It felt like deja vu all over again. My colleague Brian Sommer invited me to join a couple of other analysts, Katherine Jones and Tom Ryan to be part of a market intelligence and strategy workshop for the consulting/advisory side of Baker Tilly, one of the largest accounting/advisory firms in the world.
Brian did plenty such sessions for Arthur Andersen/Accenture and its clients when he was a partner there in the 80s and 90s, and I did the same while at Price Waterhouse, then Gartner.
But the world has moved on and the two intense days we spent were a forceful reminder of how much it has changed. Brian, Katherine and Tom had done a similar session last year and they were commenting on how far BT itself has evolved in just a short few months.
Bryan Majewski, the lead BT partner, deserves plenty of credit for:
a) inviting not just his consultants but also many of his HR, marketing, alliance, quality management and audit colleagues to the session. It was a large investment which highlighted the seriousness of the firm’s commitment.
b) allowing for a very broad agenda as I describe below
While there were many breakouts and group exercises and side conversations, broadly there were 5 themes, admirably quarterbacked by Brian with his usual flair
- The SaaS/cloud marketplace – cameos and updates on many software vendors BT has alliances in place with and many others for them to consider
- Opportunities in a much wider set of mobile, social, green and other innovation marketplaces. I was impressed with the broad range of consultants I met and am looking forward to profiling some of the people I met/clients I heard about in my next book on innovation. A sign of the out-of-the-box sessions - Tom demoed an “in-beta” gadget for the hospitality industry which brings together sensory and cloud computing.
- The changing world of vendor alliances and ecosystems. Katherine did a fine job mimicking Miss Manners in one of the sessions as the group role played profiles and personalities of many of the technology executives they will be dealing with.
- The scary new world of elevator pitches and tweets in a world of social messaging
- The competitive services landscape – again we covered a very swath of service providers BT is likely to run into – or should at least be aware of
Over and over during the sessions I heard the words “small teams” and “management consultants not just package implementers” as BT differentiators. While that may sound like an oxymoron, a comment Bryan made to the group was telling “We have to continually watch for the risk of reverting to our legacy mindsets”. Many of the consultants come with careers in Big 4 consulting firms and mega-projects.
I am less worried about that. This advisory practice is still young and not addicted to multi-billion dollar SAP practices or to milking data centers which were designed to withstand Cold War era missile strikes. There is no “innovators dilemma” holding them back
In one of the last group exercises, a team which was asked to develop a plan on how they would best allocate $ 100 million towards acquisitions or other investments told the group they could only justify spending $ 26 million at this juncture.
I left feeling good these folks would spend their clients’ money as if it was their own. And that they would nudge their clients to also think more strategically than just becoming cloud-compliant.
Much obliged to both Bryan and Brian for inviting me to participate in the invigorating session.