The survey has been planned and conducted by Alexandra Strandvall and Janina Airikainen, students at Hanken School of Economics in collaboration with Structured Profitability Oy. Strandvall and Airikainen are taking part in the survey as student consultants for the course “Academic Business Consulting”. The survey is based on an online questionnaire that was sent to executives of a random sample of 400 medium-sized to large Finnish companies. 85 answers where received (n=85), the answering percentage was roughly 8. The validity of the conclusions drawn from the questionnaires was enhanced by structured in-depth, personalized interviews with twelve of the respondents.
This survey aims to provide data on the effects of COVID-19 and forces of change on different industries, development projects companies have had as well as the selection criteria firms use when choosing a consultant.
The survey was divided in 4 parts. The first part examined the short-term impacts COVID-19 has on companies, whereas the second part investigated the megatrends that are affecting companies on the longer term. In the third part, development projects companies had executed in last 2 years, were studied together with the planned development projects for the following two years. The last part investigated companies’ selection criteria for choosing consultants and overall views on the consulting services used for development purposes.
The COVID-19 outbreak seems to have complicated decision-making, while the declining demand that has forced companies to adjust their operations and resources by e.g. laying off personnel and postponing planned investments. Although most companies had already made comprehensive continuity plans, it is worrying that a quarter of the respondents have not made any continuity plan or has made one on a general level. Technological development and digitalization have been a hot topic for a long time, and over 70% of the respondents consider them to be one of the largest megatrends affecting their industry. The increasing renewal and networking of businesses challenges industries as well as global risks such as trade wars or health risks are also actively present as today’s common megatrends. Companies seem quite well prepared for these megatrends, although nearly 70% feel that they need to be more agile to respond to the changing demand alongside with greater technological understanding.
Over 85% of the respondents had undertaken one or many development projects during the past two years, focusing mostly on business processes, planning or updating the business strategy, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning or digital products. Common grounds for development projects are clearly the need for business growth or more efficient operations, but time pressure seems to be the main reason for slow decision making to start the projects. When it comes to companies’ experiences with consulting firms, the overall level of satisfaction with the services seems to be quite good. In the selection stage, companies put emphasis on criteria such as project management skills, understanding of business strategy and the ability to manage change. Work experience and expertise within the client industry is also quite important, not to mention the reputation of the consulting firm.
For future success we encourage companies to scrutinize the megatrends that are affecting their industry, consider the need for development as well as focus on a clear strategy based on the analysis. We can not stress enough the importance of scenario thinking, especially in a situation where we are living under constant uncertainty and big changes.