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What's Accenture? (2020) (retool.com)
282 points by kgggvin 15 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 252 comments

Accenture is primarily a PowerPoint consulting firm. Many companies around the world desperately need PowerPoints from external consultancies to help them plan out their innovation roadmaps, apparently. They pay a huge premium for expensive local consultants to create these PowerPoints, because Accenture uses big, bold colorful fonts in their presentations, and Accenture's clients simply don't have the necessary expertise to use these fonts.

Also, occasionally, there is some actual dev/implementation work that accompanies the PowerPoints. This work is carried out, poorly, by offshore resources who are certified in as many certifications as possible. Certifications are extremely important for them, because otherwise, when these resources are on the bench, they'd have nothing else to do.

Oh, also, Blockchain. And AI. These are important concepts for Accenture, and it's totally okay if clients pay millions of dollars for blockchain/AI solutions that massively disappoint, because innovation.

Source: worked at a subsidiary of ACN for a few years, interacted with the ACN folks quite a bit, and while my description above is obviously snarky/sarcastic, it surprisingly isn't really that far from the truth.

In summation, I have absolutely no idea why Accenture is worth $140B.

It's always funny to see Silly Valley people that think they are so cool while working on yet another app that show ads.

Meanwhile at Accenture, I just delivered again another successful project with a real impact. When a very large organization across different regions were struggling to produce schedules for thousand workers with different skill sets, different union rules, night and day shifts, they came to see us. Now, everything is automated and the client saves months of work.

I sleep better at night knowing that I helped those workers now get access to their scheduled weeks in advance through a portal instead of having surprise night shifts thrown at them. Maybe I should make another app that track people online?

I can't really say if you're sarcastic or not, but the GP is spot on even if snarky.

I've worked for Accenture (for way too long) and they can be characterised by a single statement that they make to the client when all is said and done and the client complains about the steaming pile of shite that was delivered:

"But in this signed contract here, there is no requirement that says our software should work".

Come on, every serious software engineer knows they are full of it.

Like if an organization with >500 000 employees across the world is the same everywhere. You might have been working with incompetent people, but it's not my case. Successful projects are delivery every day.

My worst experiences always come from working with Americans and I don't come to the conclusion that all Americans are incompetent.

So you are not hiding behind contracts if something is obviously wrong? Because that is the statement that is being made here. Has nothing to do with ads or nationality.

All we know about accenture around here (which is not the USA) is that they are good at covering their ass and the actual users of the stuff they produce are never happy.

That's one of the problems with Accenture and consultancy companies as a whole; they will build it, but they will never own or run it. The team(s) assigned to a project will learn just about enough about the domain to be able to fulfill the contract, but they won't be around ten years later to see how it panned out (if they're around three years later that's already an achievement).

Source: I used to work for a consultancy company. Might do so again, the work is more diverse and the pay and perks are much better than 'regular' companies.

And the worst part is that you can have a massive project and have it measured as a success but the users are still having a bad day every time they have to use the result of the project.

It doesn't matter a whole lot if the contract was successful or the managers got their bonus for on-time delivery or the budget forecasts were correct, a crap product is a crap product.

It's such a ridiculously large organization that I think broad generalizations are going to necessarily fall short - I also have the general impression that Accenture is highly proficient at burning money but there've got to be a number of good departments and teams buried somewhere in there.

And I've worked on things that have far greater consequences then a scheduling app and have had to fix all the terrible problems caused by the over engineered over "solutioned" sales driven development done by Accenture and Booz and all the others. All while fighting off the ivory tower FUD their sales consultants are pushing at the executive level. There are some good people and engineers on an individual level at the consultant shops, but the corporate culture is nauseating.

How much $$$ could you have made developing this solution without the middleman (Accenture), how much did they bill the client, and how much of what they billed the client did they pay you for your work?

Why not go straight to the source and sell your services for the full amount they billed as a consultant?

This is HN after all, get that money you deserve or use that idea for a new start-up to solve client problems at scale

Do you mind elaborating on this? Are you assuming that the client has the know-how to be able to choose the right resource to execute on the project (if the project scope has actually been defined)?

No that the developer is now privy to what is being paid top dollar for in his industry can now go solve that problem via a start up and get acquired by legacy enterprise companies and make a modest exit instead of being exploited by a middleman consulting gig company.

I have seen or heard of lesser known multimillion dollar exits for small features you take for granted, but were learned from old enterprise companies that didn’t know what features would be valuable to develop e.g. fintech startup was just a developer at old banking company, invented ‘locking’ a credit card by knowing how their system is coded, got acquired by said banking company for the technology and never has to work again.

Make them pay for your talent if you can learn to sell and solve business problems for clients.

Are you guys hiring? Can I send you my resume?

Accenture is always hiring. Go to their careers page.

You are spot on with "work carried out poorly by offshore resources". My current company made a business model from taking over projects that Accenture screwed up, and doing them properly. And boy, there is no shortage of such projects :)

Anecdotal, and I avoid judging the merits of any company based on a single employee, but the only Accenture staff I know lives here in SE Asia and she's offshore labour. When I've talked to her, I found it interesting that she had great difficulty explaining what she does at Accenture. What I gather is that it does indeed involve a lot of PowerPoint slides, Excel spreadsheets, scheduling apps, and mostly "workflow" type productivity. I've never been able to find out if they actually make anything, but I suspect not.

It honestly sounds like a lot of busywork and pretending to be busy.

I was once in a bi-weekly sprint demo meeting (whole department). The team of consultants that were actually relocated to my country from India to keep a closer eye on them (iirc it was Infosys?) showed their work, and... it was a powerpoint presentation with a single slide with a single bullet point saying they think they found the source of a bug and will work on it next sprint.

If only you could get the projects _prior_ to Accenture screwing them up. Just eliminate the middleman, yaknow?

The reason Accenture is as successful as they are is because they have a top-notch sales engine. But it’s well known they’re just as full of BS as the big 4 consulting firms, except the big 4 have some niches that they’re really good in. As far as I can tell, Accenture is a consulting sales engine with an offshore body shop attached.

That is literally their purpose. Don't want to go through the hassle of offshoring your entire IT / enginering or other division, and will be gone before the inevitable rot and overages kick in? Accenture will happily do that for you, and figure out how to abuse the H1b program enough to fill as many bodies with offshore people in your onshore location as you need to justify your realestate purchase.

I genuinely think accenture might be one of the most powerful companies in the world, just because of how many entire departments of so many major internaional corporations actually report to accenture management, not the parent company.

Accenture is just the one where the “white face” runs the show so they can charge higher bill rates. Companies HQed in India (TCS, Wipro, etc) just hire white people to talk to senior leaders (which is so common I have literally been called the “white face” multiple times as a Caucasian person delivering consulting services to enterprise IT orgs despite working for a company that only staffs on-shore).

Yeah, exactly. I was in that role, though it took me a few months to figure out that that's really what it was.

Do you have any insight into how their sales engine works? I'm curious because it's a shame that projects go to companies like Accenture when are so many qualified teams out there.

(A) Existing relation with customer (including pre-negotiated MLA that legal signed off on, and ranch rates) & (B) safety of a big company (if project fails, legal can threaten and Accenture will throw bodies at it to mostly-finish).

Anyone who has never worked at a large enterprise probably doesn't understand how time consuming and annoying getting a new legal signoff can be.

I've worked at both consulting companies and customers hiring and using consultants.

When consulting is successful, it's usually because the client knows when they want built.

When consulting is a failure, it's usually because the client is too incompetent to even clearly identify their own needs.

And if the client, who by definition possesses the most detailed knowledge of the requirements, doesn't know what they need then the entire enterprise is doomed to failure.

> And if the client, who by definition possesses the most detailed knowledge of the requirements, doesn't know what they need then the entire enterprise is doomed to failure.

And the consultants get paid either way. I have done some real awful projects in my day, though the worst had to be a year-long product development effort as part of a JV. It became clear about 2 weeks in that the companies’ interest in the product were directly contradictory, and that the entire point of the JV was to get regulatory approval of a multi-billion dollar asset sale under the guise of a JV. The product development was just cover, and the client was all too happy to throw tens of millions of dollars at it to say “hey look, we tried to develop a product and it just didn’t work” since it was a fraction of a percent of the entire deal value.

It's impossible, there are layers and layers of management that need to see Accenture fails before trying a more rational alternative.

I'm not sure why, but we have consultants explaining us how an if/else business workflow is in fact an "AI robot employee" that we even need to give a human name to, before we switch to normal/cheaper if/else-enabled languages, once it fails to do if/else properly.

> I'm not sure why, but we have consultants explaining us how an if/else business workflow is in fact an "AI robot employee" that we even need to give a human name to, before we switch to normal/cheaper if/else-enabled languages, once it fails to do if/else properly.

I will explain.


At least they don't have to put any effort into setting customer expectations :D.

This is what Accenture is very good at - selling into large orgs.

That would involve attracting good developers though. Few companies manage to do that, especially if the job involves integrating ERP systems.

As ex-Accenture, I can totally believe you. I was once on a project where a guy took more than a month to deliver a codebase that was negative in value - we spent more dev time untangling and cleaning up the utter cr*p that he produced than it would have taken to scrap the whole thing and rewrite it from scratch.

> In summation, I have absolutely no idea why Accenture is worth $140B.

I'll tell you - because there are no alternatives.

If you're a non-tech company (or the government), there is simply no way to hire the number of people needed for a large project. It's very, very difficult (if you aren't a software company) to build a team that's any better than what a consulting company will assemble for you. And besides, you might need them all only for a few years.

