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.
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'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.
My worst experiences always come from working with Americans and I don't come to the conclusion that all Americans are incompetent.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
How about other more legit consulting firms like exponent (https://www.exponent.com/)?
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?
And it takes a cultural shift (and a significant premium over what FAANG is offering) to attract the required talent.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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 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.
“Broadband and 5G will be life-essential for most”
Well no shit, Sherlock.
This reads like those AI-generated documents.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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”.
That said, my opinion of management consulting is similarly low.
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.
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.
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.
While searching for this link, the next link google offered was this:
No, that would be McKinsey.
Well done Steve, you've become iconic.
What, Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm?!? Is it warships or aeroplanes that Accenture builds nowadays?
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.
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 guess that this behavior can become very toxic for the company if the executive starts delegating responsibility for strategic projects as well.
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?
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.
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'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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
> 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. 
Good work, if you can get it.
This took so much time it was almost always faster to simply do the work ourselves.
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)
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.
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.
Millions were lost.
 is http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=8661
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.
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...).
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?
It's only that the scale of ACN allows them to perform these tricks.
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.
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).
It's basically the whole top of the H-1B sponsors list that aren't FAAMG
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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" , 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.
 As a former frat "bro", I dated a couple
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Or fix a typo in production.
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 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.
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.
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.
Here's an eye-opening post: https://berthub.eu/articles/posts/5g-elephant-in-the-room/
Youd think banks would be tech companies but they dont have a good rep for being a dev there in most cases
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.
>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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm sorry but anecdotal evidence (even by this community) is not relevant at all.
I like your choice of words there.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Has anyone experience with their Accenture Industry X division? Especially what it is like to work for them?
Yes they do, and they have been doing that since forever.
- 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.
"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."
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.
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.