The Rise of AI Consulting

The Rise of AI Consulting

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming businesses and entire industries. As companies race to implement AI solutions, a new field of AI consulting has emerged to help organizations successfully adopt and integrate AI technologies. AI consulting provides strategic guidance, technical expertise, and best practices to enable companies to use AI in impactful ways.

In this article, we will explore the growth of AI consulting, the services provided by AI consultants, the benefits of leveraging AI consulting, and the future outlook for this rapidly expanding field. Whether you are leading an enterprise AI program or just learning about AI’s potential, this overview of AI consulting will provide valuable insights.

The Growth of AI Consulting

AI consulting has seen meteoric growth over the past few years. According to research firm Gartner, the global AI consulting market was valued at nearly $2.4 billion in 2020. They forecast the market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 19.5% through 2025, reaching $9.4 billion.

What is driving this surging demand for AI consulting services? AI adoption is skyrocketing, but many companies lack the in-house skills and experience required to implement AI solutions. A 2019 survey by Genpact found that while 90% of C-suite executives believe AI will substantially transform their companies within the next five years, only 17% feel sufficiently prepared from an AI talent perspective.

This gap between AI aspirations and AI expertise is fueling the need for external guidance from AI consultants. Leading management consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, and Bain have been heavily investing to build robust AI consulting practices. At the same time, many boutique AI consulting firms have been founded with deep AI capabilities.

For organizations pursuing AI projects, partnering with seasoned AI consultants provides access to specialized skills and reduces risk on complex, business-critical initiatives. AI consultants are also playing a key role in shaping best practices as companies navigate the uncharted waters of deploying AI at scale.

Services Provided by AI Consultants

AI consultants offer a diverse range of strategic and technical services to support clients at all stages of their AI journeys. Here are some of the most common services provided by AI consulting firms:

AI Strategy Development

Most AI consulting engagements start with developing an AI strategy aligned to the client’s business goals and capabilities. Consultants help clients identify high-value AI use cases, assess AI readiness in terms of data, talent and technology, and outline a roadmap for AI adoption. They provide an objective outside perspective on the art of the possible with AI for the organization.

Feasibility Assessments

Before investing significant resources into an AI project, prudent organizations will have consultants conduct feasibility assessments. Consultants analyze the problem scope, required data, algorithms and infrastructure to determine the effort, costs and risks involved. This provides clients with data-driven go/no-go decisions on potential AI initiatives.

Data Strategy and Management

Data is the fuel that powers AI algorithms. AI consultants help organizations build sound data strategies, including how to consolidate data from disparate systems, improve data quality and governance, and construct datasets for AI model development. They also provide guidance on building data operations capabilities.

AI Model Development

Many clients engage AI consultants to actually build and validate the AI models that provide predictive insights from the data. Consultants leverage their extensive expertise in using AI development platforms and frameworks like TensorFlow, PyTorch and SKLearn to produce high-performing models tailored to the problem and data.

AI System Integration

Getting AI models into production and integrated with existing systems is a major challenge. AI consultants work closely with clients’ IT teams to architect the pipelines, APIs, microservices, monitoring and other infrastructure required to scale AI solutions. They also optimize system performance and reliability.

Change Management and Capability Building

To sustain long-term success with AI, organizations must cultivate internal AI talent and change management capabilities. Consultants provide training on AI fundamentals, tools and use cases to transfer knowledge. They also help clients develop centers of excellence to build, manage and scale AI solutions using in-house resources.

Benefits of Leveraging AI Consultants

Partnering with experienced AI consulting firms provides organizations with many tangible benefits that ultimately accelerate return on investment from their AI initiatives:

  • Jumpstart adoption – AI consultants help companies fast track their AI journeys by leveraging proven methodologies, frameworks and templates honed through past client engagements. They conduct rapid prototypes and proofs-of-concept to demonstrate quick wins. Their reusable assets and templates kickstart development. This hands-on approach gets clients up and running much faster than trying to build AI capabilities in-house from scratch.
  • Access expertise – Consultancies provide access to deep AI talent and skills that most clients lack internally. Their teams include PhDs in machine learning, data scientists, algorithm engineers, model trainers and other specialized experts. These professionals bring experience across hundreds of client projects applying AI to solve real business problems. Clients instantly gain world-class AI capabilities through consultants.
  • Mitigate risk – AI projects involve many technology, data and adoption risks given their complexity. Consultants reduce these risks substantially by leveraging extensive experience and lessons learned deploying AI in other organizations across diverse industries. They expertly navigate around common pitfalls and optimize solutions to avoid disastrous outcomes through their proven methodologies.
  • Enable focus – AI projects can distract client organizations from their core business priorities and competencies. Engaging consultants allows clients to remain focused on what they do best while trusting specialized partners to drive AI programs forward. The consultants handle all the heavy lifting of ideating, strategizing, developing, integrating and scaling AI solutions.
  • Build capabilities – The best consultants view engagements as partnerships, ensuring knowledge transfer to make clients self-sufficient over time. Through coaching, training and co-development, consultants ultimately equip clients to build, manage and maximize value from AI solutions using internal resources. They empower organizational capability building.
  • Stay current – AI is a rapidly evolving field with constant technology innovations and new best practices emerging. Consultants invest heavily in staying on top of the latest advancements. They expose clients to cutting-edge thinking and trends through partnerships, conferences, research publications and more.
  • Deliver results – Consultants combine AI expertise with intimate understanding of clients’ businesses and industries to drive measurable impact from AI investments. They implement proven combinations of strategies, system integration skills and change management expertise tailored to each client’s unique objectives and environment. The result is AI solutions that generate tangible business value.

