Firstly, congratulations on getting this new career opportunity.
That’s a very interesting question here with no single true answer. I personally had a similar dilemma some time ago so I feel your doubts.
1) Which of the MBB firms have the strongest Digital practice?
Consulting firms have different approaches and paces when it comes to Digital. They can be categorized into four distinct competitive groups based on the way they approach it:
- Digital strategy generalists (e.g. Bain, BCG, A.T. Kearney): the capabilities of the firms in this group are skewed more toward the strategic end of the digital consulting spectrum
- Full-spectrum digital generalists (e.g. McKinsey, Deloitte Digital, EY): Firms in this competitive group approach the market primarily from a generalist perspective. Their capabilities span strategy and execution
- Full-spectrum digital specialists (e.g. Capgemini Consulting): firms in this group typically fall under one of two categories 1) boutiques focused primarily or exclusively on one particular area of the digital consulting market (e.g. digital customer strategy & experience) or 2) firms that are digital purists/providers that have dedicated themselves to being completely digital in their approach to the larger consulting market
- Digital execution generalists (e.g. Accenture): all of the firms in the digital execution generalists group have strong technology backgrounds and significant businesses in downstream IT services
When it comes to consultants working in the ‘digital divisions’ of top tier firms (but excluding the more technical staff – e.g. analytic specialists), they work on engagements with colleagues from the generalist offices and all practices within the firm, serving clients across a mix of both technology and non-technology related topics (practically there is no difference from non-digital divisions).
If you talk to ‘experts’ you will get the feeling that nowadays MBB (all 3 of them) have some delay when it comes to Digital. Most of them will agree that the ‘fun’ Digital work for a strategy/management consultant is done by the smaller digital boutiques. But this might change very quickly…
2) Is there any real difference between the MBB firms otherwise? Let's be honest, should I have a preference outside of Digital?
The differences between all 3 firms are negligible. As a matter of fact they have grown so much that they compete on all levels, no longer specialize in certain practices, and attract similar types of profiles. Apart from Digital you will have to consider your preferences in terms of approach, scope, and exit opportunities (which might also vary significantly depending on geographic location). A few differences that come to my mind:
- McK has a more top-down approach, and not very collegial culture. The organization itself is structured and formal, and everything from attitude and attire at McKinsey reflects that
- BCG puts a strong focus on innovation, teamwork and individual contributions. Because they build support bottom-up with the client they sell against McKinsey more often than Bain
- Bain is somewhere in between McK top-down approach and BCG collaborative approach. The culture at Bain, where the local office culture is strong, focuses on teamwork. In terms of recruiting, Bain often beats BCG thanks to its culture but loses to McK because of prestige
- McKinsey is the largest firm with ~9k consultants, followed by BCG with ~6k and Bain with ~3k
- They have comparable portfolios in terms of industries served but McKinsey’s technology practice is an important differentiator as neither Bain nor BCG offers anything like it. Bain is the leader in Private Equity
- McK has the most prestige, the biggest and the most active alumni network
- BCG is doing a great job with their alumni network
- Bain has some areas of improvements when it comes to organizing its network but when it comes to alumni they are the most available (because their culture is so strong)
3) How do I evaluate my current tenure with one of the firms? - I have 2 years of experience within one of the other MBB firms.
Firstly, you have proved yourself as a generalist consultant at one of the MBB. And that is very important because you have shown your potential as a consultant and that you can work across functions and industries.
From your words, you sound very happy about your current firm/experience but at the same time you feel that your aspirations on Digital are not met and that the situation won’t change anytime soon.
You have 2 great options (most of the folks here would love to be in your situation ):
- Stay: you can stay at your current firm and pray that you will be staffed on the first Digital related project sold. Chances are small because staffing is complicated and you are not in charge of selling Digital related projects. In any case, there are things you can do to increase your visibility within the firm so that everybody is aware about your aspiration (talk to partners, prepare a seminar on a Digital topic,…). This worked in my personal case. You can give your current firm another year or two and see if things get better. Worst case scenario you can get in touch with McK again (at a more senior position by then) or leave consulting and work for a tech/Digital company
- Switch to McK: accept McK offer for a very good reason (your current firm will understand) and focus on Digital. Worst case scenario, you won’t be 100% satisfied by the projects and won’t like the culture (but you will have the most prestigious MBB on your CV). If you are really not happy there, after a couple of years you can always get in touch again with your current firm (and bring back some Digital expertise) or leave consulting and work for a tech/Digital company
4) How will the potential change be looked upon?
- From inside: you have successfully proved yourself as a consultant and are now pursuing your Digital ambitions at another MBB which is particularly dedicated on that topic
- From outside: you have successfully spent 2 years at one MBB and are now moving to the most prestigious MBB
You did not mention anything aboutnat what seniority level you would get at McK so I assume you have that under control.
Apart from considering the opportunity to work on Digital projects, I recommend you to choose the one that feels the best to you personally. I truly enjoyed working at Bain but one of my colleagues did not like it and he is now very happy at McK.
Please feel free to drop me a message if you want to discuss more about my experience (I will be happy to have a chat).