AI In Process Improvement

AI In Process Improvement

Will AI Disrupt The Consulting Industry?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the world. Due to the hit of the COVID-19 pandemic, humanity was compelled to adopt digital alternatives to go about their lives as the “new normal” that accelerated the progress of AI development. 

Now, with the recent launch of ChatGPT, Bard, and other AI models sparking intense debates, some people fear that AI’s rapid advancement in generating high-quality texts, images, and music may lead to job replacement. On the other hand, others are intrigued by its ability to replicate complex human tasks effortlessly. 

Meanwhile, some still view AI as a neutral force, emphasizing that its impact can be positive or negative depending on human usage. They advocate for embracing AI as a tool for the advancement of civilization rather than fearing its presence.

AI As The New Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation, as first introduced by Clayton Christensen, is the phenomenon when new technology enters an existing established market and causes disruption by providing a simpler, more convenient, and/or less expensive product. This phenomenon has been occurring from generation to generation – from the introduction of steam engines to the current widespread use of smartphones, Netflix, Amazon, etc. – and has been challenging incumbents in various industries. 

Now, they are facing ‘Artificial Intelligence’ that has proven to be significantly effective in revolutionizing traditional operations in mere seconds. For instance;

  • Healthcare – AI improves diagnostics and patient care by analyzing medical data
  • Finance – AI helps with personalized advice, fraud detection, and credit scoring. 
  • Manufacturing – AI used for predictive maintenance and quality control. 
  • Retail – AI offers personalized experiences and optimized inventory management. 
  • Transportation – AI helps produce autonomous vehicles and route optimization. 

In the digital era, AI has gained great popularity as a tool for businesses, including the consulting industry. AI solutions offer valuable insights, aiding companies in time and cost savings. Moreover, they streamline operations by automating mundane tasks and overcoming various operational hurdles [1].

Essentially, using AI can help make a company better at a much lower cost. Nevertheless, while AI presents opportunities; ethical considerations and workforce impact must also be addressed. 

Disruption Of AI In Consultancy

Like many industries, the consulting industry cannot escape the impact of disruptive innovation brought about by this emerging technology. As AI continues to advance and enhance its capabilities, it poses a threat to established industry leaders [1, 4]. 

A large industry – such as consultancy – that operates on an old business model is bound to undergo transformation. Business consultants specializing in strategic development and process enhancements find themselves directly targeted by disruptive forces [2].

As mentioned by Kaplan [2], through Porter’s 5 Forces analysis, the consulting industry could potentially face challenges due to disruptive innovation since it has been slow in embracing technology, relies on human expertise predominantly, is dominated by a limited number of key players, and – most of all – costly [3].

In today’s fast-paced business environment, data has become a valuable asset. Companies that harness data effectively gain benefits like informed decision-making, a competitive edge, and overall market success. However, numerous businesses encounter the challenge of complex data analysis, requiring specialized skills, time, and expenses [8]. 

But now with AI capabilities, it can help automate mundane tasks, enhance efficiency, make faster calculations, and offer valuable insights/predictions of trends [7].

AI has the potential to disrupt traditional consulting business models by offering a practical service at significantly reduced costs. Consequently, this may give rise to the emergence of more efficient and cost-effective consulting services, making it challenging for traditional firms to maintain their competitiveness; thus, will lead clients to transition to services from this lower-cost model [4]. 

Before long, traditional consulting firms will not be able to gain any competitive advantage in the industry market in the face of AI. 

So, Will AI Take Over Process Improvement Methodologies Like Lean Six Sigma?

The consultancy industry heavily relies on intellectual analysis, logical judgment, and human creativity, making it a ‘human-intensive’ field. Consulting firms market their services based on the expertise, intellect, influence, and networks of their human resources. Despite the industry’s slow adoption of technology, it has shown significant growth over the years [3].

However, as various mundane tasks – e.g., analytics, automation, decision-making, etc. – can now be easily implemented and accessible via AI and Robotics like ChatGPT, Bard, or other future AI models and machinery out there, it will inevitably have an impact on the consultancy industry [2, 3]. Nevertheless, the creativity, intellect, and experience of human beings will remain essential for delivering solutions and alternatives in the consulting field. 

That being the case, despite how unsettling the rapid advancement of AI can be for consulting firms, it is quite unlikely that AI will displace well-established process improvement methodologies like Lean, Six Sigma, Agile, etc. 

