate change and low carbon initiatives in businesses. The breadth of considerations technology leaders are taking was impressive, with strategies covering off practical changes such as hardware and cloud as well as culture and supply chain procurement. The actions they are taking are not conceptual, they’re highly practical. 

Through our advisory work, we have seen first-hand that clients benefit more from a pragmatic approach rather than an emphasis on methodology. Their reality is that they need to get things moving, needing hands on support and pragmatism over advice that points them in a general direction. 

Headforwards Advisory has a natural bias towards engineering and data as that’s been the core DNA of our business for more than 12 years. It means our advice and support comes from a perspective of being deeply technical and it’s delivered by people that have done the technical job, not learned the consultancy trade. 

It’s easy to sweep consultants and consultancy into a single category, but failing to engage with specialists in this potentially high impact areas could be a missed opportunity for your business.

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