In today’s highly competitive and globalized economy, almost every business, regardless of size, industry, or scope, is searching for a way to set itself apart and improve competitiveness.
One of the biggest resources businesses are using to tap into this quest for a greater level of success and competitiveness are management consulting firms.
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AdvisoryHQ’s List of 2016’s Top Consulting Firms
Below, we present this year's list of the top consulting firms, followed by an overview of the consulting industry. After which, we provide a detailed review of each of these top rated best consulting firms.
- Bain & Company
- Boston Consulting Group
- Deloitte Consulting
- EY (Ernst & Young)
- McKinsey & Company
- PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the names above to go directly to the detailed review section for that firm/product)
What Do Consulting Companies Do?
When you hire one of the top consulting firms, you’re seeking outside expertise, insight, and guidance to help in leading your company.
Consultants are brought in to help businesses improve performance and growth levels and find more efficient, effective methodologies and workflows. Business consulting firms can also help organizations save money.
There is any number of reasons you might seek out business consulting firms, and some of the more specific ones include:
- While management consulting firms can be hired to help address general issues, such as increasing revenue, they also may be brought onboard to solve a very particular problem, or to help with an individual project.
- If a business is experiencing people-related issues, consulting firms can help them in the hiring or managing their talent to maximize efficiency and move past hurdles. Consultants can bring value in the form of very deep, comprehensive knowledge and focus on one area or problem.
- Implementing new technology has become a big reason businesses rely on consultant services. These firms can not only help businesses leverage new technology to solve problems, but they can also ensure the rollout goes as smoothly as possible.
- Many businesses become stagnant from a lack of new ideas. Consultants can deliver a fresh, unique perspective that can allow their clients to identify new opportunities.
Of course, this list is hardly exhaustive, but it does give you a general idea of what top business consulting firms can help their clients achieve.
So, how do you narrow down the list of consulting firms and choose the right one for your needs?
Choosing Top Consulting Companies
This “detailed review and list of consulting firms” article is a long one, so here are a few areas of focus to help you narrow your search:
- What are the reputations of consulting companies you’re considering? Reputation is a key factor when deciding on which company you’ll work with. Begin by asking colleagues and professional acquaintances if they have any experience with consulting companies. You can also do an online search to learn more about clients’ experiences with a particular firm and ask potential firms for a list of references.
- Does the firm have a particular focus area or a certain realm of expertise? While some of the top consulting companies will have broad focus areas, it’s crucial to understand what a company does best and compare it to your needs.
- What level of technology do they implement for clients? If you wanted to continue following the same outdated path, you wouldn’t likely need a consulting firm. You’re partnering with them because you want to find new ways of doing things, and many new methodologies rely on the integration of new technology. Before selecting from the top consulting firms, learn more about their view of technology, the digital world, and how they integrate these elements into their client solutions.
- What size company are you comfortable working with? Some clients want a very large, multinational consulting company because they feel they’ll receive a broader experience and knowledge base, and they may require an emphasis on globalization to solve their unique challenges. On the other hand, some businesses may seek out consulting companies that are smaller and can deliver more personalized guidance for a niche industry or market.
To launch your search for the best management consulting firms, we created a list of consulting firms we think are among the best in the world.
We narrowed down the top 10 consulting firms into a more specific list covering the best 7. We’re offering in-depth reviews and information about each of these 7 top management consulting firms to provide you with a strong foundation to begin your search.
What methodology does AdvisoryHQ use in selecting and finalizing the firms, services, and products that are ranked on its various top rated lists?
Please click here “AdvisoryHQ’s Ranking Methodologies” for a detailed review of AdvisoryHQ’s selection methodologies for ranking top rated firms, products, and services.
Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Consulting Companies
Below, please find the detailed review of each firm on our list of top consulting institutions. We have highlighted some of the key factors that allowed these firms to score so high in our selection ranking.
Accenture is a worldwide strategy and consulting company, focusing on delivering transformational thinking that leads to real business behaviors and strategies.
Their mission statement includes combining deep business-driven insight with a clear comprehension of how technology impacts a client’s industry and business model.
Their focus is on issues surrounding:
- Digital disruption
- Redefining competitiveness
- Global operating models
- Talent and leadership
Many management consulting firms will promise to transform a business, yet there isn’t actionable follow-through. It’s delivering actionability and results that sets Accenture apart.