That leaves the company (or govt) dependant on an IT services vendor. Now why Accenture? Scale. If you're the government (or Coca Cola), you can't risk going to a vendor who has a 1000 employees. There would just not be enough depth if something goes wrong, and they'll lack mature Business Continuity processes. That leaves you with big IT vendors with global prescence.

Now, you could take a chance with a smaller vendor. But if anything went wrong, you're going to get fired for it. With Accenture, you are less likely to.

> I'll tell you - because there are no alternatives.

How about other more legit consulting firms like exponent (https://www.exponent.com/)?

For a company with 1000 people, if even 100 of them are great engineers, they could easily complete any project Coca Cola would want in reasonable time.

> if even 100 of them are great engineers

What GP is getting at is that it's a big 'if'. How would you know? Every vendor under the sun is going to promise the world to you, how do vet them?

I've never worked in any dev shop with a 100 engineers, let alone great ones; the actual amount of decent engineers is very small.

In a lot of cases they don’t just complete projects. They run entire departments.

> It's very, very difficult (if you aren't a software company) to build a team that's any better than what a consulting company will assemble for you.

And it takes a cultural shift (and a significant premium over what FAANG is offering) to attract the required talent.

An amusing description. As an ex Accenture person, I would say that the company develops and implements tons of critical business systems for its customers. One reason Accenture used to get a lot of flak from the tech side of any of their customers, is that they were traditionally close to the business users and execs in the customer organization. That gave them sufficient insurance in the event of failed projects unless these ended up in court.

But they are a relatively innovative co who have outlived peers and pioneers like GEISCO, EDS and the like, who were not innovative at all. For example, some time or the other in their lives, they depended on a captive set of clients and then the rot set in.

Today, Accenture is indistinguishable from Tata, Infosys and other successful outsourcers. Now you no longer find truckloads of Accenture partners and partner wannabes in tailgate parties e.g., when the Buckeyes visit Ann Arbor.

The staffing mix has changed considerably. The ACN offices in and around the Great Lakes region do not confine their recruitment to Michigan, Michigan State, OSU or Case Western. There are more there now who are alumni of Bangalore and Mumbai universities.

So you saw a project that was on time, on budget, and viewed as a success by the client (not spun to be a success, but actually unreservedly a success)? Because I never have from projects driven by consultants, and while the plural of anecdote is not data, I literally have never seen anyone speak of outside consultants delivering except from very boutique consultancies.

The nature of almost all complex projects, whether in house or out are that they are under scoped to get approval and then run over budget and over time to get additional resources.

FWIW yes, I have both seen and worked on projects that were delivered on time, on budget, and were considered a success, but those metrics are hardly an indicator of anything useful.

Estimation isn't an exact science, and estimating exactly on target for a major project with a big team is about as hard as it gets.

I've seen plenty of in house projects of reasonable size and scope succeed (on time, on budget, users happy). I've yet to see comparably sized projects by consultancies succeed.

Honestly, the -only- projects I've worked on that haven't succeeded, on time, on budget, involved consultancies. I'm not saying that's necessarily the consultancies' fault, but there are perverse incentives in place, on both sides, and that favors a lot of upfront design work and CYA, rather than agility, responsibility, and responding to new information.

Accomplishing hard things internally is one problem: accomplishing the hard thing.

Doing the same as a consultant is two problems: (1) doing the hard thing & (2) finding the right internal people & getting necessary information out of them.

Consultants are better at (1) than internal teams, more often than not. (Excluding modern tech companies)

I have yet to be convinced that anyone is good enough at (2), that a more successful plan isn't avoiding it altogether

I hear you, and agree with you, except I've worked at multiple non-tech companies that still had better people than the consultants that were brought in.

I worked for a tools company and we were the ones pointing out that the consultant's solution, intended to be a consumer application exposed to the world, was not written to actually have multiple nodes for any sort of scale up or fail-over. When they added that, we were the ones that pointed out it fell over at 10 RPS and didn't recover without human intervention. Etc.

I think you're maybe explicitly thinking of internal IT groups, rather than internal software groups, and I would agree with that, because, again, misaligned incentives. IT is all about preventing change; you don't want to risk breaking key services, and so you try and ensure that every interest has a representative and that change only happens when all of them sign off on it. That is a very slow and very flawed way to create -new- things of value, and because of that, deferring all of that to a different entity makes a lot of sense. Just, that different entity can be an internal software group more efficiently than an external one, I've found.

By that definition, many places don't have internal software teams.

Yep. Show me an org with a software group that is a part of IT, subject to IT bureaucracy, and I'll show you a software group that delivers software no one wants once a quarter (or something equally as ludicrous).

Maybe a 'one true Scotsman' argument, but every 'software group' that was a part of IT that I've seen might as well be called the 'personal project group', because they spent more time working on those than they did making progress in that environment.

I think of it as people-inertia too.

If IT sucks for people who want to change things and roll out new and exciting products, most of those people will... not work in IT.

Consequently, when you're soliciting ideas from your team, there aren't any of those people to speak up.

And if no one asks "Why are we doing this?" or "What if we did this differently?", then it's much easier to pretend another way doesn't exist.

Right, and the aggregate affect it has on individuals, and that creation of a feedback loop, is useful to understand for why the culture won't change. I'm just listing out how the initial expectations and organizational incentives in IT tend to run counter to what is needed in software. IT you don't -want- agility, and so you purposely structure your org to make change as difficult as possible. Software development that gets structured that way tends to be developed very, very slowly, and with no real user feedback. IT basically mandates waterfall approaches, decision by committee, and dilution of responsibility.

I'd also add doing not only the hard thing, but also the non-sexy thing.

In house there's less incentive to underbid and overpromise

I wrote something along these lines here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23868839 (I quote below). Accenture tends to secure projects that are a little bit hand wavy in terms of requirements, because, as others have said, they are very close to the executives and are able to cater to what they expect. The comment:

> If you gave out a time and materials contract without clear acceptance criteria, testing requirements, and verification / support / warranty detailed, you probably shouldn’t be handling 100 million dollar budgets. This is the money quote.

Big 4 companies (Deloitte, PwC, EY, KPMG) are historically accounting auditing companies. And their culture is heavily skewed towards billing their employees to clients per hour/day, or per unit of service, as auditors and lawyers have been doing for more than a century. It is not in their DNA to "create products" but to "render services"; that is, to sell employees availability. Boundaries and scope of those traditional services are typically clearer than building a new unknown program from scratch.

If you are hiring these firms for exploration of how do you work, how you should work, and a complete functioning system that sustains a big number of new processes that are not yet defined, you are in for a big bill; you better be sure that you have put on the time to think about what you are buying in written form. When you see big failed projects like those the problem lies in that no one stopped to research the complexity of the ask before entering into a contract.

Even then, these consultancies normally are very flexible when a contract is actively harming the client, and the client wishes to change it / stop it (it would not be good for the business to do otherwise, because you want to see more after this contract is finished). When these costs go out of control is because internal politics in the client impede the rational decisions of killing projects, changing command, etc., and the sponsor keeps feeding money into the project to save their ass.

Source: worked in big 4 for years.

Check out this post by Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz fame on the topic, where he advocates for hiring consultancies https://sparktoro.com/blog/why-you-should-hire-agencies-cons...

To be fair, I think your point about "except for very boutique consultancies" may apply to his recommendation. I can't imagine him advocating for an Accenture or similar, instead the message is bring on expertise for specific initiatives as needed.


That is savage.

And disturbingly accurate, as once you strip away the admittedly really quite nice typography from Accenture documents like this, you are left with just absolute pablum.


(Edit: Wow, they apparently used the phrase “Thought Leadership” in this file name without irony.)

I've always wondered what type of person it takes to create a presentation like that. Do they actually believe in the things they are putting on the slides, or do they know this is all BS but they're willing to do such soulless work for whatever they're getting paid to do so?

I once heard a salesguy say the following statement: "One of our customers accused me of selling them shit. But all we have is shit, so what do you expect?"

There's usually entire teams involved in preparing these sorts of decks - from content researchers via subject matter experts to designers. So not a single person needs to believe in it all at once.

I think a far better question is: Does whoever is paying for these decks to be prepared believe in them? These decks aren't (always) built for internal use.

>hey intern, here's the topic, here's some buzzwords, here's the word and slide count, you have 3 hours

Some of these are real howlers.

“Broadband and 5G will be life-essential for most”

Well no shit, Sherlock.

>COVID-19:5 new human truths that experiences need to address >How organizations should respond to the never normal

This reads like those AI-generated documents.

A Markov Chain, but for bullshit.

Speaking as a consultant, these are terrible slides.

It's the economy of C players, AKA the Enterprise. There are hordes of bureaucrats spending other peoples money with reckless abandon.

I once worked at a firm not unlike Accenture - essentially management consulting - and was on a project that ended up being a frontend reskin of a Fortune 500 company website.

But at the project inception I was asked to scope the project and no one, either on our side, or the client side knew what the scope was. So I put line items in with pretty large time estimations as placeholders for the skinning their SaaS application as well as the website.

The client glazed over the Gantt chart (created in MS Project) and signed off on it.

In the end, we did design, frontend build and integration oversight on about 15 templates of their .com. This is the kind of thing any run of the mill digital agency could and would do for 50k. We charged them 2.1M.

This kind of project (now with AI/ML/Blockchain!) is Accenture and the like's bread and butter.

Was there any sort of competitive bidding process? i.e. why did the Fortune 500 company choose your firm over others?

Your "C Player" sounds like a dream client. Signs off on the contract and makes regular payments.

