One year after the Covid-19 pandemic upended the business world, the role of management consultants, responsible for guiding organizations through disruption, is more important than ever before. While the industry was not immune to the economic effects of the crisis—its market size shrinking 8% to $236.2 billion in 2020, according to IBISWorld—it’s on the rebound, expected to grow 2.3% to $241.6 billion this year. Now, the challenge for companies becomes identifying those consultancies best equipped to help them navigate the transformation ahead.
Forbes has partnered with market research company Statista to simplify this process by producing our annual ranking of America’s best management consulting firms. The list, compiled by surveying more than 7,500 partners and executives of management consultancies, as well as 1,000-plus senior executives who worked with such firms over the last four years, is divided into 16 sectors—from aerospace and defense to financial institutions—and 16 functional areas—including strategy, sustainability and digital transformation. The 230 firms that received the most recommendations are ranked according to star ratings: five stars for “very frequently recommended,” four stars for “frequently recommended” and three stars for “recommended.”
Of the consultancies to make the list, Accenture is the only one to receive five stars in the healthcare and life science sector—an expertise that’s been top of mind for clients in recent months. That, coupled with the Dublin-based firm’s focus on tech-driven solutions, has helped ensure the resiliency of its business, and that of its customers, says Kaveh Safavi, senior managing director for Accenture’s global health business.
“In the very early days of Covid, helping people virtualize their workforce, helping telemedicine companies scale up to meet the demand, building out test track and trace capabilities for governments, all of these things were just red hot because they needed to be,” Safavi says. “Our purpose in life is how do you take the technology and make it useful and integrate it into the way humans work and take advantage of both sides.”
Accenture, which has served 6,000 clients in more than 120 countries, has played a key role in Covid-19 vaccine distribution. Last month, it announced a collaboration with Microsoft and Kaiser Permanente on the healthcare company’s hosted cloud environment, personalizing the experience and improving the security for its 12.4 million members and more than 85,000 clinicians. And last year, Accenture announced a new strategy to help government and healthcare organizations quickly and effectively plan and develop Covid-19 vaccination programs, as well as related distribution and communication initiatives.
Technology is such an integral part of the work Accenture does that it’s invested in reskilling its 500,000-plus workforce. “We are fundamentally oriented around emerging technologies and digital technologies,” Safavi says. “We need every single person to be able to speak to concepts and technology below a superficial layer.” Everyone in the company, including Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, takes the same online certification exams. “It’s a statement about how critical it is and how substantive it is in terms of defining our differentiation,” Safavi adds.
While Accenture has been a mainstay on this list since its inception in 2016, 45 firms made their debut this year. Of those, three scored in the healthcare and life sciences sector, including AArete, which earned three stars.
Like Accenture, AArete’s healthcare-focus has found it helping clients navigate the coronavirus chaos. While it’s unable to share the name of clients, Maulik Bhagat, a managing director at AArete, says one is working on government contracts related to the vaccine rollout. Given how unprecedented the process has been, Bhagat says flexibility and agility have been key. In May, AArete announced the launch of a mobile app, Digital Pass, to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infections in the workplace. The app poses a series of questions—to employees, contractors and visitors—based on CDC and state guidelines, and responses determine whether or not clearance to enter the office is granted.
Though AArete, with 350 employees, is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, it has several offices across the U.S., India and the U.K. When the pandemic began, Bhagat says he and his colleagues were uncertain as to how the firm would be affected. “We didn’t know what to expect when this happened,” he says. “We were preparing for the worst.”
Now on the other side, he says communication was crucial to staying afloat—that, and a commitment to its “clients for life” philosophy. “It doesn’t mean that they are paying you every day of their life,” Bhagat says. “It just means that if they have a need, they’ll come to you as a trusted advisor.”
For the full list of America’s Best Management Consulting Firms, click here.
To determine the list, Statista surveyed 7,500 partners and executives of management consultancies, as well as 1,000 senior executives who had worked with such firms over the last four years. Respondents were asked to recommend consultancies across the predetermined sectors and functional areas; self-nominations were not considered. Statista then identified the firms with the highest number of recommendations and organized them into star ratings: five stars for “very frequently recommended,” four stars for “frequently recommended” and three stars for “recommended.” A total of 230 management consulting firms made the final ranking.