Key areas of distinction that define Accenture and the services it provides include:
- Accenture has clients in more than 120 countries around the world, making them an ideal partner for multinational businesses or anyone who is seeking a globalized perspective.
- Pertinent to Accenture’s success is strong leadership. The leadership team includes people who have a sense of long-term vision paired with a realistic present view. They’re very focused on embracing new technology as well as innovative ideas, and they feel comfortable addressing very complex issues in a rapidly changing environment.
- Corporate citizenship is vital to Accenture’s way of doing business. They take on a variety of initiatives that strengthen their workforce, bringing their mission to life.
Working with Accenture lets clients build a partnership where industry knowledge, insights, and capabilities all come together.
Accenture’s consulting branch offers expert knowledge in over 40 industries and has been viewed as one of the world’s best consulting firms for over 60 years.
One of the primary focus areas of Accenture that landed it on our list of the top business consulting firms is their dedication to digital strategies, which they find a necessary component of creating profound business transformations. We’ll discuss these focuses in-depth below.
By highlighting these focuses, Accenture can help clients develop new outcomes at a more efficient pace while effectively managing risk.
The following are the steps taken by Accenture during their consulting process:
- Gathering and analyzing insights: Value-driven insights are at the core of all consulting services from Accenture. Accenture will begin by delivering deep industry knowledge and insights so you can achieve your goals and move to the next level of competitiveness.
- Digital-centric strategies: Essential to Accenture’s service approach is an understanding of the intersection of technology and business. It’s a digital-centric focus that drives their clients’ business transformations.
- Broad change: Rather than trying to make a real difference through small, incremental changes, the Accenture management consulting model is built on large-scale transformation to create high-performance levels and extensive improvements.
Uniquely, Accenture also delivers an industry focus, so their consulting services are broken up into sectors and categories that allow their team of professional experts to work in their areas of expertise. This means a higher level of quality and a laser focus on the needs of the client.
These industries include:
- Automotive and industrial
- Capital markets
- Communications, media, and technology
- Consumer goods and services
- Life sciences
- Natural resources
- Public service
One of the many reasons Accenture is on our list of consulting firms is their performance-based models that look for real, measurable results, as well as their significant focus on technology.
Bain & Company Review
Bain & Company is one of the Big Three management consulting companies in the world, based in Boston, Massachusetts. Bain & Company provides advisement in the areas of strategy, marketing, organization, operations, IT, and M&A.
As a global leader and one of the most widely recognized management consulting firms, Bain & Company offers the tools, expertise, and industry knowledge to help executives make better decisions but also transform those decisions into actions that get results.
Bain & Company has been serving the needs of clients for more than 40 years, and they have a focus on not just helping clients get results, but also on creating completely tailored, realistic, and long-term solutions.
This firm has worked with not only Global 500s, but also regional and local businesses, nonprofits, and private equity funds.
Bain’s overall approach to business focuses on the following:
- People and values: Bain believes their people set them apart and put them on the shortlist of the world’s top consulting firms. Bain employs a team of energetic, passionate people who delve into the specificities of each client’s needs, requirements, and goals. These are the people who treat the business of their clients as their own, and they create partnerships, rather than traditional client/consultant relationships.
- Real results: Bain doesn’t just focus on strategy; instead, they focus on how to turn strategy into action that gets the right results, ones that derive a higher level of economic value. Results include not just a financial impact, but also strategic, operational, and organizational results.
- A holistic approach: The Bain team starts immediately by including all levels of an organization within its strategies and consulting. Their approach begins with asking the right questions and going beyond the numbers to get a clear and profound understanding of what’s currently happening in an organization. Only then does the consulting team move to creating tailored, customized approaches.
- Strong character: A few distinctive characteristics of Bain consultants include their desire to think and act like owners, dissatisfaction with the status quo, the desire to take on challenges, and the ability to push clients to be their best, rather than simply to become “yes men.”
Those are just some of the many reasons we opted to put Bain & Company on our list of the top consulting firms.
We’ll now move on to some of their more specific areas of service.
The change management system utilized by Bain & Company is called Results Delivery. This trademarked concept addresses the fact that 70 percent of other major change efforts fail.
Results Delivery was created to go beyond these odds, and the focus of this approach includes prediction and measuring and managing risk. What comes from Results Delivery is a significant increase in the odds the transformative change will be successful.