Or would you prefer to work w/ a client that lowballs you on fees, promises that that the requirements are final, and then balks at paying more in order to complete the inevitable expansion of requirements?

Who are the A and B players?

People who recognise technology as core to their business.

Sadly, the ex-Accenture people who get exec jobs in-industry didn't learn from the PowerPoint overkill, either. I work for a company completely run by ex-consultants. Who spend all their time sharing PowerPoint decks. The next layer or two or three of management spend all their time building those decks. We get called into meetings to talk about upcoming meetings, and asked to give the content for various slides in those decks. We recently had an influx of new leaders and now there is political infighting over whose format of decks and slides is the right one to use.

I clearly am also being snarky/sarcastic. They do know more than this and they do more than this. But there is a some real truth to the matter, that consultants never quite lose that idea that their job is to do snazzy presentations, and that ends up getting more focus than delivering product.

A friend of mine was one of the early employees at a company that is essentially making PowerPoint presentations for Google, highly profitable business, I was amazed at the amount of employees they were able to support just by making PowerPoints for one company.

I think the sentiment here (and in many comments) is interesting - I've been a consultant for over a decade and felt the same thing in the early parts of my career. Those are really expensive Powerpoints!

In the last few years I've created some of those Powerpoints, and have realized the value in them (not saying that all are valuable). I've been asked questions like:

- We're a year in to a data warehouse migration and have nothing to show for it. What happened, where do we go from here, and how much will it cost? - We'd like to outsource a call center, but don't know where to start both on the tech and process sides. Can you help? - We have a business idea, but know little about technology. Can you put together a plan, so that we know how much we'll need to invest? Oh, and can you design the architecture and tell us which cloud to use?

There's tons of rigorous analysis, interviews, and research that goes into answering these questions well enough that they can be trusted. Since it's primarily an exercise in critical thinking, mileage probably varies depending on who is doing the work. There are plenty of bad Powerpoints I've seen out there that don't move the needle or add anything new.

Powerpoint gets derided by developers, because they think it's a deliverable.

It's not.

It's tool used to communicate a deliverable.

The actual deliverable is knowledge of the processes, infrastructure, market, industry, options, etc. And an answer to an original question posed that required that knowledge.

A good Powerpoint seems obvious -- because that's literally the definition of a good presentation of the above deliverable.

If I clearly communicate my summarized facts to you, and then draw an obvious conclusion, does that not seem obvious? But that's forgetting that before the presentation, and before the research behind the presentation, none of those facts were known!

It seems ridiculous that PowerPoint should be the vehicle for in-depth knowledge and research about anything. There is a medium for that, it's many pages of text with a few illustrations.

The parent's point (and one which I agree with) is that the PowerPoint is not the vehicle for details. It's the vehicle for strategy and framing.

Let's take an example. A customer wants to expose my employer's application to external partners / customers / whatever and they need guidance on how to do this. There are a few models on how to do this with positives and negatives:

1. Place a server in a DMZ 2. Reverse Proxy traffic in 3. Have a separate site in a DMZ and programmatically push content there

Sure, I could get on a call and verbally describe those options. But it's infinitely easier to put up a few architecture diagrams which visually depict the options with call outs to considerations with each.

It's fair to ask why can't this be documented in a technical brief / whitepaper / documentation. Well, it is, at least mostly. It's out there. We send links to plenty of documentation. What documentation is extraordinarily bad at is explaining nuance. Best practices are fine, but best practices have a set of assumptions. Those assumptions may be generally true but are entirely simplistic at the margins.

Back to my example. Should we document how the interaction between the DoD's various network segments (think NIPR and SIPR)? Would it shock you that various groups inside of individual branches of the DoD interpret things differently? What about an organization where this use case is the first external exposure of internally deployed software?

Ultimately a good use of the PowerPoint medium is to reduce complexity to the essentials, allow for framing of the underlying issues, and to be used as a pivot to discuss broader strategy. No argument from me that many uses of PowerPoint are laughable. But there's a whole sphere of the technology realm which involve sales, sales adjacent, or strategic discussions where PowerPoint or similar techniques are essential when more formal documentation has not settled things.

Perhaps one could flippantly say that, from a certain management level on, "it's sales all the way up" ;)

I was software engineer at Accenture for 4 years and you literally made the best description I have ever heard of the company. And I want to add, forget any career progression if you want to stick with software development.

Accenture is but one of many, already mentioned, such consulting firms. The particulars of their unique evolution are unimportant. They bill $43B per year so being "worth" $140B is essentially three years billing. Prospective buyers who want to sell their own by-products more exclusively (say, Oracle, Microsoft, Alphabet,...) look at the price tag as an opportunity to lock in big ticket clients for decades of migration, integration, and insider green-field, money-sink projects.

Yes, consultancies like Accenture are copy-cat enterprises. A few decades ago they truly provided the brightest and the best of off-shore, inexpensive technical labor. But that changed with the H-1B tsunami that followed. The meme that America's social strengths could be used against it were not lost on these now global software powerhouses.

Many of the initial H-1B waves of individuals worked their way into America's corporate C-Suites. The technical waves were followed by well-to-do, class entitlement waves of individuals who co-opted the POC cohort required to satisfy equal opportunity hiring laws.

More recently, HR departments themselves have been out-sourced within the enterprises. The combination of the gutting of full-time technical staff AND the tight coupling of off-shoring to onshore expat cohorts completes the cycle of how Western enterprises were carved out of any capability to develop projects internally. They've been gutted.

In America, citizen POC were left on the outside looking in (aaaaaaaand, here we are in social crisis) in addition to bearing witness to the soft takeover of the corporate management ranks.

The Powerpoint slides are perfunctory. Our corporations are now as technically proficient as many dysfunctional outsourcing countries are at a functional level. The onshore benches represent the warehousing of local candidates to make way for politically and legally correct outsiders.

Totally unfair characterization. I've seen them also produce word and excel docs.

This post is so thoughtful that I cannot do it justice.

Creative consulting is also a scam and is often the opposite of creative. You ideally want these creative types in house to change things instead, because creative consulting really changes nothing.

The promises of AI are also mostly a scam. The breakthroughs and discoveries made are often intellectually bankrupt. People drool from the correlations that are drawn from AI, even though there is no explanation for why this is occurring in real life. It is also making a lot of people’s jobs into “BS jobs”.

Not defending Accenture here, but if you think management consulting is all about the PowerPoint slides you’re missing the point.

You’re right, it’s primarily about providing CYA insurance to dysfunctional management teams that need a third party to tell them what they already know and provide cover for an unpopular decision.

Or to blame failure on, last minute, for a project that is already nearing failure.

Who said anything about management consulting? I'm talking purely tech / "digital transformation".

That said, my opinion of management consulting is similarly low.

If you think tech / digital transformation consulting is all about the PowerPoint slides you’re missing the point.

I agree with you, but you have not offered anything solid to back this position.

When I worked in consulting, the vast majority of my work was with companies that didn't have the staff and/or expertise to solve a particular problem. Then again, I didn't work at a big-four -- but I would imagine that a team that 25% has experience in doing a particular thing is still better than a team that has zero experience doing it.

While people often criticize consulting companies for barely knowing what they're doing, the flip side of this is that the people at the company hiring them don't necessarily know what they're doing either :D There's a lot of people coasting along in corporate IT.

Enlighten us, then. Cause it sure seems that way to me.

You're explaining your understanding of commercial consultancy, but are obviously (and you note at the end) not detailing your knowledge of systems integrators that don't always happen off-shore. For instance, many large companies in the valley have contracted engagements with Accenture as well as partnerships - especially Cloud. Any government work being done isn't offshore.


Yeah, I meant the whole thing to pretty much be tongue-in-cheek.

That said, I'm very much aware of the onshore consulting that ACN does. And in my time in the ACN world, I was never once impressed with work ACN did - onshore or offshore.

I feel ya, and I work at ACN Fed :)

The fluff is a thing...

Luckily I get to lead a lot of what I do and in the applied intelligence organization where we're doing some interesting things as well as some fairly advanced engineering.

If a single deli in New Jersey is worth $100m, $140B for Accidenture might be a bargain.

More than just Accenture. Exact same experience with BCG and McKinsey.

I seen a post on linked in the other day, where an employee of McK was using thier own child (~8 Yrs) to virtusignal McK (child had drawn some picture with, I "heart" McKinsey). I immediatly wondered if the child was aware of this: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-55939224

While searching for this link, the next link google offered was this:



and IBM Global Services.

Also, they sell mostly-local, well dressed body-shopping drones to local companies, e.g. in Germany, where many companies require the "consultants" (body-shopped implementation slaves) to speak German. Salary is mediocre but not super bad and you have a chance to work in top companies and huge projects.

"Accenture is primarily a PowerPoint consulting firm"

No, that would be McKinsey.

Hey, there’s enough PowerPoint work for many different consultancy conpanies!

Very true, as a matter of fact I've done my fair share of powerpoints too.

And by and large their tech 'talent' is absolutely devoid of talent. They generally have no idea what they're doing in the cloud.

That's a _perfect_ description -- concise yet thorough, and very accurate (I've been a consultant for 23 years, and have worked on several projects with Accenture involved).

In my experience, 99.9% of the value in hiring a consultancy is to light a fire under the respective asses of one's employees.

It's a great way for management to cover their asses.

Exactly. Management's job is to make decisions, and they outsource it to "consultants" to insulate themselves from blame. This is the true reason consulting firms exist and make so much money, this is the true service they provide.

As I read the parent comment, I couldn't help but hearing it in Steve Burke's sarcastic-rant voice.

Well done Steve, you've become iconic.