In fact, there is a higher chance that AI will be leveraged to enhance these methodologies and bring organizations to even greater lengths of efficiency and effectiveness beyond their capabilities.

For instance, Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a systematic approach, acknowledged as a proven method, to effectively identify problems, pinpoint root causes, generate ideas for solutions, and eliminate waste in processes. It relies on data-driven analysis and problem-solving techniques to improve quality, reduce costs, and increase speed.

In this case, AI can be used to automate repetitive and mundane tasks involved in Lean Six Sigma such as data collection and organization, quality control, statistical analysis, and reporting through Machine Learning (ML) [8]. This can free up human resources to focus on more complex, strategic, and creative aspects of process improvement like identifying inefficiencies, reducing waste, and optimizing processes. Additionally, since AI can identify trends and patterns in complex and large data sets as well as suggest valid solutions faster than manual analytics, consultants can better deploy Lean Six Sigma or other methodologies to detect the root causes of problems in processes, determine the best solutions, and take corrective measures in a shorter time span.

Overall, AI and process improvement methodologies like Lean Six Sigma can work hand-in-hand, with AI augmenting and supporting the efforts of human practitioners to drive continuous improvement and efficiency in organizations. 

Here are other advantages when using AI in process improvement;

  • Improve data analysis and calculations
  • Accelerate root-cause analysis 
  • Reduce cost
  • Enhance process and task efficiency
  • Generate effective and dynamic team collaboration
  • Enhance pattern and trend predictions 
  • Enhance the systematic approach of process improvement methodologies
  • Ease the process of creating or simplifying content/strategies in the form of visual presentation (graphs, flowcharts, diagrams, etc.)
  • Improve decision-making

What AI Could Not Imitate In Consultancy

As discussed earlier, it cannot be denied how impactful generative AI can be. Nevertheless, despite it being an incredibly powerful tool to many industries, human judgment and creativity will still be essential to ensure success for an organization. 

Evidently, AI is still in its infancy; hence, there are many kinks that need to be improved, especially its ethical issues which have currently caused an uproar within society; one example, AI-generated art.

In the field of consultancy, heavy reliance is placed on theoretical judgment and evidence-based analysis, which evidently stem from human intelligence, creativity, judgment, and intuition that AI still cannot perfectly imitate [3].

However, ever since the widespread attention to generative AI, many are now relying too much on AI use; given its accessible, fast, reliable, and convenient functions. Even consultants are excited with its functionality as they can now develop good content just by typing several prompts into Bard or ChatGPT [6].

But, here’s the hitch;

Generic Content

As much as AI gives access to great content, it’s just too generic. Generative AI is currently used to generate hundreds of thousands of content within seconds worldwide and is still learning new information every day. Therefore, it is no surprise that the content users receive will be either too broad or too basic – not what consultants can use – especially when they need to adhere to their client’s specific/special needs. That being the case, consultants still need to resort back to their years of gained experience and knowledge to provide personalized advice and develop creative strategies [1].

Homogeneity in Solutions

Another problem is that generative AI is too popular. Since everyone – including competitors – is now using AI to solve problems or receive suggestions, there is a high chance everyone will get similar answers/suggestions. 

So, what does this entail? 

Well, the importance of having an edge over other companies is already a well-established fact in Business 101, right? 

As such, while AI can undoubtedly provide an upper hand and keep you up-to-date with modern advancements, overreliance on its suggestions – which are available to every firm – risks losing the uniqueness of your consulting approach. This, in turn, could lead to losing your competitive edge and, eventually, clients.

As asserted by [6], if your services are commoditized, clients would not be willing to pay you higher than what other firms with the same service quality generally receive. Clients seek a firm’s expertise, unique perspectives, and strategic recommendations tailored to their organization’s needs that can help them maintain a competitive edge and improve their performance [6]. 

Lack of Effective Communicative & Contextual Reasoning Skills

In addition, AI lacks “human skills” to build meaningful business relationships [1]. Humans innately have the ability to interact with other humans in a way that is not just to inform – i.e., persuade, entertain, negotiate, convince, etc. – to build relationships and foster collaborations based on understanding, empathy, and one’s personal perspective. 

Since AI is still limited in the scope of human emotions, it is unlikely that it will be able to engage with another person from a business perspective in a genuine, profound way. Thus, acts like presenting an idea or closing a sale are best to be handled by humans [1].

