It may surprise you, but through our time as consultants and now conducting corporate training for some of the largest companies in the world, we’ve found that brand-name companies are also some of the most poorly run. There is so much going on across multiple adjacencies and product offerings, an entrenched way of doing things that can hinder progress, and inefficiencies that have found their way into the system. So, to combat this, many large companies have built their own internal consulting firms – often known as internal strategy teams.
Instead of paying millions to McKinsey, Bain, and BCG, companies have brought the consulting function in-house to solve their own strategic and operational business problems. If you’re interested in a consulting career, don’t dismiss opportunities in these internal consulting teams. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of internal vs external consulting groups? And should you prefer one opportunity to another?
In this article, we’ll be discussing the main advantages and disadvantages of working in an internal consulting team. We’ll also provide information on some of the leading companies that provide these opportunities.
Click here to skip our analysis and jump straight to a list of internal strategy groups at leading companies.
Internal Consulting vs. External Consulting
Let’s jump right to it and start comparing internal vs external consulting.
Advantages of Internal Consulting
Industry / Company Specialization
Working on strategic and operational problems for a specific company allows you to dive deep into the core issues facing that client. As an internal consultant, you will build a vertically integrated understanding of a company. Their operations, products, strategy, policies, culture, and even politics. This is a great launching pad to move into a leadership role at the company, or transition to a leadership role somewhere else within the industry.
Implementation of Advice
External strategy consultants never get to see if their advice is actually implemented by the client unless it one day lands on the front page of the Journal. As an internal consultant, you get to see your recommendations implemented (and maybe even help in the implementation). If you like to see the results of your work, this is a big plus in favor of internal consulting.
As a whole, internal consultants travel much less than their external consultant counterparts. While you may support multiple business units and C-suite leaders inside the company, you really only have one client. Often, internal consulting teams are headquartered in the same city as corporate headquarters for proximity and access to company leadership.
Advantages of External Consulting
The consulting industry has been around for decades and the top firms have maintained their pristine reputations for good reason. They simply offer better training and professional development than their internal consulting counterparts. There’s a reason every company in the world hasn’t rushed to build its own internal consulting practice.
By joining a firm like McKinsey, BCG, or Bain, you will be staffed on a variety of projects in a breadth of industries. There’s no better way to learn about business as a whole and keep your future options open than by working as a generalist at a top firm.
Speaking of future options, the world is your oyster after 2-3 years as a consultant at a top firm. You have built valuable relationships with multiple clients in a breadth of industries, and can more or less pick the industry and function you want to focus on next. As an internal consultant without more traditional consulting experience, your exit opportunities are limited to your broader organization and industry.
Who are the Big Internal Consulting Players?
Internal consulting groups are small, nimble, and diverse. This makes it hard to compare internal consulting groups amongst each other. With that said, there are a few internal consulting groups that recruit from consulting target schools and are extremely competitive. These include:
- American Express Strategic Planning Group
- Capital One Strategy Group
- Disney Corporate Strategy and Business Development
- Google BizOps
Master List of Internal Consulting Groups
Airbus In-house Consulting
Airbus Defence and Space In-house Consulting is an operational unit attached to the Corporate Secretary. This group supports the whole division with management consulting services. Teams are based in France (Elancourt and Toulouse) and in Germany (Bremen and Munich) and work for all functions in any location. ADS Inhouse Consulting is transforming in order to be able to serve a larger part of Airbus Defence and Space management consulting needs by end of 2020.
American Express Strategic Planning Group
A role with the Strategic Planning Group (SPG) at American Express offers the unique opportunity to work across key business lines with the top strategic minds in the company. SPG team members gain exposure to numerous business units and have the ear of top decision makers at the company. After SPG, team members often take on new roles in various American Express business units across the globe. In addition, SPG Leadership provides team members with mentorship to help each individual find the right next role at American Express.
BASF Management Consulting
BASF Management Consulting is the internal management consultancy of the BASF Group. The firm is located in Ludwigshafen, Monheim, Hong Kong, Singapore, Florham Park (USA) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). The team advises its clients – BASF top management – globally in various commercial, organizational, post-merger integration, carve-out, and change projects. The group’s objective is to be the preferred and trusted partner of BASF units worldwide in general management questions. The team consists of approximately 150 consultants from diverse academic, professional and cultural backgrounds.
