Technology is augmenting human capacity

Major changes have already happened, not least in the consulting industry. Analysis tools that are able to process huge quantities of data are already widely used by accountancy firms. Business intelligence and statistical tools have become invaluable to advertising and communications agencies. Law firms can draw on technology to carry out time-consuming tasks such as systematically searching out links to similar cases. And there is every indication that we will be delegating more and more tasks from humans to systems as technology becomes able to handle greater complexity.

What do smarter and faster machines mean for consultants?

We interviewed Frida Pemer, associate professor at Stockholm School of Economics, about the research project “Adapting to a new paradigm: from human to robotized expertise”, which will be looking at digitalization from the perspective of consulting firms. The project plans to cover various aspects of consultancy – from more traditional, licensed experts such as lawyers and accountants to management consultants and advertising agencies.

Exciting questions that the project will be considering include: How will the consultant’s expert role and relevance develop in the future, as technological tools become able to take over more complex tasks? Which types of jobs will people continue to do and which will be delegated to machines? Will greater use of technology change the way we see ourselves and our professional identity? What types of expertise will clients want to keep in house and what will they outsource? What competencies will be important in recruitment and as the basis for promotion? What are the thoughts of senior managers and executives in businesses that offer expert services and how are they responding to new types of competition and market demands?

Interviews with consulting firms and large-scale media analysis

The project is set to begin in early 2018 and will be split into three sub-projects that will run over the course of three years in total:

  • Part 1 – Interviews with well-established, major players in the consultancy business that have clearly defined processes, career progression and so on. What does the digital transformation mean for them and their role? Will they be inclined to adapt to or resist technical developments? What is their view on the competition from more technology-driven players and market demands for new solutions? How do they approach talent management and skills provision?
  • Part 2 – Interviews with the new consultancy entrepreneurs who are building technology into their solutions from day one. How are the roles split between humans and machines in these companies? What are their views on occupational identity and what talents are they interested in recruiting? Do they see themselves as challenging the established consulting firms or are they instead trying to create an alternative market?
  • Part 3 – A quantitative media study of how people are debating digitalization of expertise and consultancy roles in the media. Using natural language processing technology, this part of the project will mine large quantities of media texts to create a picture of how the subject is being discussed and to identify any patterns in the people taking part in the debate and how it is developing.

The project team comprises four researchers:
Frida Pemer, Stockholm School of Economics (project manager)
Andreas Werr, Stockholm School of Economics
Tale Skjølsvik, Oslo and Akershus University
Love Börjeson, Stanford University


Are you a manager or executive in the consulting industry? Are you interested in developing yourself and your consulting business to meet the needs of the future? We have an executive program developed specifically for you – Managing Professional Services. Check it out below.

Go to Managing Professional Services


Still curious? Books on the theme of robotized expertise

We’ll have to wait for the results of the study, but meanwhile here are some reading tips from Frida Pemer:

The future of the professions
Richard Susskind, 2015, OUP Oxford
ISBN: 9780198713395.

The Rise of the Robots
Martin Ford, 2016, Oneworld Publications
ISBN: 9781780748481

The Second Machine Age
Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew Mcafee, 2014, WW Norton & Co
ISBN: 9780393239355

Related program