Roland Berger Strategy Consultants has won a ‘Beacon Award for Business Innovation’, a prize that celebrates excellence in cloud adoption and digital operations, testimony to its innovative cloud strategy and effective deployment of SAP services to its 2,400 employees in 36 countries. It’s the first time that a consulting firm has won the award, and the fact that a strategy consultancy is the first to excel in the area of IT will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows. The news however at the same time highlights the growing importance of IT and internal operational as a competitive differentiator in the advisory market.
Founded in 2012 by Saugatuck Technology, the Beacon Awards identify outstanding business and IT innovation through the use of advanced technologies such as Cloud, mobility, social / collaborative IT, and advanced analytics. The winners are announced during the annual ‘Cloud Business Summit’, which this year took place on Wednesday 12 November in New York.
This year, the Beacon Awards for Business Innovation were awarded to:
- Johnson & Johnson, for its “sandbox”-driven approach to business and IT improvement
- MFG.com, which has utilised Cloud and related technologies to improve service availability and regulatory compliance
- Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, for its innovative use of SAP to ensure global standardisation and scalability
Roland Berger has approximately its 2,400 employees in 36 countries. To serve its management consultants and staff, the firm uses a SAP-system, known as ‘SAP Business ByDesign’. The system is used for all major areas of the consulting firm’s operations, including business development (sales pipeline, CRM), project management (budgeting, project status, resource management) and accounting & control (finance, reporting). The system’s key advantage lies in its flexible approach, allowing the German-origin strategy consultancy to efficiently roll-out the infrastructure when the firm opens new offices or when new (international) projects are launched. In addition, the modular design of SAP Business ByDesign provides Roland Berger with the room to effectively tailor the system’s functionality to local requirements.
Based on the system’s successful deployment in the recent year – the solution is used from headquarters in Europe down through the smallest, resource-constrained remote offices – the jury of the Beacon Awards for Business Innovation decided to pronounce Roland Berger a winner. According to Bill McNee, CEO of Saugatuck Technology and chairman of the jury, Roland Berger’s “innovative use of hybridised, two-tier business management software to enable measurable, global standardisation and improvement of business management, from interfaces, apps, and data” makes it a true best practice in the cloud domain.
IT becoming competitive differentiator
“Here at Roland Berger, we realise that technical innovation helps us achieving business goals with a new level of quality and speed and therefore provides us competitive advantages," says Daniel Gerster, CIO of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, highlighting the increasing role of internal operations for consulting firms. Against the backdrop of increasing globalisation by clients, consulting firms find themselves ‘obliged’ to build a global footprint – either through an office network or through partnerships – or else risk being ‘stuck in the middle’ in the landscape*. Yet at the same time the expansion drift can put significant pressure on costs, as the fixed costs of setting up and maintaining an IT-infrastructure commonly represents a large initial investment. As a result, consultancies are increasingly earmarking their internal IT systems as a critical source of competitive advantage, leading to re-optimised IT operating models and large-scale adoption of new, cloud-based solutions. A recent research by IDC, commissioned by Deltek, reveals that in the coming 12 months nearly three-quarter (73%) of consulting firms are planning to move their systems to the cloud.
In the case of Roland Berger, regarded as Europe’s sixth most prestigious consulting firm, the firm embraced the IT-strategy early 2013 and launched a large IT-transformation. Following an internal business case, in which the firm compared the potential benefits of an ERP solution operating on-premise with a service in the cloud, the consultancy decided to adopt SAP’s cloud-based SAP Business ByDesign solution. The firm brought in external IT expertise (SAP-expert itelligence; part of NTT Data) and started the journey with a proof of concept phase. Roland Berger worked with itelligence to create an end-state view, which was based on the operations of offices in Austria, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Following the blueprint the firm built the system and rolled it out to a group of pilot countries, with success, and by the end of 2013 the company-wide implementation was practically completed.
The result, according to Gerster, includes more efficient and transparent processes, better data quality, quicker financial flows (e.g. settlement of travel expenses), improved compliance to accounting laws (e.g. IFRS and local standards) and data protection. Ultimately, the IT-infrastructure now better facilitates the business against lower costs. Although savings have not been revealed by the firm, reports in German media indicate that they range in the “millions”, and form a crucial part of the roughly €50 million in cost savings the firm realised this year in its internal operations.
IT facilitates expansion plans
Going forward, the scalability of the solution will play a large role in the firm’s expansion plans. Last month Charles-Edouard Bouée, the recently elected CEO of Roland Berger, unveiled the framework of its new strategy, which centers on the bold strategy of tripling in size in the coming years. With a ‘world-class’ IT in place, at least in the view of Saugatuck Technology, one thing is clear: the IT is ready to go.
See the below video-interview with Daniel Gerster for more information on the solution:
* In other words, too large to be a local, niche player, yet also too small to be a true global player.