BNP Paribas CIB Consulting
BNP Paribas’ CIB Consulting is an internal advisory team at the heart of the entity’s Corporate and Investment Banking unit. The team mostly consists of former consultants and banking experts who now work closely with the Bank’s Business Lines and Management Board. The team started in Paris (2009), grew to APAC (2011), the Americas (2013) and has been growing in Lisbon since 2015.
Capital One Strategy Group
The Capital One Strategy Group has played a primary role in transforming Capital One from a small startup in 1994 to one of the largest financial institutions in the country. The Strategy Group is still at the heart of the growth Capital One is experiencing today. Internal consultants in this group report directly to the CEO and collaborate with company leadership to solve the largest challenges facing the company.
Cisco Corporate Strategy
Cisco’s Strategy team drives the ongoing development and coordination of Cisco’s corporate strategy. The team focuses on developing an ongoing agenda of strategy issues and opportunities for Cisco to help define and implement actions that create competitive advantage and drive Cisco’s long term growth. The Corporate Strategy team also partners with Cisco’s senior leadership team, business units, functional and theater leaders to drive key strategic initiatives, address critical business challenges, and develop and execute strategies that drive opportunities in Cisco’s businesses.
Dell Strategic Planning
The Dell EMC – SDS Strategic Planning is a small team composed of former top tier management consultants responsible for defining and driving strategic programs for Dell Services. The team collaborates across Dell Services, Corporate Development and other Dell Business Units. The team is responsible for both organic and inorganic strategic programs including acquisition assessment, due diligence and integration support. The Strategic Planning Group allows you to establish key relationships across Dell, boding well for your chances of making a transition over to the industry side when you are ready to grow one area of the business.
Deutsche Bank Group Management Consulting
When it comes to creating the future vision of Deutsche Bank, the Group Management Consulting team is at the forefront. Group Management Consulting supports all business and infrastructure units of the bank with the design of various projects – from the integration of acquired companies, to product development and introduction, to restructuring measures and process optimizations.
DHL Consulting is an essential part of the world’s leading mail and logistics company, and enjoys access to top management. The consulting group provides a broad range of management consulting and business transformation services to all business divisions, and delivers strategic supply chain consulting services to many DPDHL Group customers. Consultants at DHL Consulting therefore have the unique opportunity to experience both in-house and external consulting projects. As DPDHL Group offices and customers are located in 220 countries and territories, this can take you virtually anywhere in the world!
Disney Corporate Strategy and Business Development
Disney’s Corporate Strategy and Business Development team consists of ~20 consultants with backgrounds in media, consulting, investment banking, and private equity. The team is responsible for developing strategic positions on the most critical issues facing Disney’s business, then executing against those positions through acquisitions and divestitures, joint ventures, minority investments, and business development activities.
EMC Information Infrastructure
As a leading information-centric consultancy, EMC’s combines industry insight with technology expertise to guide clients. EMC specializes in building trusted relationships with businesses, IT, and service providers to help them gain competitive advantage, increase business agility, and maximize IT efficiency. EMC’s work helps its clients accelerate the journey to cloud computing and unlocking the business value of big data.
Eon Inhouse Consulting
E.ON Inhouse Consulting (ECON) is the internal consultancy of the E.ON Group. ECON works on the most complex issues facing the energy market and is known to offer its consultants excellent development opportunities. The group consists of ~100 consultants that work on key projects and strategic challenges currently facing E.ON and the industry.
Ericsson – Strategic Programs
The Strategic Programs Practice (SPP) is Ericsson’s internal management consulting unit. The group combines functional expertise with deep industry and company knowledge to deliver strategies directly to senior leadership. The group focuses on strategy and organization; strategy execution and transformation; corporate finance and development; and sales and operations management.
Ford Global Strategy
Ford Global Strategy is the legacy auto maker’s internal consulting group. Ford Global Strategy consultants work on long-term strategic issues to help “future-proof” the organization.
GE – Commercial Leadership Program
The Commercial Leadership Program (CLP) is a two-year developmental program in sales and marketing. Throughout the two years, individuals experience 3 or 4 rotations depending on the business unit. GE focuses on developing critical skills like leadership, critical thinking and initiative into its future leaders.