On top of that, what sets AI as less effective than humans in the field of consultancy is its limited skills in contextual reasoning. As a consultant, there are multiple aspects that they need to take into account (i.e., the client’s main goal and personal interest, company’s principles and culture, etc.) while developing strategies or making a decision. This is so that they can come up with the best strategy/decision to achieve optimum satisfaction [1]. As powerful a tool as AI is in data processing and analytics, it still falls short when it comes to understanding context and perspectives. 

Lack of trustworthiness

As popular as AI is currently perceived in consulting, it still falls behind traditional consultancy firms that have earned clients’ and investors’ trust and gained a good reputation. It falls short when compared to well-established firms with years of experience, known for consistently delivering excellent services to their long-standing clients, with whom they share strong business relationships. 

When it comes to trust and reputation, until the use of AI solutions gains equal recognition to those of well-established and experienced consultants, AI will continue to face skepticism and resistance from some clients and industries [1]; especially when it is still known to make inaccuracies without the supervision of human support.

All in all, while convenient it may be, AI still has its limitations. Human supervision is still necessary so that the best results can be achieved, and the standards, values, and ethical guidelines can be upheld.

Embracing The New Innovation Of AI As A Powerful Tool For Consultants 

It is evident that even though AI can indeed revolutionize the way the consulting industry operates at a lesser cost, it is less likely to replace consultants completely. Be that as it may, consultants who refuse to accept AI and utilize its capabilities will certainly be outmatched by those who do [6]. 

By harnessing the merge of human judgment, creativity, and emotional intelligence with AI’s agile data-driven insights, consultants can improve their services and provide effective solutions for their clients efficiently [1, 3]. For instance, AI excels in swiftly processing data and uncovering trends and insights that might take humans days to discern. 

That said, this provides consultants with the opportunity to dedicate their time to devising effective and more informed strategies, assessing risk profiles, and enhancing clients’ comprehension of their challenges [1, 5]. This symbiotic relationship between humans and machines will appeal more to customers who seek unique, modern, and strategic services; and ultimately, bring beneficial outcomes to both businesses and individuals. 

Take McKinsey & Company. Their acquisition of Quantumblack, a London-based company that pioneers big data and advanced analytics, in 2015 has given them access to AI development and big data technology. Now, the company can offer better insights and capabilities to clients [1]. This move of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) has resulted in both companies reaching a higher level of consultancy and imparting a plethora of knowledge to those seeking their services [1]. 

To put it all together, the hybrid intelligence of humans and machines could bring about a brighter future for the consulting industry [3].  When utilized proficiently, it is safe to say that AI quite possibly be the entity that strengthens and safeguards consulting positions, rather than substituting human workers [1]. Hence, it is more beneficial for traditional firms to stay updated on the technological advancement of today’s innovation and embrace AI to be able to stay competitive and reach their highest potential. That is why it is highly recommended that they explore AI technology and machine learning and see how they can be used in their workforce to enhance their services and business operations. 

To sum things up, as has been established above, rather than replacing, AI is revamping the consulting industry so that firms and consultants can offer better services and create more effective strategies through advanced tools and techniques. Hence, it is strongly advisable that those involved in this industry embrace AI and explore its capabilities to enhance one’s services by balancing it with human intuition. Let’s harness AI to enhance consulting services, all the while remaining conscious of its limitations and ensuring seamless integration with human expertise.



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[1] H. Laffitte, “Is AI going to impact the consulting industry in 2023?,” Consulting Quest, (accessed Sep. 6, 2023).

[2] S. Kaplan, “How A.I. will disrupt the consulting industry |,” How AI Will Disrupt The Consulting Industry, (accessed Sep. 7, 2023).

[3] S. Jain, “Ripe for disruption: How ai & robotics will impact and transform the consulting industry.,” LinkedIn, (accessed Sep. 7, 2023).

[4] C. Gregory, “How ai is changing the game for consultants,” How AI is Changing the Game for Consultants, (accessed Sep. 7, 2023).

[5] C. Gregory, “AI-powered consulting: Tools you need to know about,” Tom Spencer, (accessed Sep. 11, 2023).

[6] M. Zipursky, “ChatGPT & AI for consultants: What you need to know,” Consulting Success,,certainly%20affect%20the%20consulting%20industry. (accessed Sep. 7, 2023).

[7] EALS Academy, “Will artificial intelligence take over Lean Six Sigma?,” LinkedIn, (accessed Sep. 7, 2023).

[8] SRA Academy, “Digital lean six sigma: How ai is Revolutionizing Data Analytics,” LinkedIn, (accessed Sep. 7, 2023).



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