Fuente: www.consultant-news.com Fecha: 04.08.2010
Capgemini Consulting out of the shadows
Brand is a strangely persistent thing in the consultancy world: even though the last few years have seem remarkable changes in the composition of most of the big firms, perceptions have been slow to catch up. Partly, I blame my own profession for this: we still like to talk about “Big Four” consultancy although there has long ceased to be any clear agreement about which firms comprise the “Big Four” in any context outside accountancy or even how many of them there are. And we like to be able to characterise a firm in one or two words: “systems integrator”; “outsourcing giant”; if only so that we can get on with our sentences.
These thoughts were in my mind when I went to see Capgemini, a company occasionally described in the press as a “global consulting, technology and outsourcing services firm” when they can be bothered to get it right— bit more often glossed as “computer services company”, “technology consultancy company” or—and I bet Capgemini loves this—“French IT services group”.
It’s curious because Capgemini’s consulting heritage is at least as deep as its IT roots. When it acquired Ernst & Young’s consultancy business at the beginning of the century it already had a strong consultancy brand and there’s plenty of other DNA in there, including British Coal’ operational research group. So I was fascinate to learn from Tom Blacksell, the UK head of Capgemini Consulting, about the journey which has led the consultancy group to become more of an independent management consulting entity than ever before.
The tale goes back four years when Capgemini decided to separate its outsourcing operations as a distinct global business. That left a global technology and consulting business that was very much comparable to (and often bracketed with) Accenture and IBM, but as Blacksell explains, the intention was to isolate global consulting as a standalone global business within the group.
“We separated out consultancy and technology, and now consultancy is run as a standalone global business within the group,” he says.
This is not, he stresses, merely a matter of rearranging chairs, but has affected the whole shape of Capgemini’s consulting business:
“We still do a proportion of work which is integrated, about 20 or 30 per cent of the total,” says Blacksell. “The rest is management consultancy that we sell and provide ourselves.”
Although the consulting group works with other areas of the group, “pull-through” of outsourcing or IT work is not a target or a KPI for consultancy—which, says Blacksell, makes it easier to “have the people we want”:
“Our motivation was not to be separate from technology and outsourcing, we are proud of the integrated work that we do,” he says. “But you can’t develop best-in-class businesses unless you focus those businesses on what they primarily do: if you have management consultancy that’s shackled to other bits of the business then that’s difficult to do.”
In fact, Blacksell would argue, Capgemini’s “classic management consultancy” is now bigger in purely consulting terms than the Ernst & Young business acquired in 2000.
“That was about 800 to a thousand people, but two of the bigger groups were involved in “package-based reengineering,” says Blacksell. “As we stand now we don’t have those groups in consultancy, instead we have Oracle and SAP change management people who concentrate on processes and how you effect change while implementing a system.”
Built around a brand positioning of “making delivery happen,” Capgemini Consulting is now a group of 600 consultants focused on strategy and operational transformation.
“We don’t take on McKinsey and sell strategy in its own right,” says Blacksell. “We take them on where we blend our sector groups with strategy—and win.”
This is coupled with a direct approach to market based on senior talent—Blacksell has recently brought in 25 partner-level hires “fresh from the market.” He believes this will give him the edge over consultancies that are more reliant on up- or cross-selling, “whose fundamental proposition as a business consultant is to farm off an existing relationship.”
“The way you sell in consultancy is to have a credible partner or vice-president team,” he says. “That’s how consultancy gets sold.”
Backing up these senior hires is a return to a constant drumbeat of graduate recruitment, not in vast numbers but at a steady intake of between 50 and 80 a year.
“We have to have it,” says Blacksell: “A consultancy business is static and moribund if it doesn’t have a graduate programme.”
The firm has put a lot of investment into a curriculum and competency model, which sees entrants going through a two-year programme before “graduating out” into the main business.
Last year, with growth of 10% Capgemini outstripped the market and although Blacksell anticipates a decline in public sector spending this year, the firm has already anticipate this by rebalancing its portfolio towards growth areas in the private sector.
That the firm was able to do that Blacksell puts down to a “thin sector model.”
“A quarter of my people sit in sector groups, while the others sit in capability groups,” he says. “Those people have mixed CVs in the public and private sector but will then specialise in, for example, shared services or HR, so when the need comes to switch them, you can.”
This, he says is one of the advantages of “being big:”
“You can be responsive to the market,” he says, citing the group’s Lean practice. “That practice didn’t exist three years ago, but customers were saying if you want to work with us, we need lean-specific skills. So we did the business case. Did market testing—you can’t just ‘respray’ people.”
“Being big” also means that Capgemini can offer value-based consulting.
“You can measure the value you put in, you can put your money where your mouth is,” says Blacksell.
Different companies, of course, operate different business models and all have their advantages and disadvantages. I think it’s always a worry if consultancy stands too much in the shadow of other parts of a business, so it’s good to see the emergence of such a consulting entity within a global brand.
All views expressed in this article are those of Mick James and do not necessarily reflect the views of Top-Consultant.com and Consultant-News.com.
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