July 15, 2024

Advancing Business Excellence

Pioneering Corporate Success

How BCG Is Revolutionizing Consulting With AI: A Case Study

In a world where AI is transforming every sector, companies are constantly seeking ways to gain a competitive edge. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is leading the charge by embracing artificial intelligence (AI), particularly generative AI, to revolutionize its internal operations and consulting services. Let’s delve into how BCG is leveraging AI to transform its business processes and the consulting industry as a whole.

The Strategic Importance Of AI At BCG

AI is not just a buzzword at BCG; it is a fundamental element of their strategy. Vlad Lukic, Managing Director and Senior Partner at BCG, emphasizes the significance of AI, stating, “It gets into the crux of our business, right? And it’s going to be fundamental to the toolkit and skills that we need to have.” AI serves as an assistant, enabling BCG consultants to operate at unprecedented speeds, thus allowing them to generate insights faster and drive impactful results for their clients.

Real-World Applications Of AI At BCG

1. Interview Processing and Analysis:

Lukic recalls his summer internship, where he had to interview 30 engineers about materials science over three days, transcribe the conversations, distill the insights, and create slides. This labor-intensive process took two weeks. In contrast, a recent consultant used BCG’s enterprise GPT to perform a similar task. “On the third day, he had slides and insights ready to go,” Lukic marvels. The AI tool transcribed interviews, highlighted key themes, and generated draft presentations in minutes, reducing a two-week process to two or three days.

2. Gene: BCG’s Innovative Conversational AI:

Another striking example of AI’s impact at BCG is the development of Gene, a conversational AI designed to engage with humans and create audio experiences. Originally conceived as a co-host for BCG’s “Imagine This” podcast about the future, Gene has evolved into a versatile tool for client engagement and content creation.

Paul Michelman, editor-in-chief at BCG, explains, “Gene was born for a specific job, really one job, and its original training was to be a co-host of a podcast.” However, the potential of Gene quickly became apparent, and its applications have expanded. Gene now appears at live events with clients and other audiences, engaging in conversations about the future of AI and thought leadership.

Enterprise GPT: A Game Changer

BCG’s enterprise GPT is a cornerstone of their AI strategy. Rolled out to every employee, this tool ensures all data remains within BCG’s control. Consultants can also build their own GPTs for specific engagements, fostering innovation and efficiency. Over 3,000 GPTs have been created, addressing tasks from document summarization to administrative functions. Lukic highlights its impact on productivity, noting, “It’s really helping us move to a different level of speed.”

Evolving Roles And Skills In The AI Era

With AI taking over routine tasks, the role of consultants is evolving. Lukic underscores the need for purposeful toil and sanity checks to ensure junior consultants develop essential skills. He explains, “We are forcing some of those conversations with our team members, so that we can build their skills along the way.” This includes teaching consultants how to engage with AI tools effectively, ensuring they can provide accurate and reliable insights.

The development of Gene has also prompted new considerations in AI deployment. Bill Moore from BCG Design Studios, who created Gene, explains the challenges in balancing autonomy and control: “We adjust, we work with the temperature to keep that sort of fine-tuned and we’ll drop it down to zero if we need really accurate responses.”

Measuring The Impact Of AI

BCG conducted a scientific experiment involving 750 employees to measure the impact of generative AI on performance and efficiency. The results were compelling. For straightforward tasks, productivity increased by 30-40% for new hires and 20-30% for experienced consultants. However, for complex tasks, productivity sometimes decreased due to the challenges of debugging AI-generated outputs. This experiment highlighted the importance of understanding where AI can be most effective and implementing proper guardrails to ensure accuracy.

Insights From BCG’s GenAI Experiment

BCG’s broader research into generative AI reveals significant insights into its value and potential pitfalls. The study found that around 90% of participants improved their performance when using GenAI for creative ideation. However, when applied to business problem-solving—a task outside the tool’s current competence—many participants trusted misleading outputs, resulting in a 23% decline in performance compared to those who didn’t use the tool. This underscores the necessity of proper training and understanding the limitations of AI tools.

Ensuring Accuracy And Mitigating Risks

To mitigate risks associated with AI, BCG has implemented several guardrails. Human experts review AI-generated insights, and workflows are designed to ensure continuous oversight. Additionally, BCG fine-tunes their models based on usage and feedback, reducing the likelihood of errors.

In the case of Gene, transparency and ethical considerations are paramount. Paul Michelman emphasizes, “We think it’s very important… to be fully clear when we’re using technology. And two, to really avoid anthropomorphizing.” This approach extends to Gene’s voice, which is intentionally androgynous and slightly robotic to clearly differentiate it from a human.

Governance And Strategic Implementation Of AI

BCG employs a dual approach to AI implementation. While top-down initiatives identify key workflows that can benefit from AI, grassroots innovation is also encouraged. A senior task force focuses on internal support functions and consulting cohorts, identifying where AI can eliminate bottlenecks and enhance productivity.

The Future Of Consulting In The AI Era

Looking ahead, AI is poised to reshape the consulting industry. Lukic predicts that within a decade, 50% of current tasks will be automated through AI, allowing consultants to focus more on change management and driving adoption within client organizations.

Bill Moore envisions a future where conversational interfaces like Gene become a new layer of interaction with technology, potentially revolutionizing accessibility and user experience.

Strategies For Successful AI Adoption

For CEOs considering AI adoption, Lukic offers two key pieces of advice. First, don’t wait. Start addressing frictions and building the necessary governance structures now. Second, engage the organization. Avoid outsourcing AI implementation entirely and instead, focus on building internal capabilities.

Transforming Consulting With AI

BCG’s strategic application of AI, particularly generative AI and conversational AI like Gene, showcases how embracing technology can revolutionize internal processes and enhance client service. By leveraging AI tools like enterprise GPT and Gene, BCG is boosting productivity, fostering innovation, and preparing its workforce for the future. As AI continues to evolve, BCG’s proactive approach provides a valuable blueprint for other organizations aiming to harness the power of AI in their own operations.