How consulting firms are adapting for the pandemic

By Meredith Somers | MIT Ideas Made to Matter

Jamin Eberhart was only a few months into his job as a business analyst at A.T. Kearney when the voicemails started.

It was 2001. The twin towers had fallen, and the American economy — already slowing as a result of the dot-com bubble burst — dropped into a recession. Email use was building momentum in offices, but phones were still the way to communicate at the workplace, and the daily routine of listening to messages became a game of bad news roulette.

“People were skittish to check their voicemails, because they’d essentially get called in by the boss [and let go],” said Eberhart, now a senior director at Scimitar Inc., a roughly 30-person biopharma consulting firm.

With a record number of Americans filing for unemployment, that skittishness is back, particularly in industries like retail, restaurants, airlines and cruise lines.

But thanks to a framework largely based on remote work and virtual communication, and the fact that it helps to have a guide through a global crisis, consultants might avoid a fate similar to the one experienced in the early 2000s.

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