While costs to engage experienced AI consultancies are substantial, their specialized services deliver an exponential multiplier effect on the outcomes and returns realized from organizations’ AI programs and investments.

The Future Outlook for AI Consulting

The future growth trajectory for AI consulting looks robust as more organizations pursue AI initiatives while simultaneously facing AI talent scarcity. In addition, AI is expanding into new horizons like conversational systems, computer vision, intelligent process automation, and other emerging use cases that will demand external consulting support.

Leading AI consultancies are heavily investing to expand their capabilities. They are hiring top PhDs and AI engineers, acquiring niche AI firms, developing proprietary frameworks and methodologies, and building out global AI delivery centers. Through these efforts, AI consultancies will cement their position as the go-to partners for organizations pursuing AI adoption.

At the same time, AI consulting will face challenges as the field matures. Companies will be selective about which projects warrant external help versus internal development. Consulting costs could decline as competition and adoption increase. Offshoring and AI solutions aimed at reducing consulting dependency pose risks over the long term.

However, for the foreseeable future, the exponential growth in AI along with persistent talent gaps makes it likely that AI consulting will remain a vital strategic service helping organizations capitalize on the promise of AI. This new breed of AI consultants are the Sherpas guiding organizations on the journey to becoming AI-powered enterprises.


AI consulting has emerged as an essential pathway for organizations pursuing AI adoption. AI consultants provide the strategic guidance, technical skills, and specialized expertise required to successfully integrate AI capabilities. They offer a full range of services spanning AI strategy, implementation, change management and capability building.

By leveraging qualified AI consultants as key partners, companies can accelerate ROI, mitigate risks, and future-proof their business for AI-led transformation. The rapid growth trajectory for AI consulting indicates that demand for their specialized services will remain very strong for years to come.

Top AI Consultancy Firms 2023

Here are some of the top AI consultancy firms in 2023 with a brief description for each:

McKinsey & Company – Global management consulting firm that established McKinsey Analytics over a decade ago and continues to be a leader in AI consulting. They help clients develop AI strategies, build AI talent, and implement AI solutions across industries.

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) – Another prestigious management consulting firm with a major focus on AI consulting, especially in areas like computer vision, natural language processing, and AI strategy. BCG acquired several AI startups to expand their expertise.

Bain & Company – Global strategy consulting firm that boosted its AI consulting capabilities through their Bain AI practice formed in 2017. They have expertise across major AI applications in industries from retail to manufacturing.

Accenture – Major IT consulting firm that offers a broad range of AI consulting services including developing AI strategies, building AI solutions, and integrating AI within enterprise systems and operations. They leverage acquisitions of AI startups.

Deloitte – One of the Big 4 accounting and consulting firms, Deloitte offers AI consulting focused on AI strategy, data management, algorithm development, systems integration and monitoring AI outcomes. They aim to pair AI with their human-centered design approach.

KPMG – Another Big 4 firm with a fast-growing AI consulting practice specializing in data strategy, AI governance, explainable AI, conversational AI, computer vision, and other emerging technologies. They acquired several AI startups in recent years.

PwC – Leading accounting and professional services firm that provides AI consulting spanning AI strategy, data science, responsible AI adoption, and both building and acquiring AI capabilities. They aim to pair their technology knowledge with industry expertise.

Ernst & Young (EY) – Big 4 firm that leverages their strong IT consulting foundation to provide AI strategy, implementation, and capability building services across functions like financial services, cybersecurity, supply chain, and more.

IBM – Technology giant that offers Watson AI consulting services focused on strategy, building predictive analytics capabilities, and integrating AI within enterprise IT environments, drawing from their research and Watson platform strengths.