Working as a Principal Consultant at Public Digital

I joined Public Digital as a Principal Consultant at the start of 2023.

Principal consultants typically lead our client engagements. I have led Public Digital’s work with the Home Office, helping them to deliver change to digital products and services, without needing to launch big waterfall programmes.

I’ve been part of our team working with the Open University to develop their student support service strategy, with a particular focus on estimating the commercial opportunity of improvement in priority services. I also worked with the UK Space Agency to help them adapt their culture and ways of working so they can thrive as an efficient, effective and delivery-focused organisation. Each of these organisations has been inspiring to work with, and all of them exemplify our ambition to work on things that matter.

It has been a really rewarding experience and I’ve learned a huge amount. This blog post shares a bit more about what it’s like to work as a Public Digital consultant for those considering applying to our opportunities.

There are four main aspects to leading our engagements as a Principal Consultant, where you tend to operate in four different modes:

Account manager

Product manager

Delivery manager


That may seem like an overwhelming range, but it is helpful to think of performing each role as wearing a different ‘hat’ depending on the context and needs of the client.


Let’s explore each of them in more detail.

1. Account manager

As a Principal Consultant, you’re managing the day-to-day relationship with the client - which means facilitating regular catch-ups, reviewing issues and being the first point of contact.

Public Digital works with large, complex organisations, so understanding what our clients need is crucial. The people we work with are trying to radically change their organisations, and their efforts to embed new ways of working can be very challenging. We can only do our best work if we truly understand what our clients are trying to achieve and which obstacles need to be overcome.

I am in contact with clients on a daily basis, ensuring that our work aligns with their needs and that issues are caught early. We advise on everything from how best to communicate with a stakeholder to how to run a workshop session.

We always try to establish client relationships based on trust and openness so that we can work effectively together as a team.

2. Product manager

The Principal Consultant role is also like being a product manager: understanding underlying needs, defining a vision and prioritising activities.

At the start of an engagement, we typically work with our clients to plan activities and produce a roadmap. Even on our shorter engagements, circumstances can change and prioritisation is needed to deliver meaningful outcomes. On longer-term engagements, there is a greater emphasis on planning and (re)defining activities on a regular basis.

For example, I facilitate bimonthly half-day sessions for one of my longer-term clients to define the vision and target outcomes in the areas we’re working in. These are used to inform weekly planning sessions, where we’ll agree what to focus on as a joint team. This rhythm enables us to take quick and effective action in the areas that make the most difference.

3. Delivery manager

Being a delivery manager in the Principal Consultant role is about enabling our team to deliver value early and often.

Our people at Public Digital have different skills and experience and they come together in new teams for particular engagements. Delivering an engagement means helping our PD team members to quickly bond, understand the context and work effectively as a team. And it means helping the team reflect on and look after their health and group dynamics. As a Principal Consultant, I regularly check in with individuals, and facilitate teaming and retrospective exercises to help the team work effectively together.

Delivering an engagement also means ensuring the work happens, by removing blockers and picking up other tasks like financial tracking. On more complex engagements with larger scopes, we use kanban boards to track the flow of work. I’ll typically review these daily to identify blockers and resolve them. If obstacles aren’t disrupting the flow then I know the team is able to focus on delivering value.

4. Consultant

Finally - and most importantly - the Principal Consultant role is about being a consultant.

Our engagements take different shapes, depending on what services we are providing. I regularly facilitate workshops with clients, and advise and coach individuals. I conduct interviews and synthesise research. I write presentations and reports.

As a consultancy team we regularly come together to pool ideas on how to overcome challenges and achieve the client’s objectives. Everyone in the Public Digital team helps to move the work forwards.

Seeing our work have a positive and transformative impact on organisations is extremely rewarding.

Our culture

One of the best aspects of working at Public Digital is our positive working culture based on openness and trust.

People aren’t micromanaged and can choose a working arrangement that suits them. Everyone is given a voice, whether that’s reviewing each other’s work, considering an ethical challenge or responding to a management update. There is an underlying mutual respect, helped by the fact everyone’s so friendly!

I’ve also found Public Digital to be a great learning environment. There’s so much we can learn from each other and the diverse sectors in which we work. Regular practices like Show the Thing and weeknotes - as well as a Community of practice for Engagement Leads - means that there is always a steady source of knowledge and insight to be inspired by and to build upon.

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