This is so wrong. The bulk of Accenture revenues don't come from PowerPoint consulting engagements (a typical strategy consulting trope), they have arms that compete with MBB and big for these engagements but these are like 500k-1m in size. The big money comes tech consulting and implementations, this is F500 companies upgrading SAP worldwide or and old non-tech company or government needing at app or moving infra to the cloud, now these engagements are 10-50m+. These are needed every 5-6 years when SAP or Oracle upgrades their ERP. The this is how Accenture is a 100bn company. They don't have the issues of the partnership structure other professional services companies have and are a shareholder darling.

> they have arms that compete with MBB

What, Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm?!? Is it warships or aeroplanes that Accenture builds nowadays?

Yeah, well, I was mostly kidding... But thanks, I didn't know that!

The article like a good case study report tries to understand a subject and analyse it from various perspectives. it tries to answer some key questions 1) What does Accenture do ? 2) Is it really good at it ? 3) Does it know how to make money from its business model ?

and I think the articles cover most of these points. And as for the Hertz example. So a big company is sued by someone for not doing what they promised ? Is that something surprising ? Is it something that only happens in consulting domain? The answer to the second and third questions are no. All the flag bearers of silicon valley have been sued from being in "villan" at some point. Like a successful business Accenture has nailed it core business model. From technology perspective sure the big picture looks bleak But it's not always dark "_Tech consulting definitely does have its bright spots. Accenture has smaller divisions like Accenture Interactive that work on pretty cool stuff, like a partnership with Disney on a new innovation lab and a collaboration with Apple on iOS business solutions. And if you’re a new college grad, associate positions can be fast ways to learn engineering on the job and get exposure to large scale systems that you wouldn’t otherwise work with._"

From tech perspective it might seem like a shoddy company but we need to understand that it's not out there to make the best software for your needs it's their to make _a_ software for your needs one that just gets the work done.

The clients which approach Accenture or for that matter any tech consulting company are out there to get their problems solved within a budget.

To get a solution that just works

And I don't believe every project of theirs is shitty.Because if quality was too much compromised then they would lose market value and there is no shortage of competition.

While sales pitch is important for any business to work without successful projects a business cannot survive.They must have had success in the recent past that is why they are getting work. From a creative software engineers perspective its a Very shitty company because it doesn't care about the tech, But That's not its core business model ;to make great tech. The core model is to sell tech as a service to non tech companies. And make non tech companies harness tech for their needs. tech consulting should be treated as a different domain from technology. And in this domain some are good at it and some are shitty and then there is Accenture , somewhere in the middle.

Ps: I'm not defending Accenture I just don't agree with all conclusions presented in the HN comments.

The US Federal government spends a lot of money on consulting. So do a lot of the fortune 500 companies.

I can’t thing of a tech market segment more in need of “disruption” by now, quite honestly.

That's a bit unfair, they also do super shitty IT support and cloud service type stuff.

As far as I can tell, for the same reason that all consulting firms exist: so key decision makers have a scapegoat.

When someone needs to justify a decision or identify a strategy, they can pass the work off to a consulting firm. In doing so, they get the best of both worlds. If they take the advice of the consulting firm, and all goes well, they're praised for bringing in the extra help. If they don't take the advice of the consulting firm, and all goes well, then they stuck to their guns and can take all the credit. If they take the advice of the consulting firm, and things go sour, then it was just "bad advice", they can pick another consultant and wipe their hands clean. And in the many instances where they don't take the advice, and things still go sour, it was the consultants fault for not providing the advice needed.

What they actually say is far less important than their position as a stakeholder in the decision making process. In fact, as another commenter has already pointed out, the insight that a consulting firm will always provide is that you need more consultants. Few people truly love working with consultants, the advice is often dished out by overworked 20-somethings with little to no domain expertise, and yet, here we are.

Source: I work for a similar firm targeting a specific niche, and many of my best friends are in similar roles, including at Accenture, Deloitte, PwC, and EY.

I'm currently the CTO of a "normal" company (i.e. not a startup) and I confess that, sometimes, I have the incentives for delegating responsibility for the outcome of non-strategic projects to third-parties, since my attention span is limited and I want to focus on strategic projects.

I guess that this behavior can become very toxic for the company if the executive starts delegating responsibility for strategic projects as well.

The "scapegoat" theory is the cynical take, but I don't see people often propose how to fix the situation.

If we take as granted that Accenture and similar do low-quality work as judged by tech experts yet have a large business with a mostly-positive general-public reputation... how is some poor middle manager or non-technical executive in a company that finds themselves needing a technology solution supposed to pick a good vendor? Go with someone big an well-known? Nope, that's shit, apparently. Go with someone small and unknown? That seems even worse - how are they going to be qualified to judge the bidders?

> Go with someone small and unknown? That seems even worse - how are they going to be qualified to judge the bidders?

No, I don't think someone small is necessarily worse -- on the contrary, I think someone small(ish) and local (which makes them less unknown) may well be better. You choose them the same way anyone chooses any vendor or contractor: Ask your friends. Like, if you own a somewhat older car, so you're not willing to pay the "Manufacturer's Seal of Approval" surcharge for having it serviced -- then you'd ask around aming friends and acquaintances about which garages they'd recommend or warn you to stay away from, wouldn't you? And in a sibling comment, someone talks about choosing a plumber. You'd ask other homeowners, wouldn't you?

Your middle manager or non-technical executive presumably doesn't live in a sealed jar. They know other middle managers and non-technical executives, personally and/or professionally. So they use their network, ask colleagues about their experiences with local small-to-midsize providers of such services. Why "small(ish)" or "small-to-midsize", you ask? Because then you're a) negotiating on more of an even footing than you'd be with a "Big 6" firm that has the expertise to put together Power Point decks to bamboozle you, and the resources to bury you in court after the project becomes a clusterfuck. And why am I harping on "local"? Because then their reputation is also local, so you can find out about them via your network. And then you will also contribute your part to it; they won't want you to become that guy who warns his colleagues off from them.

'a mostly-positive general-public reputation'

Citation needed. Ideally pointing out -informed- general public reputation; after all, we had a person elected president due in large part to perceptions from the every man of his business acumen despite running -casinos- into the ground.

If you step out of the tech bubble, you will see that these mega consulting firms are considered prestigious places to work especially in India and other developing world.

Prestigious to work for != company does good work.

I don't think informed reputation is relevant when we're talking about procurement from enterprises or government outside of more "technology native" companies.

If you're hiring a company to do something you don't know how to do, you might not even know where to find informed opinions.

If I was going to hire a plumber I'm sure there are some places that all the good plumbers know are scam artists, but I have no idea who the good plumbers are.

AAA is an example company like that.

> If they take the advice of the consulting firm, and things go sour, then it was just "bad advice", they can pick another consultant and wipe their hands clean.

More commonly they just ignore the problems and pretend it's successful, since anyone involved in making the decisions to use the consultancy is at least 3 level of abstraction away from anyone that has to actually use the product. The staff will do half the work in excel or the old system as a workaround and by the time anyone up the chain of command discovers what a clusterfuck things truly are the people running the project have moved on and been promoted anyway.

I'm pretty sure consulting firms exist primarily because they provide labor liquidity.

> Few people truly love working with consultants

This is kind of a prejudiced view, as consultants are often there long-term, and no different than other workers in practice. The only difference is who's got the formal responsibility for their contract.

There are extremely good consultants. And there are extremely good offshore teams.

These people do not come cheaper than onshore or inhouse hires.

That's the easy way to know whether or not dealing with the new consultants / offshore team is going to go well, or be an awful long term experience.

It’s not fully without risk though - When a consultation fails, the person who pushed it is also tarred, and in proportion to the scale of the disruption and cost.

Complementing my answer to the parent, in my case, most of these pushes for consulting and hype stuff comes from other executives or stakeholders. I simply decide not to veto some initiatives, since they are not strategic.

Lord yes. Decision by committee and corporate guidelines. "X is a strategic partner" = can't be fired for 'partnering with them'. Even if it becomes a "why didn't anyone raise the alarm?!" it becomes "because everyone agreed to use them".

Ex-Accenture software dev here. I'll be honest, your experience as a dev is basically subject to an RNG. You could luck out and land on an amazing project, with an amazing client, and an amazing team. Sometimes the clients, or the team, or the work itself, will sap your will to live. For a starter job, it's fine. It's a job and they aren't discriminating when it comes to graduates/undergrads (or maybe that's impostor syndrome speaking), so it's a great way to get some experience on your CV to move on to better and greater things after the 24 months is up.

Career progression for the technically-focused is non-existent. I legitimately felt like all technical functions were some sort of a vestigial growth that they haven't gotten around to removing. There are 13 levels of pay (I started at the second-lowest), and the top 8 I believe were reserved for the management track. Not a good sign if you don't like playing human politics.

After seeing how the metaphorical sausage is made within the company, I'd definitely not hire them for any technical work. You might get an amazing team, or you might get an outsourced money sink that messes up so badly that it's just cheaper to build your own in the first place. The AI and blockchain hype that you see in this comment section is (or was, in my time) an actual thing. Of course it's ill-advised to rock the boat about this on the record, so I chose not to do so.

The story of how they took $32 million from Hertz for a website that never saw the light of day is a good read.

> Despite having missed the deadline by five months, with no completed elements and weighed down by buggy code, Accenture told Hertz it would cost an additional $10m – on top of the $32m it had already been paid – to finish the project. [1]

Good work, if you can get it.

[1] https://www.theregister.com/2019/04/23/hertz_accenture_lawsu...

