Health Care, Technology, and Consulting: Lessons Learned from Mark Knickrehm

Erin Nash and Caroline Robinson
Erin Nash and Caroline Robinson

Erin is an Assistant Director of Employer Relations in the Career Development Office at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. In this role, she is responsible for building partnerships with employers in the consulting industry. Erin also coaches business school students on their job search strategies in the consulting sector. Prior to joining Carey Business School, Erin worked in HR for 5 years at AXA. Following this position, Erin assumed a Project Manager role in Talent Management. In addition to her work, Erin is actively involved with women’s professional development organizations. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Colgate University, with a major in Psychology, and is a Certified MBA Career Coach with the Academies. Caroline Robinson is a GMBA Candidate at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School with over 5 years of professional experience in a variety of health care settings. Caroline is also the Co-President of Carey Women in Business, an organization dedicated to unlocking the leadership potential of members in order to prepare them to take on leadership and management roles in professional settings. Before coming to Carey, Caroline worked on the legislative staff of United States Senator Tim Kaine, where she oversaw a broad range of policy issues including health care reform, pharmaceutical pricing, mental health, education, and women’s issues. Caroline looks forward to continuing her work in health care to help organizations explore and leverage technology to drive better outcomes.

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Last month, several Global MBA students met with Mark Knickrehm, Group Chief Executive of Accenture Strategy. Mr. Knickrehm visited Carey for the day as an Executive in Residence, a program that invites business leaders into the Carey community to share their real world experience and expertise with students, faculty, and school leaders.

Mr. Knickrehm is a thought leader on how emerging trends and technologies will impact industry and business models. His specialties include digital disruption, competitiveness, and envisioning what the workforce of the future will look like in a digital world.

Here are four key takeaways from our afternoon tea and discussion with Mr. Knickrehm:

Technology is a business enabler.

Digital disruption is broadly changing business strategy and simultaneously introducing new challenges and threats, from cybersecurity to implementation. Boards across all industries are interested in learning more about how to leverage technology to cut costs and create top line growth.  For an industry like health care, with capacity constraints and rising costs, technology will be a critical tool in value creation and growth. As businesses continue to evolve in this new landscape, success will depend on the ability to understand new technologies and apply data analysis in creative and meaningful ways.

The nature of consulting work is drastically changing.

The evolution of technology has revolutionized the way we do business. Advancements leading to improvements in processing power and storage capabilities present businesses with unprecedented opportunities and new challenges. This has fundamentally changed the types of problems that companies seek out consultants for. Instead of exploring market expansion opportunities, business leaders are now asking “how do I change interactions with my customers, products/services, and labor force (employees) in alignment with a digital strategy that will increase productivity?” Companies like Accenture Strategy help their clients to “use technology to do the right things by the right people at the right time.”

It’s all about the big guys and the little guys.

Mr. Knickrehm shared that many mid-size consulting firms are trying to do too much – they are trying to specialize in too many things, making it difficult for them to develop real expertise. Consequently, these companies are not likely to attract the talent they need to remain competitive. Ultimately, the bigger players that are really good at a lot of things (i.e. Accenture Strategy, BCG, Deloitte, McKinsey) and the smaller, niche consulting firms will push out the mid-size firms. For job seekers, this means targeting the really big consultancies and/or the really small consultancies.

Data analysis is a key consulting skill.

Despite what you may have heard, the MBA is alive and well. But as the demand for data analysis increases, MBAs and other business school students should focus on building these skills within their programs. These skills include being able to comprehend lots of data, knowing how to handle unstructured data, and being comfortable analyzing and drawing insights from data. The key to being a great consultant is to know how to solve business problems and have a strong data analysis skillset. According to Mr. Knickrehm, “There is no better time to be a strategy consultant than right now.”

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