Old reliable has done it again. While many other IT services companies flopped in 2000, Accenture—the consultancy formerly known as Andersen Consulting—returned to its accustomed double-digit growth rate.
The company recently reported annual revenue of $10.3 billion, which represents a 10 percent increase over 1999 sales and a 14 percent boost if one excludes the impact of currency translations. Accentures current growth pace may not be as impressive as the 20 percent-plus expansion of boom-years past, but against the backdrop of the companys subpar performance in 1999 (8 percent growth) and the continuing dot-com consulting debacle, the companys 2000 numbers look better by the minute.
"They never took their eyes off business development," says Rauline Ochs, VP of worldwide partner initiatives at BEA Systems. "My hat is off to these people."
BEA linked up with Accenture last summer and has since expanded its alliance with the company. In teaming with Accenture, BEA pursues deals—both localized projects and repeatable solutions—with global scope. Ochs says BEA has teamed with Accentures media and entertainment vertical practice in Southern California. In addition, BEA collaborates with Accentures EasyTax solution, an online system for tax payment and tracking first developed for Ireland and subsequently installed in Washington, D.C., among other government customers.
Other product vendors have come to the conclusion that big—and stable—is beautiful. Vignette, for example, has made Accenture one of its top partners as it focuses on building relationships with "global systems integrators." Other Accenture allies include BroadVision, Commerce One and Nokia.
Nearly all of Accentures partners cite the consultancys vertical-market emphasis as a huge plus. Accentures 2000 revenue report sheds some light on where the vertical-market action is.
Accentures products division (consumer goods, automotive, pharmaceutical) led the company with a 21 percent growth rate. Communications and high tech expanded 18 percent, while financial services and government grew more modestly at 3 percent each. Accentures resources (energy and utilities) global market unit, however, was flat.
While fundamentally strong, Accentures execution is not flawless. The company, for example, opened a batch of "Dot-com Launch Centres" in the height of the Web craze. Accenture has since relabeled those facilities "Business Launch Centres." Another issue is timing of the companys much-anticipated initial public offering. Under current market conditions, it is uncertain when the big event will happen.
Corporate image is still another concern. Accenture faces the task of rebranding a company known for a decade as Andersen Consulting and dispelling any lingering impressions that the company is associated with accounting firm Arthur Andersen. Accenture formally broke free of its accounting ties last year following a bitter arbitration case.
To help establish its new name, Accenture has committed $175 million to an advertising campaign.
But as it addresses external considerations, Accenture hasnt neglected its internal processes. The company has invested in Novients service-process optimization software, which professional-services firms implement to boost utilization rates and better manage engagements. Halsey Wise, Novients CEO, says the Ac-centure deal, which covers 70,000-plus Accenture consultants, is the largest software sale of its kind.
The industrys fortunes change, but some things endure. Accenture is still big. Its still vertically oriented. Its still a technology consultancy—one thats about to launch an IPO. Its still a trifle arrogant (requests for information for this profile went unanswered). The only thing its not is Andersen.