I worked at a company who did a lot of outsourcing with companies like Accenture. They tend to stick to contracts and the wording at all costs, so every feature had to be specced to hell. You can't just say "the site has a responsive design", you have to have screenshots of every page at every resolution and have what elements appear at each resolution.

This took so much time it was almost always faster to simply do the work ourselves.

To play devil's advocate here, this can go both ways; clients may well take the piss unless the contract is quite strict about agreed scope etc. For big contracts that can make the difference between coming in under or over budget, although something of this kind of rigour is prudent at all scales, as https://clientsfromhell.net regularly attests.

I used to work at Accenture. I was quite literally the ivy league educated white face they used to interact with clients, so they didn't have to have clients interacting with their h1bs. Though it took a while to figure that out. We were pushed to ship to the letter of the contract, because they understood that that would create bugs that their offshore QA wouldn't catch. That meant that there would be an ability to sell support contracts after the initial contract completed to keep the code running, and would make it easier to sell the client on rewriting from scratch when the next iteration of whatever framework or product line we were integrating against came out in a few years.

> Good work, if you can get it.

I'm sure it is for whatever level of management you have to get to so that you maximize the ratio of BONUS_PAY:STRESS_OF_PROJECT_FAILURE, but to me it sounds like an absolutely nightmare. At the engineering level, I've found very few things a painful as having to put on a good face and pretend that my team is delivering something worth paying for when I know it's an absolute waste of resources for all involved. Thankfully my experience with this has been fairly minimal, but I really never want to experience it again.

(I know it was likely a flippant comment rather than a serious one, but it just kind of triggered a well of emotions in me)

Oh, of course, management.

For the sorry saps caught in the cubicle-based nightmare, it's a likely hell. But to be one of the suited-and-booted dream sellers, I bet that's a bundle of fun.

I had the opportunity to be one of those. The money was clearly good. And you quickly built a network that you could turn into your own business (which was actually expected. They expected you to ultimately not get promoted fast enough, start your own business, and if you were successful enough they would hire you back several levels higher).

But it was also a very, I dare say off, not quite sick, culture. You are travelling 90% of the time. This has a tendency to destroy family and friend relationships at home, and make it hard to befriend anyone not living similarly, because you are never in the same city for more than a few weeks. You are never in one place long enough to develop a deep connection.

You are alone in a new city after work, ever week, and your colleagues are all the type of people who chose that lifestyle too. The ones who chose that lifestyle for money are usually just doing it to put kids through college or after college, and will take a new job in a few years, so the people you really want to network with are the lifers. The lifers are people who chose that lifestyle because that's the type of lifestyle they actually want. There are a lot of interesting reasons to do that, some very good, some very bad, but none of them very normal.

Then you have to look at the moral aspect of what you're doing. As I remember upper management putting it to me: "We're pirates. We steal from large corporations, and put it in our own pockets." And you do that, by providing services that garner their profit by pocketing the difference in capital that comes from shipping jobs from America to offshore locations, made possible by abusing the h1b program. And sometimes literally abusing the h1bs, its not like they have any rights in practice, once they're within the country.

I dunno. I walked away. I think about the money sometimes, but I'm much happier with my more mundane, salaried life.

I’d walk away too if management saw our role as stealing from the customer. Oh boy.

There are lots of these stories. Remember when the FBI contracted SAIC to build a new case file system and it was so badly implemented they decided it couldn't be used?


I worked at a retail chain for a big project led by consultants. They only made stats of others work, and reskinned old slides.

Millions were lost.

Another well known consultancy took the Irish government for well over €200m for a payroll system they never delivered. [0] and they never had to apologise even once.

[0] is http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=8661

They screw up, and ask for more funding... how do they keep good enough relationships to keep getting new work?

A bunch of reasons: key decision makers being pretty far removed from the day-to-day of projects; everyone lying about how poorly the project is going to CYA; project timelines being so long that these projects end up losing visibility in the C-suite long before completion; etc.

In some cases, like Hertz, they do actually damage their partners. But most of their clients are massive multinational conglomerates who can readily suffer from a string of failed multi-million dollar projects. Like any parasite, they know not to kill their host.

Working for a company like that is soul crushing in the most basic sense...

Hello! Author here - I had a few friends who worked at Accenture in the past, and always wondered what they do...and why they're worth so much. I dug in (we did the same for Salesforce and SAP previously on HN) and found...some weird stuff. Accenture has a pretty wild story, from being decently early on in computers to a contentious company split, and now to a massive publicly traded consulting firm. Hope you like it!

Interesting content. But I wonder what the purpose of this type of content is related to Retool? Do you see these types of companies as threats or competitors?

We're just focused on writing content that's interesting to developers, and somewhat related to internal tools :)

Seconding the other comments, this was a great write up.

One data point for you, you can see how much Accenture got from the US Federal Government on USAspending.gov. ~2B over the past 12 months (source: https://www.usaspending.gov/recipient/6a40a8b7-77e4-2d39-6c0...).

Good article, especially the bit with the Georgia contract. That went a bit deeper in the details, which I appreciated. A standard description of tech consultancies would have been too broad and unlikely to include info people didn't already know .

Amazing article ! Mind sharing the one on Salesforce? Cant find it on retool

Awesome thx !

I thought it was a great piece! Interesting, succinct, and well sourced.

Thanks :)

How did you find the piece was shared in here in such a fast manner?

"there’s a good reason why Accenture has gotten so large and been so successful, and it’s because they generally provide value to their clients"

This is probably true if 'client' refers to the decision-maker, rather than the entity paying for the services.

Say you're managing some massive government department, that definitely needs some particular change. You and your team don't have the skills, experience or even desire to do the work. But you can't be seen to do nothing. You can hire a consulting firm to do the work. It's not your money, after all, and your team cannot reasonably be expected to have these very specialist skills. So, you hire the firm. Whether the project succeeds or fails, the firm provided value to you (the person responsible for the decision). In the worst case, you get someone to blame, and your reputation is preserved because: how were you to know this famous firm would not deliver what they promised.

If you use the word 'client' to refer to those who foot the bill (shareholders or taxpayers), then it might not be the case that thes mega consulting firms 'generally provide value to their clients'.

This seems like a large enough instance of a principal-agent problem to be worth studying. And, for government contracts at least, the information is public.

Has anyone done such a study?

They can also provide some sort of "financing", like selling the build project at a loss and then recover it on the operation/maintenance phase.

Very much this, a few places out sourced their IT on the cheap to ACN during financial crisis, the problem then is clawing it back years later, when actually it now costs lots to support a terrible mess and is a drag on the company.

I did not state that in a pejorative sense, though. For big enterprise customers the run costs is where the nicest profits are no matter how the delivery was done because they extend over many years.

It's only that the scale of ACN allows them to perform these tricks.

As an ex-consultant I would never hire a consultancy to do technical work or want to work there again now I’ve seen behind the curtain.

The main issue is resourcing is pretty much ALWAYS awful as their goals (maximum resource billing) don’t align with yours…people go on about it, but the term body shop is pretty apt.

I was in a leadership position and its pretty standard operating procedure for you to ask for a senior Java developer and be told you’re getting a junior Python test engineer just because it’s whoever is sitting around twiddling their thumbs (…and that’s from an internal perspective, if you’re the client you’ll just get lied to about their skills)

This basically leads to teams being comprised mostly of people who have absolutely no clue what they are doing - Is no wonder that a lot of the projects either fail, go over budget or have severe performance/security issues…and as a bonus you’ll get charged per day for a person as much as a permanent FAANG employee costs.

Worst offender I saw in my time doing it was Sapient, they seem to just bring anyone off the street, pure incompetence.

This is true for almost every consultancy. Avanade, Tata, Infosys.

Having worked with them in the past I can summarize them as having great presentations and NO substance. Any company that hires them will lose, and it is a sign of a company to short if they are public. The IT equivalent of the Darwin awards. Accenture continues to thrive.

They mostly get government contracts so it's just a waste of tax payer's money.

No they do not.

Accenture's Public Sector ("government contracts") business is less than 20%.*

* US Federal Government contracts are handled by a subsidiary though, Accenture Federal Services (AFS).

Kinda similar to Cognizant, IBM, Capgemini, Infosys, Wipro, etc ?

Bingo. Don't forget Tata Consulting.

It's basically the whole top of the H-1B sponsors list that aren't FAAMG


This is a good thing IMO. Accenture and the other body shops are a giant wealth redistribution machine. Its selfish to think that only FAANG employees should hold all the wealth. Let it trickle down to other less equal humans too.

and Deloitte.

Don't forget Canada's crown jewel of tech consulting, CGI. Responsible for the disastrous first version of healthcare.gov

Along with Capgemini, I thought Accenture did stuff outside of tech outsourcing too?

Accenture is "split" into Technology, Digital, Strategy and a few others. In technology and digital they have implementation devs and in strategy they have power point warriors.

I worked in this space in one of the biggest issues is the kind of company and the kind of dysfunction within this company that causes them to think that hiring consultants externally is a good idea.

It's almost always not a good idea of course. It's a really really good way to minimize risk if you have some terrible position in government where there's no upside to performance but there's a huge downside to making the wrong decision that blows things up. You bring in external consultants they put a stamp on some solution which they can't ever implement and you can just point to them and say wasn't my fault.

Dysfunction is manna for consultants.

In one of my first jobs out of school clients at the large shipping company we were consulting to would regularly ask us for information other employees at that company had provided us. It struck me as odd, so I asked my manager about it. He explained that our work involved two departments at the company whose directors hated each other and wouldn't let their teams work together. Their employees used us as intermediaries to share info critical to doing their jobs without getting in trouble for it.

