Exciting changes happening in consulting! I also wonder how the move to digital and faster business models for the firm’s clients affects when and how McKinsey can most effectively support them. As BCG moves more into co-founding and co-investing in tech products and companies with clients as part of Digital Ventures, McKinsey is shifting towards more work that blurs the line between consultant and operator (especially in the Recovery and Transformation Services/RTS practice). That kind of work also likely has an impact on what kind of talent is needed, fee structure, and promotion paths to partner.
It’s great to hear about these various phases of Wayfair’s evolution. In the future, I also wonder about their ability to adapt to changing customer retail experiences. As Amazon moves into brick and mortar, following a variety of e-commerce brands from Warby Parker to Bonobos to Allbirds, there is a question if the company can provide the kind of sophisticated tech-enabled retail experience that Amazon is developing in other product categories and would complement the online offerings.
I’ve been interested in how consulting firms are responding to the capabilities of their clients increasing over time as well–as you point out, access to basic information raises the stakes for consultants providing value. In addition, as the digital sphere makes forming companies easier, consultants must find ways to get involved earlier in the company formation process. BCG’s DV acquisition is a good example of this–in addition to using new digital capabilities, it puts them in a very different relationship with clients, as a co-founder and co-investor in new products. McKinsey’s Recovery and Transformation Services (RTS) similarly changes the traditional client-consultant relationship, with the firm acting more closely with the client as an operator in some cases in addition to the traditional advisory role.
That’s a fun idea! IBM Watson has also gotten into this game with Chef Watson (https://www.ibmchefwatson.com/)—you could play Sweetgreen’s data-driven salad game along right in your own home!
Fascinating the amount of market power that Spotify now commands! I’m a huge devotee, and a frequent playlist creator, and I do have to admit that the song suggestions at the bottom of playlists has made me a bit lazy—now I can just create about half the playlist then listen to their recommendations to fill out a good set. It’s also been interesting to see how artists and labels promote their music. I have one jazz playlist with over 6,000 followers, and I’ve gotten several messages from artists and their labels about adding their songs—clearly they see value in using the power of playlists to get on people’s radar.
It’s exciting to see so many cities finding new ways to experiment with sensors, data, and technology to become more efficient and responsive. I’m very bullish on the idea, but there has been significant pushback recently in terms of data privacy and the need for government or private contractors to protect personal data. That needs to be addressed—likely by both private companies and through smarter government regulations and contracting—but I hope the push for control over data doesn’t slow the potential benefits, especially as many cities are falling behind what is possible in smaller environments.
There’s also the question of what this does to the art of criticism. There used to be far more movie critics, employed by most local papers, but with consolidation of newspapers, and the ability to syndicate the opinions of a few critics, there’s a significant decline. Beyond just the recommendation of “watch this, skip that,” critics provide a valuable service in not only assessing, but analyzing and expanding on a movie’s themes. Reviews can be used as service journalism, but the best of them build on the dialogue a movie (particularly a good one) starts. Some papers, like the New York Times, even eschew ratings at all, providing only prose reviews of movies with the occasional “critic’s pick” marking. I love Rotten Tomatoes (and check it every time I go to the theater), but I really hope it doesn’t destroy the very crowd it aggregates.
Mechanical Turk also gets into questions about the future of work as work tasks are increasingly disaggregated from traditional jobs, and we move toward platforms that focus on piece-payments rather than wages or salaries. What responsibility does Amazon or the companies using the platform have to target prices to hit minimum wage standards? Is this ultimately an end-run around the kinds of basic job quality regulations governments put in place? I love the idea of efficient pricing and flexible work, but it’s a challenge to make sure the workers aren’t exploited—and it sounds like Amazon is losing that battle while missing the opportunities for platform optimization you suggest which could also create value for both sides.
Awesome post. We had a great discussion about FBN in Creating Shared Value last semester. You’re exactly right about the importance of trust and aligning the business’s interest with farmers—and against Big Ag—is an important differentiator for FBN. As they scale and build their network effects into more market power, I hope they are able to stay true to those roots. The founders presented a compelling case that they’d be able to based on their backgrounds and values, but shifting from being a data aggregator to a supplier and service provider will require them to be consistent in their “farmers first” approach.
Rachel brings up a great question—how to scale “exclusive” products. Network effects can be positive and negative—while some users being added on to a platform can be additive to the experience, others could dilute the exclusive brand experience. Just as with luxury fashion, where scarcity can be a driver of value, The League must flirt with that delicate balance. Other platforms parcel out profiles a few at a time to keep users from seeing the whole set of possibilities at once, which could keep an air of exclusivity, but ultimately, the company has indicated a cutoff for membership and will ultimately push against that core brand proposition as it seeks to expand its market.
I’ve been fascinated by Grindr’s recent push into content development with their online magazine Into More, which Kara Swisher covered on Recode Decode (https://www.recode.net/2018/1/1/16836834/transcript-grindr-editors-zach-stafford-trish-bendix-into-magazine-queer-recode-decode). You highlight well the distinct features of Grindr’s market that make it such a valuable platform. With the magazine, though, it seems that it’s also trying to transcend being strictly a network at all, capturing and keeping the attention of its users even when they aren’t able to connect with other users. Grindr has often been an innovator in the space—it will be interesting to see if Tinder, Bumble, and others follow it into content development as well.
This is a timely discussion—Google just announced that it is selling off Zagat, finding essentially that its own restaurant ratings and information now adequately suit its needs. While Zagat was first to the aggregated restaurant reviews game, it looks like they won’t ultimately be the winner. OpenTable has often provided a valuable service as a way to easily search where there are options to eat for a specific group size at a given time—but that’s a relatively weak network effect when compared with better tech for the restaurant users, who generally don’t want to think of themselves in being in a commoditized business. While first to the aggregated reservations market, they may wind up being a similar loser to younger companies with better tech—or, as you suggest, they could partner or merge with Zagat.