Management consulting is the process of helping companies to improve or transform themselves. This may involve the identification and cross-fertilization of best practices, analytical techniques, change management and coaching skills, technology implementations, strategy development or even the simple advantage of an outsider's perspective. They generally bring formal frameworks or methodologies to identify problems or suggest more effective or efficient ways of performing business tasks.
Management consulting grew with the rise of Management as a unique profession. In the US, management consulting was often an outgrowth of the accounting profession. During the course of an audit, the accountant would find a business problem and propose the solution. During the latter half of the twentieth century, as business problems and audits both became more complex, the large auditing firms segregated their audit and consulting arms into separate business units. Management consulting bloomed during the era of reengineering and ERP implementations. In the early twenty-first century, a series of accounting scandals and allegations of a loss of independence drove US regulators to insist on the formal separation of audit and consulting service providers. No longer could an auditor propose to fix a problem which he/she found.
Management consulting is the butt of many business-related jokes. Management consultants are often criticized for overuse of buzzwords, reliance on management fads and an emphasis on form over function. On the other hand, successful management consulting engagements bring resources and/or expertise which the company's internal management team did not have in order to create real changes in the way the company runs its business.