Later in my career I was brought in by tech teams to recommend solutions that they'd already thoroughly researched and settled on, but didn't have the internal clout to get approved. Once the external expert OK'd it they'd get the budget and headcount they'd been asking for.

A friend of mine worked for an energy company who hired these guys. From what he told me what they did was create problems and sell overly expensive 'solutions'. As the years went by more and more of the company's budget went to their consultants without there being much of a return on investment. They basically ran the company into the ground as it nearly went under during the financial crisis and they've never really recovered.

It's just one of those companies that makes money because they make money, much like Oracle or whatever local company always gets the government contracts in your country.

Can confirm with some anecdotal evidence. Had to work with them once for a client. They were hired to create some web services.

All they did was constantly spew out enterprise-y business bullshit statements, while trying to delay, stall, do as little work as possible and extract as much money from the contract as possible. (this was some semi-public funding gig)

In the end they delivered some nodejs application, granted it works and does it job, but the amount billed and time invested was insane if you ask me.

Much more focus on lobbying, talking, overselling, making things sound "proper and official", than actually being helpful with the engineering.

I just came off a contract where I was subbed to Accenture, I was on the previous contract and they "inherited" me. Can confirm all this. Accenture's model is to wow the executives with slick presentations, buzz words, and name cachet. Then they bill insane hours designing and "solutioning" from many people who maybe log into the client network once a week but spend the rest of the time on the Accenture corporate network, maybe doing work for the project, maybe doing nothing, maybe double billing on another client, who knows? They can get a greenfield small app going at likely 5x the cost it should be but decorated with all sorts of fancy docs and presentations and runbooks and guides but on my project they tried to leverage that experience into taking over a large, established, legacy, enterprise system and from what I hear they are basically spinning in place doing nothing.

Ex-Accenture here. Software devs (at the grunt level at least) would almost never work for another client at the same time as your main client. I only ever met one person who worked for two clients simultaneously, and IIRC they were management/admin level. As far as I know, they didn't file double-time as described in your comment.

Internally, the hour billing tracker (disgusting old thing) would limit you to 8h per day total anyway, so you couldn't just bill 8h to Project 1 and another 8h to Project 2, because it would scream at you that you're trying to file for unapproved overtime (which would cost ACN money). It's anyone's guess how this data would be presented externally to the client, but I like to think that they wouldn't bill for 8 hours externally when the internal record shows only 4 hours was worked.

Accenture and other big consulting firms have been plaguing Southern Europe for many years. They mostly operate by "earning" as many public contracts as possible and bringing in grossly underpaid and sometimes unqualified professionals (e.g. the first or second job of that uni friend who wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed).

By doing this, consulting firms obtain a lot of liquidity (usually 5-6 figures for a small project and 7+ figures for the bigger ones) after a few months of subpar work.

The socioeconomic consequences of allowing these companies to operate are pretty serious imo. Not only do they dump the salaries of all IT professionals and create a culture of wage theft, but they worsen the quality of every service they are allowed to work on. Their bugs and security holes make it harder to do your taxes, vote, get a doctor's appointment, etc.

IMO the root problem is that government projects in most countries are full of bullsh*t requirements, lack of technical depth of product owner; lots of paperwork etc; on top of that, huge scope, long planning phases, a lot of legal risks; and also potentially some behind the scenes corruption; all of which make it unlikely for smaller, responsible, non-bullshit companies to even bother applying for such projects.

The only ones who can manage all the legal things, endless spec meetings etc. before the project starts, without bleeding themselves to death, are the behemoths like Accenture and similar.

From my experience Accenture is your typical high-attrition, low-wage consultancy body shop, they underbid and under deliver for bad work but they look attractive to the bean counters who don't have to work with their shite.

They are amazing at convincing naïve/incompetent governments to part with large sums of money for very little work.

E.g. here in Austria last year they made a website that was supposed to turbocharge Austrian businesses online sales.

It was basically the equivalent of a wordpress blog of some shops and a very broken search facility that got reamed by the public. It cost €1.3m


Accenture and similar consulting companies are like the Kardashians of the business world.

Where the Kardashians are famous for being famous, the consulting industrial complex makes money by making money. There's no "there" there, except a little arbitrage under a thin and pretty powerpoint facade. Mix in some former sorority girls and call them "consultants" [1], and, hey, you got a $100 billion dollar business.

Side note - I really dig the Retool business blogs. The have one on Salesforce and SaaS which I found interesting.[2]

[1] As a former frat "bro", I dated a couple

[2] https://retool.com/blog/salesforce-for-engineers/

Pre-Covid, I was involved in a project to set up an outsourced tech support center. Of the competing vendors, Accenture had by far the slickest Experience Center, the largest meeting room with the most people, the best dressed top brass with coiffed hair, and the shiniest slides. But the people they trotted out as examples of their best tech talent were, by and large, clearly incompetent and/or from entirely the wrong domain, and this is the A-team they trot out to customers, not the B-team you actually get or the Z-team they downgrade to after launch when they think you aren't looking anymore.

We ended up going with a much smaller player who knew what they're doing, and from whom we are by far the largest customer instead of just one among thousands. Zero regrets.

A small word of advice. If you are a consultant and the company currently contracting you hires some folks from Accenture to help with a project, assume your life is going to be hell. Accenture is not a team player and is out to get all the business. You are just another pot of money that they need to add to their hoard.

Ex-Accenture dev here. The problem with Accenture teams back when I still worked there was that they had no middle ground with regards to team quality - you either got a team 50% made up of people that could (metaphorically) kill a dragon bare-handed, or you got a team that couldn't code their way out of a wet paper bag. They will either be a help, or a hindrance.

That's fairly typical for large staffing companies. The problem with Accenture was how aggressively they went after other consultants. You really needed to watch your back because they actively tried to make the rest of us look bad. I saw it a couple of times and had friends who experienced the same thing. Its best to make sure every damn communication is documented with them in the mix.

It surely wasn't everyone, but enough of their onsite people pulled stunts that I am very wary of them.

> Its best to make sure every damn communication is documented with them in the mix. It surely wasn't everyone, but enough of their onsite people pulled stunts that I am very wary of them.

I agree. Keeping a meticulous paper trail is the only defense against getting an incompetent team installed on your project.

I'll say two things I know after 11 years consulting on embedded and smart grid projects at a company acquired by a company that was acquired by Accenture:

- Not all of Accenture is fluff. They have capable folks that do real work and add value.

- Services companies don't scale. They are dependent on how many bodies they can rent out. I laugh when I see the valuations of companies like Accenture and Palantir. They will never be the next Google. They'll survive and turn a profit, but there is no growth story.

Having worked with them in the past - long time ago, like 25 years ago - their business model goes like this:

1. Great insurance policy for the upper management: "Project failed ? Not my fault for sure: I hired the best and spent a huge amount of money... I am looking at you, middle management"

2. We need to make some major adjustment in our company and I do not have the guts to make them: Let Accenture make a great presentation recommending the actions I already know.

3. Accenture is up or out: If you are out, the partners will make sure you get a great position in some customer. In the future, you will contract with them of course.

Accenture built the PRESTO system (payment card for Toronto transit) and of course they store plaintext passwords (https://www.reddit.com/r/toronto/comments/1subk4/presto_card...)

And for a bit of a citation:


And from personal experience:

Jesus wept, Presto was a truly awful rollout, not least of which was the awful UX/UI of the terminals at the stations.

Oh, and of course, in 2021, you still cannot tap-to-pay using NFC on your phone. Now, that may not be Accenture’s fault; that could obviously and easily be the failure of sclerotic Canadian bureaucracy. But I would not be surprised if the back end simply does not support such a thing without another $50 million in consulting fees.

As I am told very often on HN, security is expensive. It is expensive to use an off the shelves password hashing algorithm, or to use parameterized SQL queries...

Yes, in Computer Science, using parameterized SQL queries is considered a Hard Problem™. /s

One of my friend works in one of these famous Indian outsourcing companies, one day the client asked her how much time will this change need, she said it can be done in hour.

Her manager who was not in that meeting got to know that she gave a 1 hour estimate and was furious almost threatened to fire her and also told the team not to give any estimates to clients. The manager then had a meeting with the client and then gave a 1 week estimate for that simple change.

I obviously do not know the context, but as a manager, you have to be extremely cautious with the estimates provided to you by your team.

First because human are notoriously bad at estimating the workload, and then because you never know what can happen in the meantime : it can be literally everything : a bug in the frameworks you use, someone who get ill, an hardware or network failure, etc.

When you have the luxury to set the deadline, you always choose a safe one, that will guarantee you to be on track or ahead the schedule. As much as you can, never late.

And yes, you also have to be careful before communicating to the client an estimate. he may then think that each of his request takes "one hour", and, as he now know "how to estimate", he would make you waste your time negotiating something that he perceive to be easy to do while it's not.

Honestly, despite the fact that I do not think highly of Accenture, nothing shocking here regarding the management.

Of course the fact that he charged for a full week of work is just a scam.

I worked at a company that used CapGemini. They were given the task of moving data from one drive to another.

Took them a week. When they had finished, they had forgotten/didn’t know that the parent folder needed to make child folders inherit permissions (Windows file server being used). They couldn’t figure out what the cause of the problem was, despite being told. In the end an employee ticked the correct box and propagated permissions.

These guys can’t move files from one drive to another. In a week.

Only a junior developer would say they can do something in one hour :)

I can't even pick my nose in one hour.

Or fix a typo in production.

They're adept at winning government contracts, and exploiting the Military Industrial Complex.

