Capgemini stacks the deck in its favour
In the market turmoil Capgemini is seeing an opportunity to reshape not just its businesses but the industry as a whole and stack the deck in its favour, says Mick James,’s management consultancy columnist.

Fuente:    Fecha:  26.11.2010

Capgemini stacks the deck in its favour

The UK may no longer be in recession but there’s more than enough turmoil around to keep any doom-monger happy. The consultancy industry certainly seems to be happy to treat the “two impostors” of success and failure just the same: while some firms issue profit warnings in the face of their exposure to the public sector, others, riding the upsurge in demand for financial services work, are practically reduced to fighting each other in the street for staff.

In the midst of all this hubbub, calmer voices are seeing an opportunity to reshape not just their businesses but the industry as a whole and stack the deck in their favour. I recently met up with Tom Blacksell of Capgemini, in suitably bullish move as befits the CEO on the eve of an office move from Soho to a state-of-the art office in Holborn.

“I’d love everything to settle down but we live in the world in which we live,” he says. “We can’t deny the fiscal position of UK plc and we have to be responsive to the market in which we live, we have to find ways round it.”

This includes tactical moves such as redeploying public sector specialists from the UK to Capgemini’s operations in the Middle East, but increasingly the firm is looking to exploit and expand its global position as a source of competitive advantage. The firm’s expansion strategy depends partly on a “fostering” relationship between established countries and development targets. So the UK “fosters” the Middle East, while France “fosters” China. The company is also targeting country-specific acquisitions—Blacksell says the recent acquisition of a controlling interest in Brazilian IT services company CPM Braxis has provoked a flood of enquiries from clients with interests in the region.

I’ve written in the past how multinational operations have often seemed to be more of a headache than a boon to large firms, but Blacksell believes Capgemini’s spreading tentacles give it both “defensive” and “offensive” capability.

“Take hospital transformation—there’s a lot going on in France, there’s a lot of commonality between the UK and Dutch markets,” he says. “So we’re not going to shut down acute transformation because we have a broader base to work from in terms of business development. And when the need in the UK market arrives, we will have a quicker response time because we won’t have to go out and hire an acute transformation team.”

But Blacksell’s vision goes beyond using the company’s global reach to respond tactically to changes in the market:

”We are working hard at making ourselves not just excellent but becoming standard makers,” he says. “We will achieve that through our work with customers who are standard-makers themselves, and you only need a few of those, not legions and legions.”

Blacksell gives as an example: the company’s investment in e-procurement (through the acquisition of specialist player IBX) and its combination of this new capability with its existing strength in procurement and business process outsourcing.

“We can go into a big company and take all of their sourcing organisation and do it for them,” says Blacksell. “That dovetails with BPO and the whole deal can be based on outcomes.”

He adds this has massive interest for the UK government, as it tackles the massive fragmentation in public sector procurement, for example by bringing in Arcadia’s Sir Philip Green as an adviser:

“Yes, the public sector situation is affecting us but we look at the cycle beyond the next two or three months,” he says. “If you take the Philip Green situation and the fact that the public finances are so extreme that they pull in a reasonably celebrity figure to tackle into the fray, it hits the headlines. It’s good for us because it accelerates the debate we are trying to have with multiple people in multiple departments.”

“Debate” is a word Blacksell uses a lot, particularly when considering how Capgemini can play to its strengths to move the goalposts in consulting:

“We are pushing new commercial and operating models, we are trying to move the debate away from classic risk and reward to outcome-based pricing where you only get a percentage of the outcome when the money’s in the bank, which could be months later. That’s a heavy cashflow issue and creates a different basket of risks from the usual ones in consultancy of utilisation and headcount.”

Blacksell also believes that Capgemini can use its size and global spread to win in the war for talent. The company has developed a global competency model and has revamped its core consultancy training against that model:

“In the ‘80s and ‘90s there was a lot of money paid for people who were not properly trained in an industry which is all about content,” he says. “You can’t enable a business if you’re just fighting for talent on the basis that you’ve all got the smartest people.”

Instead Capgemini is focusing on the “value-added” it delivers to staff, partly through major investments in building virtual training modules:

“We’re committed to doing the same level of face-to-face training but a course will no longer be a 2-day face-to-face session but a three month module. So the value people get from the face-to-face session is massively enhanced.”

The ability to add value to staffing this way—as well as facilitate their desire to work globally—adds to Capgemini’s “stickiness” in a world where the competition for talent is relentless. The only response, says Blacksell, is to be “remorseless” in return:

“We’re always not good enough—as soon as you get to the point of what you thought was good enough, you’re already in danger of being left behind,” he says. “If you don’t do all these things you won’t be able to attract the best people, you won’t attract the best customers and you won’t be able to serve them in a different dimension.”

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