- 1999, 12
Management consulting : structure and growth of a knowledge intensive business service market in Europe
- The globalisation of contemporary capitalism is bringing about at least two important implications for the emergence and significance of business services. First, the social division of labour steadily increases (ILLERIS 1996). Within the complex organisation of production and trade new intermediate actors emerge either from the externalisation of existing functions in the course of corporate restructuring policies or from the fragmentation of the production chain into newly defined functions. Second, competitive advantages of firms increasingly rest on their ability to innovate and learn. As global communication erodes knowledge advantages more quickly, product life cycles shorten and permanent organisational learning results to be crucial for the creation and maintenance of competitiveness. Intra- and interorganisational relations of firms now are the key assets for learning and reflexivity (STORPER 1997). These two aspects of globalisation help understand why management consulting - as only one among other knowledge intensive business services (KIBS) - has been experiencing such a boost throughout the last two decades. Throughout the last ten years, the business has grown annually by 10% on average in Europe. Management consulting can be seen first, as a new organisational intermediate and second, as an agent of change and reflexivity to business organisations. Although the KIBS industry may not take a great share of the national GDP its impact on national economies should not be underestimated. Estimations show that today up to 80% of the value added to industrial products stem from business services (ILLERIS 1996). Economic geographers have been paying more attention to KIBS since the late 1970s and focus on the transformation of the spatial economy through the emerging business services. This market survey is conceived as a first step of a research programme on the internationalisation of management consulting and as a contribution to the lively debate in economic geography. The management consulting industry is unlimited in many ways: There are only scarce institutional boundaries, low barriers to entry, a very heterogeneous supply structure and multiple forms of transaction. Official statistics have not yet provided devices of grasping this market and it may be therefore, that research and literature on this business are rather poor. The following survey is an attempt to selectively compile existing material, empirical studies and statistics in order to draw a sketchy picture of the European market, its institutional constraints, agents and dynamics. German examples will be employed to pursue arguments in more depth.