I'm also pretty sure they are good at exploiting things like H1B's.

Having worked a the consulting arm of a big 4, what this article (slightly) misses, is that auditing is a limited market (you can count how many Fortune 500 companies there are that need auditing), while there is a practically open ended amount of consulting projects (and monies).

Mostly, these companies can't do consulting projects at companies they audit (conflict of interest). So the Big4 are mostly shifting away from auditing, and moving into more consulting.

While I can echo a lot of the sentiment here, about powerpoint this, powerpoint that, subpar delivery, etc, from my experience I can also say there are very many talented individuals building extremely impressive solutions.

What most people didn't mention, is that these firms see the solutions / market landscape as a whole, something that not every company can do. They can help an unattractive company (one that (ie.) techies may be less inclined to work at) develop cutting edge solutions, bringing experience from how the bigger players do it.

I started my career in Accenture as a bright eye systems engineer that wanted to work with cool people and program computers and build cool stuff. O boy did they stomped that naive dream fast.

I was basically one of the offshore resources in a third world country mentioned in the other comments that gets payed peanuts (USD 420 a month to be precise, minimum wage in my country) and has zero experience but gets sold like he is a senior engineer. All my team was like that, there were only trainees and 2 semi seniors on my team. My "architect" didn't knew Java at all, the language of the project, and the person sitting besides me didn't knew what a bubble sort was but was trying to implement a sorting algorithm in C as part of the software that controlled the entire mobile telecom network for Spain (did not end well).

The culture is up or out, completely cutthroat, a nightmare. They apply something called "the tooth paste tube principle" to their employees: the more you squeeze, the more it comes out (I actually heard that from one of the managers there). The model is endless armies of low wage trainees on third world countries that get sold as "seniors" and get pay little so they will take as much overtime as possible to actually make a living wage. The good thing? They will hire almost anybody and they give you a month full time training free before you start, so if you want a place to start with a very low entry bar or are looking for free training, or you are a sociopath and like playing power games with people and walking over them, this is you place.

If I sound bitter 15 years later it's because I still am.

Why are major telecoms companies asking Accenture for help? Do they not have their own devs? If Accenture employees are this bad you might as well hire anyone with software engineer on their CV.

Often in telecoms, the root issue is they don't want people on payroll. They're trying to outsource everything possible - their vendors now provide managed services etc. Telecoms companies in Europe at least are just financing a range of contracts to keep things running.

Having to hire in more staff creates cost liabilities for them. They'd rather outsource things. That means they lose the skills in-house, and often end up needing consultants to help fill the gaps in their knowledge (after having lost their skilled people to the outsourcing companies, or other sectors).

Some telecoms companies have outsourced their development to Tech Mahindra and others already... And yes, in my personal view, they'd be far better hiring random software engineers and undoing the decline in control and understanding of their own business they've overseen.

Spot on, its often middle management not really understanding engineering, and think they can do better by just have someone else do it for them, but total lack of foresight on the consequences, which to be fair they probably won't have to deal with before they switch jobs.

The chronic short-term thinking seems to come from the "business" pressures to deliver results by financial quarters to meet specific dates/deadlines. The business is expected to align around these timelines, even where inconvenient.

I've seen car dealers offering significant discounts because they are trying to hit their end-of-quarter target. I've locked-in phone contracts with service at below the actual handset cost (when multiplied out by the contract duration) because I called late in the day on the last day of the quarter, and staff are trying to hit bonuses.

Something you do see a lot in telecoms is entering an outsourcing contract where you transfer your own (skilled, experienced) engineering staff out to the contractor - this is long-term suicide, but in the short-term it reduces your outgoings on the balance sheet.

To me, this is proof that it's just a game of short-term balance-sheet bingo, and I think you hit the nail on the head - the managers won't have to deal with this, as they'll bounce to another "generic business role" and ruin that organisation in a few months.

Indeed, you'd think that the whole business of telecom companies would be tech and they'd have in-house engineering resources to innovate and gain an edge on their competitors... in reality, a lot of it is outsourced to idiots from Accenture and similar.

Here's an eye-opening post: https://berthub.eu/articles/posts/5g-elephant-in-the-room/

Why does vodafone need a CTO if they outsource everything?

Youd think banks would be tech companies but they dont have a good rep for being a dev there in most cases

The old Anderson Consulting. Forced to change their name soon after they were spun off from the parent, so adopted Accenture. Which turned out to be a good thing because Arthur Anderson soon went bankrupt in the whole Enron debacle.

Yes, I forgot to mention this in my comment as well. That’s the irony of it - they were arguably highly responsible for the turmoil that led to increased regulation via SOX, and now they make much of their revenue on SOX compliance.

> they were arguably highly responsible for the turmoil that led to increased regulation via SOX, and now they make much of their revenue on SOX compliance.

No. Andersen Consulting started as a division within Arthur Andersen in the 1950s, but became a separate BU in 1989 and in effect a separate company by the late 90s. The split came about because AC's business (technology & business consulting) made much more money than AA's business (auditing).

The Enron debacle took down AA in late 2001 because AA was Enron's auditor. AC (actually Accenture by that point) wasn't involved.

It worked too. Most folks don't mention or know about it.

>Arthur Andersen was charged with and found guilty of obstruction of justice for shredding the thousands of documents and deleting e-mails and company files that tied the firm to its audit of Enron.


It worked great for Andersen as well. Their conviction was overturned https://text.npr.org/4673930

Basically, large consulting companies are just a box of chocolates/

My first 14 years out of college was working for an IT consulting company that initially competed in same space with Anderson/Accenture, but later pivoted. Many people in my class in college went to Accenture after graduation, though few stayed more than a couple of years. It was seen as a resume starter before going back to MBA or other graduate programs.

In my experience in similar realm, we had some good clients and some challenging clients. We provided good design/implementation resources on some projects and people fresh out of college (local and remote) with no practical experience on other project. Often, large consulting companies can only provide people that are available, not the best people for the job.

Whether I or other team members were the best developers for any given project was easily debatable. However, almost everyone I worked with put in the effort to learn and deliver the project for the client.

Consultants are brought in for many reasons and for different phases of projects. Some of those phases only result in PowerPoint and other "simple" deliverables. Some phases deliver tangible value. In most cases though, consultants are brought in due to businesses not having internal expertise or having failed internally to deliver already.

> It was seen as a resume starter before going back to MBA or other graduate programs.

This was exactly my experience as an undergrad, and later graduate software dev.

I'd venture that my skills were completely unsuited for the first couple of projects that I was placed on. I was utterly underqualified and not guided properly at all, though it remains to be seen how much this was Accenture's fault and how much it was the client's. I was definitely not worth the (rumoured) exorbitant hourly rates that our clients were charged for our expertise and work.

Disclosure: I work at Avanade, an Accenture subsidiary focused on Microsoft-based tech solutions.

An agency is by definition a financial institution that has organized brains for rent at a significant mark-up.

Accenture's moats are risk, scale, and (as a result of scale) the depth and breadth of their partnerships and the services they offer.

Whether they execute them well is often beside the point - nobody else is willing to do it at all at the risk and scale levels being proposed.

There seems to be a lot of misinformation here in the comments. Accenture makes a lot if not most of its revenue from SOX consulting. After Enron, Congress passed a law (Sarbanes-Oxley or "SOX") that required public companies to certify their "internal controls" over the processes used to create the financial statements. Essentially, the volume of daily transactions for accounting became un-auditable and the focus shifted to understanding how business processes, systems, and data interact to arrive at numbers that go into the financial statements.

As a result, auditors have to have comfort over those processes and systems to sign their audit opinion. Most of the work Accenture does is creating flowcharts and diagrams on behalf of management that will help auditors understand those processes and systems... It saves time from auditors asking the same questions year after year and gives them a document to reference as audit support.

The process of adopting SOX is extremely painful for newly public companies because it requires creation of robust documentation, as well as eliminating opportunities for data to be changed by creating business rules in systems that are used as part of business processes (for example, requiring multiple levels of approval for certain kinds of things). Companies are often willing to pay in range of $1M to $5M for varying levels of help with this process.

Afterward Accenture often try to stick around and sell sexier things, like process improvement (since theoretically they know all the processes from their initial scope they have an easier time identifying opportunities for improvement) or more ambitious things like blockchain/AI solutions, as some people have pointed out in this thread.

Yes, and to go along with this newly-acquired process knowledge, they pull in an SAP rollout. Massive amounts of money to be made here.

I worked at Accenture for two and a half years up until the start of this year in an Asian country.

While I've met some incredible, brilliant people working in the firm who are close friends to this day, there's always a cult-like mindset prevalent in people in the consulting industry that makes it different from working anywhere else. The stories of fancy dinners, corporate events, massive benefits are all true, to a certain extent.

Working primarily with an energy company that is deeply entrenched in older technologies and ways of working, I believe the reason consulting companies are portrayed as the anti-thesis of technological advancement is simply because buy-in from senior management from companies like the one I've worked for is difficult. These folks (including their CTO/CIO) are so far away from the working-level and tech that consultants resort to cheap tricks like catchy barely-sensical-jargon/Ivy League graduate profiles/borderline lies to help them land deals.

Accenture employs five hundred thousand people! This is roughly equivalent to Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Google's headcount COMBINED. They execute tens of thousands of projects _per year_.

I'm sorry but anecdotal evidence (even by this community) is not relevant at all.

> execute

I like your choice of words there.

Stories like these make me wonder why don't I start a consulting firm. Pretty much every mega consulting firm seems to hire subpar developers and deliver low quality code. It seems like consulting is ripe for disruption. Or is it too hard to scale?

