Is AI Coming for the Consultants?

There’s widespread knowledge that artificial intelligence (AI) is coming for somebody’s job. It’s already hit customer service departments and administrative tasks just as scheduling and reordering. Chatbots and automatic prompts have easily seen manifestations of AI and machine learning.

But as AI and machine learning become more sophisticated, it may be coming for many people’s jobs, including higher level ones such as consulting.

AI Is Increasing the Range of Jobs It Can Do

Several years ago, it was predicted that roughly 47% of all jobs could be fully automated by 2033. Exceptions were the creative professions. As Forbes points out, creative jobs constitute just 21% of all positions, but 86% of the segments run little to no risk of being replaced with AI.

So people who write, sing, act, or think up ad jingles are unlikely to be replaced by AI.

But financial and business services are in a slightly ambiguous position. Financial advice, such as investment and trading advice, has traditionally been the province of people with, presumably, long experience and prudent advice.

But the fact is, it is increasingly possible for AI to comb through individual or corporate portfolios, business strategies, available options, and make recommendations that are as sage as a human’s. And to do so at a fraction of the cost and speed.

In fact, one of largest global banks, USB AG, recently began using Amazon’s Alexa to answer economic questions for its investment and wealth management clients.

So financial and corporate strategies might be hearing the breathing of AI and machines down their necks.

From there, it’s a short step to some of the functions business consultants have customarily played.

A large proportion of consultant work is data-oriented.

Reaping Data, but Not Judgment?

In fact, a 2017 Harvard Business Review pointed out that consulting, a $60 billion per year industry, might be heavily impacted by the rise of AI.

Consulting is usually thought of as oriented toward sophisticated analysis, deep understanding, and providing complex answers to complex questions.

At first blush, that may seem like a far cry from AI. But as the article observes, a great deal of what consultants do is data analysis and presentation of it. Consultancy work is often finalized by the presentation of myriads of charts that have taken consultants months to do.

But the fact is, AI and machine learning can determine which charts might be advisable, crunch the data, do the presentations, and more. As that fact becomes obvious to corporate C-suites, they may be instrumental in turning more consulting firms toward AI.

Of course, consultants also are retained to provide judgment. And, like art, judgment may be difficult for a machine to come by.

Still, HBR notes that much of judgment of corporate settings is arrived at by weighing data and potential options. Should a company divest a division? Does it make financial sense to expand? Here, too, technology news tells us that AI and machine learning could play a role in laying forth options to be decided among.

So, is AI coming for the consultants? At some point, it could be.

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