The case for networked consulting

As published in PM360

Nearly all life sciences companies are in the midst of so-called “digital transformations” aimed at re-wiring how they operate to respond to a dramatically changing industry and customer environment. Yet only 18% of Pharma companies are satisfied with their digital activities, according to a recent industry survey.[1]

And, 77% of companies, according to another reliable estimate, consider missing digital knowledge as the key hurdle to their transformation[2]. How this “knowledge gap” is managed will in large measure determine who the winners and the losers are in the next several years.

To help address the “digital knowledge gap” in life sciences, The Stem is one of a new breed of management consultancies, which use a “networked” staffing model drawing on the industry’s leading independent digital talent.

These firms incorporate principles of the “gig” economy, popularized by start-ups such as Uber to fill a need that exists among clients and the growing population of independent consultants who are no longer interested in a traditional employment relationship.

Unlike traditional consultancies, which rely on their internal talent base and supplement only where necessary, The Stem (and other firms like it) turns the model on its head, staffing its consulting assignments through its large and growing independent talent network, which now numbers over 100 consultants.[3]

The benefit of networked model to clients lies in four aspects of the model itself: independence, scalability, flexibility and productivity.

Independent consultants.

The Stem’s network consists of seasoned independent consultants with an average of 15+ years’ experience, in contrast to the apprentice-model of larger consultancies, which use a higher ratio of junior to senior talent. Additionally, Stem consultants are inherently entrepreneurial, having chosen to operate independently. For clients, the advantage is a fresh perspective, grounded and practical expertise, and an uncommon level dedication and creativity.

Flexibility and scalability.

Stem consultants are staffed on-demand and matched to the specific needs of clients, versus drawn from an internal pool of talent as in traditional consultancies. Additionally, the approach to each project is customized to the specific situation, versus relying on a standardized methodology. For clients, this flexibility ensures there is always a strong fit between the need, and the skills and approach deployed. It also means The Stem can rapidly scale up or down to meet changing client needs without clients being penalized.


Finally, The Stem operates using a virtual model, including flexible working arrangements supported by collaboration technologies and peer support. The impact of this model is higher levels of consultant engagement, which directly translates into higher levels of consultant productivity, client service and commitment.

For a brief summary of the benefits of the networked model, please download the infographic at the right.

[1] Across Health, 2015
[2] MIT, 2012
[3] For reference, there are as many as 53M freelancers in the US according to A growing number of them are independent consultants at the intersection of digital and healthcare.

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