One time I beat the CFO of Arthur Andersen in a game of Monopoly while in Antarctica.

Can you please elaborate on this exciting lede

I had some leftover scholarship money from college as did other folks in my program so we put together a 3 week trip between fall finals and spring classes - one week backpacking in Torres del Paine in Patagonian Chile, then two weeks on a cruise exploring the Antarctic peninsula. We were the youngest people on the cruise by far, since the kind of folks who tend to go to Antarctica are well-heeled people who have been literally everywhere else. The two strangers I made the best acquaintance with were the 2003 Chemistry Nobel Laureate, and the CFO of Arthur Andersen, or rather the penultimate CFO who left about a year before the Enron scandal broke. We had a lot of time to pass between the island landings and played what scant board games existed in the ship's cabinets (this wasn't a Carnival Cruise, it was more like a repurposed Soviet research vessel that had good food and no other comforts). I teased the CFO about losing Monopoly to me repeatedly.

The CFO was a great guy though, he helped commemorate my favorite moment of the trip. During a landing on the peninsula I was standing in a group of Adelie penguins and I stripped off my parka to reveal a dress tuxedo beneath my clothes, trying to blend in better. It was a great photo.

> which is also why more than 30% of Accenture’s workforce is situated in lower cost labor markets like India.

More importantly, 90% of the actual dev work is done by these low cost off shoring centers, and it's also not always India's best and brightest. There's some amazing and brilliant devs in India but they work for Google and the like.

So you end up with spaghetti mess projects written by fairly unskilled overseas devs.

Part of the reason why Accenture prospers is that rather than being seen as a possible source of competitive advantage much of the business world sees IT as being a minefield that has to be crossed.

There have been so many (well publicised) disasters that the priority is to avoid the worst possible outcome whilst having someone who can be blamed if the worst does happen.

> While most of the big contracts you’ll see in tech consulting are related to these kinds of big, legacy systems, that’s not the only thing companies like Accenture do; they also build apps and websites, but at a larger scale. A great example is Accenture’s recent (high profile) contract with Hertz: they were tasked with building Hertz a new website and mobile app. This kind of implementation work is very similar to what you’d expect a dev shop to work on.

I heard Best Buy hired Accenture to take on all development of its website in about 2005, and that decision significantly impaired their ability to compete against Amazon for years.

Early in my career I worked with a lot of outside contractors, and I remember being told by one or two of them that there were consulting companies that specialized in cleaning up the messes Accenture left behind. I don't know if that's actually true, though, and never really looked into it to verify.

I think the author missed the point that 45% of Accenture's revenues is from their business process outsourcing activities (e.g. accounts payable processing).


As for the 55% of revenues that come from consulting, I have been a client of Accenture (and other consulting firms). It is very hard for an organization to gear up to replace a large customer billing and information system. The activity happens once every 15 years and may be a very different technology than other solutions deployed in the company.

>And if you’re a new college grad, associate positions can be fast ways to learn engineering on the job and get exposure to large scale systems that you wouldn’t otherwise work with.

Not sure about this part. when i was younger, i used to work for Avanade. Accenture joint venture with Microsoft. the only coding project that i ever done while i was there is porting an outdated Microsoft Outlook add-on to Visual Studio Office Tool (.Net based). Most of time you just sit on the side line and study for Microsoft cert. while going to event where you might meet Project Manager with project that might fit you.

This piece is largely positive about Accenture, and I have no beef with them, having never worked with them. However it is true to say that the public sector IT procurement landscape here in the UK is bedevilled by big beast companies who have only the vaguest grasp of technology, but who have successfully diversified into this lucrative sector largely on the basis of their very size being seen as making them a 'safe bet'. Of course the actual work is farmed out to undercompensated and underskilled offshore grunts.

Most of these services companies, seem to thrive because executives in client companies can have someone to shift blame in case of implementation issues or roadblocks.

The whole IT consulting thing is a "shift the blame" game, at-least in large corporations. You have a project, a specification is made, a consultant selected, work offloaded. Consultants aim is to increase billing hours. So they develop a barely spec fitting application with a lot of loose ends, so as to maximize the recurring maintenance revenue down the road.

I think folks are missing a big part of their role: executive protection.

Accenture presents a deck that suits their client, which is generally executive. If the plan works, the executive (or team, or business group — the paradigm works at multiple levels) looks like a winner because they brought in the right people who aligned with their vision blah blah.

If the plan tanks, point fingers at Accenture and get away with it. I've seen it in action, and it works.

Can someone please explain to me what all these terms are: Enterprise IT, legacy systems, dev shop? Every job advert for a software engineer asks for Java + React (slight exagerration).

Also I still dont understand why companies with their own software departments are asking Accenture to work for them. If Accenture employees are often substandard why not just hire more devs themselves?

Enterprise IT: The systems that run the organization, basically everything run by an internal it group.

Legacy systems: Any old software systems, usually enterprise IT, that are running your organization. Often 80's era in big companies, usually on a mainframe and most importantly, even though they are held together by hopes and prayers they usually do the job they are supposed to.

Dev shop : derogatory term for a company who just provides developers, usually with poor oversight and project management controls.

The problem with hiring more people is if I need 20 Devs for six months in a language I am never going to use again, not only do I need to hire 20 Devs, I need to hire the project managers, people managers, pay for their benefits or contracts, and then figure out how to fire or otherwise reallocate people with skills I don't need.

A local government won't have the software developers on staff to handle eg a new computerized transit ticketing system. I've also seen Accenture used to handle SAP rollouts, which can be immensely complex. I'm not saying they did a good job at either of these tasks, but that's what they were hired for.

Re the terms you want explained, just use your favourite search engine. There are legitimate and established definitions for these things. Eg, your bank likely uses Cobol from the 1960s in its backend and they would dearly love to replace it because all of the original source is long gone. This is a legacy system.

I have been aware for a while how accounting companies had sidelines of IT consulting, some of which grew large and sometimes overshadowed the accounting end (Accenture/AA).

What I was not aware of until more recently how the big advertising companies (WPP, Omnicom etc.) make a lot of money from IT consulting as well.

> Accenture has smaller divisions like Accenture Interactive that work on pretty cool stuff, like a partnership with Disney on a new innovation lab and a collaboration with Apple on iOS business solutions.

Has anyone experience with their Accenture Industry X division? Especially what it is like to work for them?

> Accenture doesn’t break out their revenue by client type

Yes they do, and they have been doing that since forever. https://newsroom.accenture.com/fact-sheet/

Interesting article. A lot of negative things here said about such consultancy firms. Some positive things must also be said:

- Outsourcing IT problems is hard. It requires knowledge/skill. Outsourcing to a big firm is a relatively safe bet.

- The consultancy firm then again outsourcing it to cheaper contractors again is not per definition bad. It actually improves the mechanics of capitalism. Also nothing stops the customer from outsourcing their project to a cheaper contractor themselves and cutting out the middleman (Accenture). But they don't want to carry that risk. Accenture can carry that risk.

- Big consultancy firms build up a load of experience, connections and assets for dealing with specific problems. They can re-use solutions in a way that your typical middle-sized software team can never do.

I have worked myself at a much smaller consultancy company more or less copycatting accenture (founders were ex-accenture employees). I moved on because I no longer liked the job and am now working in a more regular software dev company. What I noticed is that:

- The ex-accenture managers knew better what had priority and were sharper challenging time estimates or refactoring initiated by dev-teams. Not always good for the dev-team, but often good for the project actually. (Bummer: dev-teams can be wrong often). Management often challenged dev-teams to whiteboard their solution. The manager put in the extra effort to understand this and if he still didnot understand the benefit then a refactoring was not done. (Yes this can be both good and bad depending on the technical level of your manager, see also my next bullet)

- Anything more complex they would often simplify too much. Projects that exceeded expectations in complexity often failed. I expect this also to be the reason for all these failed projects for Accenture. If a problem doesnot fit in one of their standard slideshows then they lack the expertise to overcome this.

-Sale-teams usually over-promise (often under pressure or flawed reward systems) and are totally not focusing on if the developers actually have the expertise to pull it off.

- They also used more corporate flavored powertools (like Salesforce or ServiceNow). The average dev stays far away from those and prefers open source. Anyway, they would implement in weeks what takes several months to build in Django + React (or any other open-source combo).

- They could leverage very average engineers to deliver quality work. As long as it was a commodity job.

ah the large black hole of IT Consulting

"We have a problem"

"Let's hire a consultancy firm to solve it!"

A bit later:

"Now we have ten problems, all sitting at desks we are paying for and are being charged ridiculous fees for a bunch of witless MBAs just out of college."

unbundle or die trying

Why would Retool blog about this? I don't get it. Very solid write up though.

Tl,dr: helps executives transfer risk

Literally, Scapegoat as a Service.

Is that the real reason why those companies are hired? Judging by the comments here I wonder if there are any success stories at all.

It is for a lot of executives, especially ones which are clueless about technology or who do not have a technology background but were promoted and told to "fix the TPS submission and reporting system!". These characters are typically corporate politicians who are great at talking but couldn't manage a team of 3 to boil a pot of water.

They love consultancies. It's a total roll of the dice if their projects are successful or not. I've seen it go both ways.

As noted by another commenter, they employ 500k people and execute on thousand of projects per year. Most of those projects are likely success stories to some degree.

Depends on the firm.

I work for a more technical focused niche consulting firm, and one of our specialties is large IT implementation project recovery. We are extremely successful, but it's dirty work that isn't super advertised.

More like give them a scapegoat. The risk is still there and in the same place.

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