GM Corporate Strategy, Development & Planning
General Motor’s in-house strategy group was recently stood up as part of the company’s efforts to avoid irrelevance as the auto industry moves toward EV. The group focuses on longer-term strategy and transformation projects to help GM weather increasing competition in the industry, hit growth targets, and secure the company’s future as one of the world’s most iconic brands.
Google’s Business Operations and Strategy (“BizOps”) group works in small project teams to find solutions to thorny business challenges selected by Google and Alphabet leadership. BizOps operates like an internal consulting group to define and drive strategic, operational and organizational improvements across the company. They work on the most critical products and initiatives at Google, including Pixel and Google Home hardware, the Google Assistant, Search, Maps, machine learning investments, strategy for emerging markets and our healthcare initiatives. Typical BizOps projects might involve finding opportunities to grow user engagement, optimizing pricing and monetization for new products, or providing strategic guidance on large acquisitions and partnerships.
IBM Corporate Strategy Group
IBM CSG supports internal IBM leadership by developing core growth strategies across business units. IBM Corporate Strategy Group was undoubtedly heavily involved in the company’s recent $34B acquisition of Red Hat. The team is not to be confused with IBM GBS, which provides technology strategy support to external clients and recommends IBM products and services.
Maersk Management Consulting (MMC)
Maersk Management Consulting is the company’s in-house 45-member consulting group. MMC consultants work on important strategy issues Maersk faces and interact with senior leaders in the company from day one. The group has 2 offices in Copenhagen and Singapore and works on a variety of projects across 4 “practice areas”:
- Strategy, growth & turnaround
- Commercial and operational excellence
- Organisation review and restructuring
- Change management and transformation
If you’re looking for a corporate strategy role inside a company with a $>50B market cap, Maersk Management Consulting may be the place for you. The group is actively recruiting for a number of roles including Consultant, Senior Consultant, and Project Leader. MMC does incorporate both fit and case interviews into its hiring process, so look us up if you need help getting ready.
Pfizer Internal Consultants
Health care professionals work with Pfizer as professional advisors or consultants. They provide the company with knowledge, insight, and advice on a range of topics, such as: designing clinical research studies, marketing Pfizer’s medicines, reviewing preliminary information about a medicine in development, helping evaluate the safety and effectiveness of medicines, and Identifying areas of further study.
Samsung Global Strategy Group
GSG is Samsung’s Global Strategy Group. The group acts as the incubation center for future general managers across Samsung Group. After 2 years working at GSG, GSs are expected to transition to a Samsung team as Line Manager or Strategic Staff, and eventually take a leadership role overseas or in South Korea.
Siemens Management Consulting (SMC)
SMC is a global consultancy with headquarters in Munich, Germany. SMC also has offices around the world in the U.S., Asia, the Middle East and other parts of Europe. SMC’s international teams work jointly with internal clients on issues including digital transformation, business development, innovation, M&A, and benchmarking. In addition, the team focuses on operational problems touching customer value co-creation, business model innovation, supply chain management, and product lifecycle management.
Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU has an in-house consulting group that advises the President and C-suite on strategic matters. Southern New Hampshire University’s internal consulting group is one of the only universities with a group like this, making it a pioneer in the space.
Volkswagen Consulting is the internal management consultancy within the Volkswagen Group. This is a unique springboard for a career at the largest automotive company in Europe. Founded in 1999, Volkswagen Consulting has become one of the largest strategic consultancies in the automotive sector, and carries out 150+ consulting projects per year.
Zurich Insurance Group
Zurich Insurance Group has a team of 25 internal consultants spread between Switzerland and the U.S. that serve C-suite execs, helping them think strategically about the longer-term picture for the business. The levels for the internal group are similar to external consulting: Associate, Consultant, Engagement Manager. The group doesn’t required previous consulting experience to be hired on at the Associate or Consultant levels, and many consultants on the team are former MBB consultants.
Internal consulting groups can be great exit opportunities for existing consultants, or great lifestyle fits for those wanting to do consulting work. Knowing the difference between internal vs external consulting groups is a must when planning your future career path. If you need more help understanding which path may be right for you, book a Power Half Hour today.