Look Whos on the Catwalk

Don't tell e-business product vendors that the Big Five consulting firms are hopelessly out-of-date.

Dont tell e-business product vendors that the Big Five consulting firms are hopelessly out-of-date.

A number of vendors are increasingly boosting their business with old-line consultancies, which became less than fashionable during the rise of the Web integrators. Vignette Corp., a maker of e-business apps, is among them. "Our strategy moving forward in 2001 is to get laser-focused on the larger, more strategic global systems integrators," says Mike Gerentine,VP of partner marketing at Vignette. Companies with Big Five backgrounds take two of the three slots in Vignettes top partnering tier: Accenture and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The third is an established integration stalwart: IBM Global Services.

The story is much the same at e-commerce platform vendor Art Technology Group. Jeet Singh, CEO of ATG, says he has seen his companys business with traditional integrators soar in recent months. "The Big Five really dominate the amount of revenue we see," says Singh.

In addition to the Big Five, ATG also does business with the likes of Computer Sciences Corp., Electronic Data Systems Corp. and IBM Global Services.

Why are the Big Five suddenly back in vogue? For one, they are entrenched in the Fortune 2000 accounts that product vendors want to reach. Enterprise customers have maintained "long-standing relationships with the Big Five," says Gerentine. He cites the Big Fives vertical market emphasis as another plus and one that dovetails with Vignettes evolving business strategy. As Vignette moves toward a vertical sales model, the company will pursue deeper ties to the Big Five practices in such markets as financial services, high tech, publishing and retail.

Head count is another plus when it comes to doing business with the Big Five. Singh says that since late 1999, when IT resources became especially scarce, customers started handing more work to the better-staffed integrators. Hence, ATG has sold more of its products through traditional integrators. "The sheer amount of bodies translates into the number of projects they can do and the amount of product ATG can sell," Singh says.

Deloitte Consulting, for example, plans to train as many as 300 consultants on ATGs products. Accenture plans to train 500 staffers on its wares, while PricewaterhouseCoopers may train 200 to 300 employees.

Yet vendors have not dismissed Web integrators from the partnering mix. "Our research indicates the majority of firms rely on multiple consultants to drive their e-business development and implementation," says Anne Smith, VP of consulting and systems integrators at IBM. "Smart firms are leveraging the benefits of the big consulting firms business experience and vertical industry expertise along with the creative agility of born on the Net Web integrators.

Looks like "Big" is beautiful again.