Industries served by Bain & Company include:
- Airlines and transportation
- Oil and gas
- Consumer products
- Private equity
- Financial services
- Social and public sector
- Industrial goods and services
- Metals and mining
- Utilities and alternative energy
We selected Bain & Company as one of the world’s top consulting firms because of their client-driven perspective and approach.
We like the idea of becoming like a business owner for every client they work with and think that’s a key driver of their long-term, worldwide success as one of the best management consulting firms.
Boston Consulting Group Review
The mission of Boston Consulting Group is to uncover insight, challenge current processes, and question traditional forms of thinking, then using those elements to deliver sustainable advantages for businesses in a range of industries.
There is no reliance on the traditional way of doing things for partners of Boston Consulting Group, one of our picks for top management consulting firms.
Instead, the mission behind every partnership between Boston Consulting Group and their clients is defined by the courage to go beyond established ideas to discover modern approaches.
Their approach is also based on the idea that transformation is necessary in the uncertain and volatile business world of today; even the best business leaders must always be ready to take on change.
Concepts essential to the services of Boston Consulting Group include:
- Respect for the individual
- Clients come first
- A strategic perspective that looks at the business and the market as a whole
- Tangible results and value, not just ideas
- A partnership approach
- Big data and advanced analytics: There are so many technological advancements and disruptions facing businesses in today’s marketplace. Using big data guidance from BCG can allow clients to unlock tremendous value and transform organization, technology usage, and ecosystems.
- Lean & Manufacturing: Lean challenges are addressed through the creation of a trained workforce and a strong leadership team. It’s important for businesses to develop the standards required to meet these goals, leading to lowered costs, higher quality, and improvements in productivity.
- Operations: Supply chains evolve and become increasingly complex. In spite of this complexity, businesses are required to improve both efficiency and quality. Working with BCG can help clients address complexity in operations to ensure success regardless of the environment.
- Strategy: Pair with BCG to create the strategies that will help your business more broadly adapt to whatever situation or environment you may be facing.
- Change Management: Address the massive failure rates of change programs by working with BCG’s team to increase levels of certainty while managing change in the most productive and successful ways possible.
- Corporate Development: Rather than having to focus efforts on improving profitability or having a strong business foundation, BCG is a management consulting firm that can show clients how to have both.
Other services that BCG offers include globalization, pricing, transformation, growth, marketing and sales, people and organization, procurement, sustainability, innovation and product development, M&A and divestitures, post-merger integration, smart simplicity, and technology and digital.
Industries served by Boston Consulting Group include:
- Financial institutions
- Media and entertainment
- Private equity and principal investment
- Energy and environment
- Healthcare payers and providers
- Medical devices and technology
- Process industries and building materials
- Social sector
- Transportation, travel, and tourism
- Consumer products
- Engineered products and infrastructure
- Metals and mining
- Public sector
- Technology industries
While there are many reasons, some outstanding characteristics that led us to include Boston Consulting Group on our list of the top management consulting firms include their value-driven approach, as well as widely varied industries they serve.
We also appreciate that they so fully embrace change as a pivotal part of their approach.
Deloitte Consulting Review
Deloitte is an incredibly reputable professional services firm, with a branch dedicated to consulting and strategy development.
Their services are widely varied within the realm of management consulting and include human capital, strategy and operations, and technology.
Deloitte is a name that actually refers to a massive network of professional service providers throughout the world—tens of thousands to be exact.
These independent firms, made up of more than 222,000 expert professionals, provide audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management, tax, and other similar services to clients.
While this may be a huge and globally significant company, they structure each branch of the business, including the advisory and consultant services, to be in compliance with local regulations, laws, and practices.
Regarding consulting, Deloitte’s services include business and customer transformation, digital enterprise, and consulting for entire industries.
Options also extend to include asset-based solutions that allow clients to address their most pressing challenges through a combination of experience and the introduction of new assets.
Since Deloitte Consulting breaks down its services into three primary categories, we’ll do the same and give you a brief overview of what each area encompasses.
- Human Capital: Deloitte uses the framework that people drive everything within a business. In the current business climate, you must effectively leverage the power of your people. Partnering with Deloitte Consulting will allow businesses to utilize research, analytics, and insights to bring to life programs focused on sourcing, engaging, and retaining the best talent and leadership.
- Strategy and Operations: Deloitte, one of the best consulting firms, offers strategy and operations services that help senior executives solve their most complex problems. Deloitte’s solutions bring comprehensive industry knowledge together with analysis and insights, all of which drive action.
