The coronavirus pandemic will mark the most significant shock to the global economic system of our lifetime. The effects have been swift and dramatic: businesses shuttered, consumers locked up, and trillions of dollars in market cap erased. While the arc of the health threat is still unknown, it appears that we are heading toward a deep and prolonged recession.
Consulting in a downturn
Using the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis as a guide, we expect the consulting industry to be affected in several ways:
- Market contraction: businesses will cut nonessential spend, resulting in a significant reduction in global consulting spend (20-50%)
- Highly varied impact: consulting spend will be seen as part of the problem in certain areas, and part of the solution in others
- Travel, hospitality, and energy will be hit hard, while tech, media, and public sector will sustain
- Growth strategy engagements will be shelved, while expense management and tech/ops will increase
- Large, blue chip firms will weather the storm as clients flock to safe bets
-Certain niche capabilities (e.g., expense management, remote work specialists) will become invaluable
- Investment in tooling: consultancies and clients will invest in R&D and technology, with a particular focus on cloud-based tools, to operate lean
In this moment of upheaval and uncertainty, clients will look for sure bets with proven ROI. Consultants who offer innovative paths to operate at lower cost without sacrificing strategic vision will be seen as invaluable partners.
No-code: a unique capability
Digital has been the fastest growing consulting segment of the past decade. Most major consulting firms have developed digital capabilities to help clients transform IT and launch new ventures through multi-million dollar and multi-year engagements. A recession will provide pressure on both sides in this space: companies will look to software to do more with less through automation, but IT budgets will no longer support massive projects.
“No-code” software development offers a unique solution to this dual-challenge, enabling custom applications to be built at 10x the speed, for a fraction of the cost of conventional methods. This opens up software development to an entirely new class of long-tail software startups.
This approach is different from the previous wave of offshoring. Rather than lowering the cost of an hour of developer time, no-code platforms increase the productivity of that hour. Platforms like Bubble.io (our tool of choice) provide a software environment as a service, integrating best-in-class infrastructure with a visual building interface. The result is project timelines reduced from years to weeks.
5 ways to leverage no-code with clients
This unique capability has immense value in a constrained world, and can provide opportunities to deliver immediate ROI for clients.
Below are some examples we have seen with our consulting partners:
- Addressing urgent client needs in a remote world: Widespread stay-at-home orders have disrupted physical operations and many firms have been scrambling to tool up to get back on track. These are new opportunities for bespoke digital tools to help connect remote workers, move data to the cloud, and manage processes.
- Reducing client IT cost: Many clients will face the challenge of downscaling or shutting down planned IT projects. Rather than limiting feature development, no-code allows for a dramatically lower cost base for the same output. This can serve as a much-needed lifeline for important work.
- Automation to rationalize costly operations: Expansion during bull markets often leads to inefficient processes that are prime for standardization and automation. Building software to unlock cost savings (and putting fees at risk to take a share of the value) becomes a win-win for clients, and no-code lowers the threshold for effort required to get to a positive ROI.
- Explore new business models to defend or expand: These “new venture” projects have been on the rise in the age of disruption as enterprises look to innovate to stay a step ahead. In many cases they will be the first to hit the chopping block. However, for clients facing an existential threat to their business model, they will be forced to look for new opportunities. No-code allows for 5-10x the number of iterations in a given time period, to help validate and scale new models.
- Diagnostic tools to help clients plan: Consulting firms have been investing in software diagnostic tools for the past decade. They present insights in a more dynamic way than PowerPoint, expand a consultancy’s audience, and lead to engagement leads after pinpointing areas for improvement.
Case study: Consenna driving revenue growth for HP
Increasing revenue is top of mind for any sales organization, and UK-based Consenna works with global tech manufacturers to design and deploy promotional campaigns to this effect.
AirDev has worked with Consenna for the past 8 months, and in that time has deployed more than 10 programs using our no-code approach. Each engagement requires 2-4 weeks to launch an alpha version of the platform, followed by multiple iterations put into play to calibrate the program.
Most recently, HP launched the “HP for Education” initiative to help 30 thousand schools across the UK upgrade their hardware and access a marketplace of solutions from third-party providers. The shift to remote work and schooling has resulted in a large increase in need for hardware, and this program is helping schools make the transition (more here).
“In our work, we always need to make sure we deliver on our promises. We had had agonizing trouble with this in the past with technology builds, since overrun is rampant. It has been an absolute life-saver to be able to build and iterate quickly with this no-code approach.”
-- Paul Thompson, Consenna
Where no-code should (and should not) be used
While the no-code approach offers tremendous opportunity, it is not best for certain cases (yet). Today’s platforms optimize for common web application categories -- things like marketplaces, data/task management systems, social/communication tools, process automations, etc. Tools like Bubble.io can interact with third-party APIs for everything from payments and authentication to AI and machine learning.
Projects that involve developing novel technologies (e.g., video codec, file compression), updating existing on prem software, or specific hardware (e.g., VR games) are typically not best for a no-code solution.
Putting no-code into practice
Introducing a new technology solution for creating software faster and less expensively can be a natural segue into a conversation around needs and priorities. Below are several tips from our consulting partners on how to find the right opportunities:
- Start with your existing portfolio: Identify clients and existing projects that could benefit from rapid software development, rather than chasing new opportunities
- Find the clearest ROI: The best entry point is a case where there is a known need (especially to unlock cost savings), and where alternatives are too slow or costly.
- Measure impact: The key to an initial project is to capture data on impact (e.g., cost savings, process efficiency/effectiveness, user volume), to leverage the process into expanded opportunities.
In this time of need, advisors will need to broaden their toolkits in order to serve their clients in innovative ways. Building software with no-code is just one of the tools that can make a difference. We have seen the transformative effects of combining strategic guidance with technical solutions, and are excited to see the approach continue to grow.
Andrew Haller leads AirDev in San Francisco, a global no-code agency that helps hundreds of startup, consulting, and enterprise clients build software faster and leaner to unlock value. Andrew is a former management consultant with McKinsey & Company.