- Technology: As we’ve highlighted throughout this list of top consulting firms, technology must be at the core of any service delivery. Deloitte’s consulting services make technology central to solutions, from strategy to implementation.
Deloitte Consulting services the following industries:
- Consumer business
- Energy and resources
- Financial services
- Life sciences and health care
- Public sector
- Real estate
- Technology, media, and telecommunications
What really sets Deloitte apart, and cements its position as one of the top management consulting firms, is their strong focus on not just overall business strategies, but the key asset of any business: its people.
We selected Deloitte because along with technology implementation and transformative strategy and management expertise, Deloitte can help companies make the most of their people.
EY (Ernst & Young) Review
Ernst & Young, also known as EY, is a professional services firm headquartered in London. It’s one of the Big Four audit firms and the third largest professional services company in the world.
This multi-billion dollar professional services company offers services focused primarily on tax, financial, and advisory consulting.
Advisory services from EY are designed to help clients find new ways to solve complex issues while also uncovering new ways to grow, optimize, and protect their businesses.
Advisory services are divided into three broad categories: performance improvement, performance technology, and risk.
Some of the areas EY specializes in servicing advisory clients include defining a concrete vision for the future, improving the results of existing supply chains, cutting costs without eliminating customers, and navigating the evolving role of IT.
EY can also provide advisement as to how to utilize risk to improve competitiveness and to understand internal audits.
Advisory services at EY are segmented into the following primary service areas, which aim to address the most challenging business issues faced in today’s marketplace:
- Analytics: Data is available at a great level in the current environment, but many businesses don’t have the ability to properly leverage it to maximize value. EY’s advisory services provide the means not just to gather but actually put big data to work to create outcomes that grow, optimize, and protect businesses.
- Cybersecurity: Cyber attacks are almost an inevitability for businesses. The EY advisory team partners with clients to solve cyber security problems before they become much larger issues and to identify potential threats proactively.
- Digital: Digital components transform every area of how we do business. Optimize your business by pairing with EY’s consulting team to holistically approach digital challenges and create solutions.
- Innovation: EY’s advisory team approaches change as if to make hard things simple. Innovation services from EY let businesses take local practices and make them into global practices.
- Risk: Every time your organization is facing change, you’re also facing risk. EY works to proactively identify risks and address them for better outcomes.
- Transformation: Navigate the waters of change with maximized efficiency and improved results when you utilize the consulting services of EY.
Industries served by the advisory and consultant team at EY, one of the top consulting companies in the world, include:
- Automotive and transportation
- Consumer products and retail
- Financial services
- Government and public sector
- Life sciences
- Media and entertainment
- Mining and metals
- Oil and gas
- Power and utilities
- Private equity
- Real estate, hospitality, and construction
While we could cite numerous reasons as to why EY is one of the best management consulting firms, we’ll focus primarily on their collaborative approach: consulting and advisory services from EY endeavor to ensure collaboration from a globalized point of view.
It’s a cultural tenant at EY that allows them to bring in the right people to find the best solutions.
McKinsey & Company Review
McKinsey & Company is an international management consulting firm that works with businesses, government and non-government entities, and not-for-profits.
Working with the strategic consultants at McKinsey allows clients not just to make sustainable long-term performance improvements, but also to meet their own carefully defined objectives and goals.
McKinsey’s team of global, expert consultants works with professionals at every level. They can serve clients in any capacity, whether as an executive advisor for the upper ranks of business or as a hands-on coach for employees.
When assigning a team to each assignment, McKinsey ensures that they pair clients with the consultants that have the deepest levels of knowledge and expertise not only in their industry but also as it pertains to a business’s specific issues, concerns, and goals.
Each partnership is guided by a set of clearly defined values, which are a big part of why McKinsey is one of the top consulting companies in the world.
These values include:
- Adhering to the strictest of confidentiality
- Not publicizing its work for clients
- Honesty and transparency inherent in their approach
- Only working with a client if they believe they can create substantial value for the client
McKinsey has 12 functional groups which outline their business functions and exactly how they can be of service to clients. These functions include:
- Analytics: Subcategories that fall under analytics services include business technology, marketing and sales, operations, risk advanced analytics, and McKinsey is also home to the Strategy and Trend Analysis Center.
- Business Technology: Improve your business with technology implemented by a team of more than 850 consultants who specifically help executives solve their most pressing tech-centric challenges.
- McKinsey Digital: Digital disruption transforms businesses processes and responses. McKinsey’s consultants can guide companies of all scales through this transformation to make the most of digital changes as they’re happening.
- McKinsey Implementation: McKinsey’s team works side-by-side with clients to make sure ideas aren’t just created, but are implemented in the best possible way.
- Learning Programs for Clients: Training is an essential aspect of bringing consulting services to life and ensuring they lead to action and value-driven results. McKinsey’s consultants can work with clients to create the right training and learning opportunities for all relevant employees.
- Marketing and sales: Clients of McKinsey & Company can learn how to expand their reach and their growth beyond what’s typical for their market.
- Operations: At the core of all operational-based consulting services from McKinsey is a rigorous focus on not just concepts but pragmatism. McKinsey helps consulting clients achieve results through hands-on, realistic management approaches.
- Organization: With consulting from McKinsey, clients can align what’s happening within their business to what they hope to achieve, even while navigating change.
Other focus areas include McKinsey recovery and transformation services, risk, strategy and corporate finance, sustainability and resource productivity.
Industries served by McKinsey are:
- Advanced electronics
- Aerospace and defense
- Automotive and assembly
- Consumer packaged goods
- Electric power and natural gas
- Financial services
- Healthcare systems
- High tech
- Media entertainment
- Metals and mining
- Oil and gas
- Paper and forest products
- Pharmaceuticals and medical products
- Private equity and principal investors
- Public sector
- Social sector
- Travel, transport, and logistics
Along with its well-known and highly positive reputation, we selected McKinsey & Company for this list of consulting firms because of their dedication to complete honesty and transparency.
There’s a sense of integrity and ethics-driven purpose inherent in McKinsey’s approach, and that’s something to admire and appreciate in today’s business environment.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Review
PwC Global is a professional services company with offices in 157 countries and nearly 210,000 global employees. They provide a broad range of services, and in FY2015, this firm partnered with 418 businesses in the Fortune Global 500, with revenues of more than $35 billion.
Along with a range of other services, PwC offers management consulting designed to help clients improve performance, response time, ability to deal with crisis, and ability to derive more value from transactions.
Partnering with this pick on our list of the best consulting firms can help you create a capabilities-driven strategy to enhance growth; create strategies to transform operations; develop, integrate and implement end-to-end digital solutions; and navigate M&As from the negotiations that happen leading up to a deal, all the way through the implementation of changes necessary after the deal.
One of the strengths of PwC advisory services is their dedication to looking at not just a global perspective, but also approaching advisement within the framework of the local market in which clients exist. This helps ensure strategies are as tailored and personalized as possible.
PwC’s consulting services include:
- Strategy: The global team of strategies at PwC helps clients take advantage of opportunities while solving problems and uncovering new opportunities.
- Finance: PwC consultants work alongside those in charge of finances to optimize structure and improve efficiencies.
- Operations: Utilizing innovative thinking and agile responses, PwC can help clients address changes in the market, in technology, and in global structures.
- Customer: Work with PwC to uncover the deepest and most critical needs of your customers.
- Technology: Working with PwC can allow you to get the most value from technology and improve your processes and resources.
- Forensics: Discover what your reputation really is, in terms of your customers but also employees, the public, your competitors, and regulators.
- People and Organization: People are at the core of every business process, success, and failure. Partnering with PwC will let you understand how to leverage your people to maximize your talent.
- Program and Portfolio Management: As businesses deal with changes stemming from the global economy, generational shifts, digitization, and emerging disruptions, PwC can help businesses address and navigate those changes most effectively.
- Risk: There are more sources of complex risks than ever before, from cyber issues to regulations. PwC consultants identify and manage broad risks.
Leading us to select PwC as our final pick for the world’s best consulting companies is their approach, which brings together not just internal elements, but also integrates external marketing positioning into strategies.
We also find notable their ability to unlock new possibilities and competitive advantage through the use of big data.
Concluding Our List of the Top Business Consulting Firms
As we finalize this list of consulting firms that we feel are among the top in the world, we hope you’re able to see some of the key distinctions between each, as well as the shared features that make them great.
Each of the management consulting firms on our list has unique advantages and a fresh approach that makes them international powerhouses.
These business consulting firms have strong, longstanding reputations, a breadth of service offerings, and a varied list of industries served.
Even if you don’t select one of our picks for the best consulting firms, it’s our hope that this list can show you a bit more about what to look for and what features and factors to consider in your decision as you narrow down your own list of consulting companies.
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