Avanade expands its digital consulting business into mainland Europe

07 February 2018 Consultancy.uk 10 min. read
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Global IT services company Avanade is launching its consulting arm in Europe. To lead the new Advisory Services | European practice, the US-headquartered firm has brought a senior partner from KPMG Advisory on board. In the space of the coming two years, Avanade Advisory Services expects to be fully operational in eleven countries across the continent. 

With over 30,000 professionals in more than 20 countries, generating revenues of approximately $2.5 billion, Avanade is one of the globe’s larger technology services providers to large and mid-sized companies. The company, which serves nearly half of the Fortune Global 500, was launched by US-giants Accenture and Microsoft as a joint venture in 2000 and is now majority owned by Accenture. 

Riding on the back of the digital transformation boom, which has created a $23 billion global market, Avanade has seen strong growth in recent years. On average, the company has managed to book double-digit year-on-year growth since founding, and looking ahead, the firm’s new Head of Europe Advisory Services, Dione de Jong, said that the firm is ideally positioned to maintain its strong run. 

“The tidal wave of digital transformation combined with wide spread adoption of cloud based solutions and the increasing threat of cyber security means both large and medium businesses are looking for strategic partners to help shape their strategic agenda. Partners that can unlock the potential of technological innovations and facilitate them in the successful execution. Avanade is very well positioned to fill in this role,” De Jong remarked.

Avanade expands its digital consulting  business into mainland Europe

Expansion into digital consulting

As part of its ambition to become a trusted advisor in digital transformation, Avanade has in recent years been expanding its services portfolio. While Avanade in the early years primarily focused on delivering solutions for Microsoft technologies, today it has diversified into an end-to-end player in the IT professional services arena, helping clients from digital strategy design to execution and managed services. The firm also supports organisations, which include longstanding clients AkzoNobel, EasyJet, eBay and Eneco, with digital innovation, helping them embrace the potential of cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and Industry 4.0, among others. 

The firm’s push into business consulting forms an integral part of the strategy. Not only does consulting provide Avanade with a suite of more premium services and access to a network of decision-makers beyond the more operational IT realm, it also allows the company to make more of an impact on the digital transformation agenda of its clients. Leveraging advisory expertise, Avanade can advise on future-looking digital strategies, and once plans have come into effect, support with the transition, including the people management side of change – commonly earmarked as the most fraught part of any technical transition. 

Since it was launched in late 2016, Avanade’s Advisory practice has recorded double-digit revenue growth, outpacing other business units. Building on growing demand from its European base to mirror the offering, Avanade have now launched their Advisory business in continental Europe. “Our Advisory Services business is a growth engine for Avanade and we have strong ambitions in Europe, a market that already accounts for 45% of our worldwide turnover,” said Darren Hardman, President of Europe at the company. He added, “Our Advisory Services business is a growth engine for Avanade, and we are delighted to be launching in Europe.” 

The firm’s roadmap for market entry into Europe builds on two main pillars, Hardman said. “In 2018, the focus will be on growing our Advisory practice in select markets, including the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.” The company will do so through both organic and inorganic means, he added. From within, Avanade will line up professionals with considerable advisory experience to serve its new Advisory hub (estimated to be a team of around 100 professionals), and launch a recruitment wave for new talent across Europe’s markets. The company does not disclose any potential M&A targets, however Hardman highlighted that a buy-and-build strategy is on the table, a move which would build on previous advisory-related acquisitions in the region. In 2017, Avanade bought Infusion, which has 7 offices globally, including 3 in Europe, and in 2015 it acquired Cloud Talent, a UK-based cloud consultancy. 

“We expect to double the number of Advisory practitioners in Europe over the next year,” remarked Hardman. 

Darren Hardman, Dione de Jong, Ian Jordan, Adrian Overall

Head of Europe: Dione de Jong

To lead the European expansion drive, Hardman and Avanade’s Global Advisory Lead Ian Jordan have turned to Dione de Jong, formerly a senior partner at KPMG Advisory in the Netherlands, who has been appointed Head of Europe Advisory Services. De Jong has been tasked with leading the strategic plan and execution for all European markets, excluding the UK, which is led by Adrian Overall, the former CEO of Cloud Talent. “Over the coming 90 days, I will be working closely with our country leads in Europe to jointly define objectives and targets for the Europe practice, with a primary focus on meeting the unique needs of clients in each region,” commented De Jong on her first endeavour for the firm.

De Jong brings over twenty years of experience, of which eleven in management and IT consulting, with her to Avanade. After working for FMCG multinational Unilever and aviation group Air France-KLM, she joined KPMG in the Netherlands at the turn of the financial crisis. In 2009 she was appointed a partner in KPMG’s Management Consulting practice, and subsequently ascended the partner ranks to hold senior leadership positions. Latterly, she headed KPMG’s IT advisory arm for the Netherlands (500 professionals), co-headed the Management Consulting practice and chaired the Technology Enablement team for EMEA.

The new Head of Europe Advisory Services was selected following a European-wide executive search process, with De Jong coming out on top for her “proven track record in building strong relationships and her commitment to achieving long term, sustainable results,” according to Jordan. “Dione understands intimately how broad IT transformation underpins digital innovation and her broad experience will help us build a practice that effectively supports organisations on this challenging journey. She is a great addition to our executive team.” 

Asked why she left her role at KPMG for Avanade, De Jong said that she was particularly attracted to the firm’s ambitious plans. “It is a privilege to be in the position to help create a new Advisory Services practice at an international scale. I am looking forward to bringing the best people together to realise this ambition.”

Leveraging her experience at large customer organisations, which includes a role leading one of the most complex separation programmes in the history of the Dutch banking landscape, De Jong added that she believes Avanade has all the ingredients to make the firm’s latest venture a success. “Avanade is ideally positioned to conquer the digital transformation consulting market.”

Quote Darren Hardman

According to recent data from an analyst firm, the market for digital transformation consultancy is one of the fastest growing segments within consulting, today accounting for around 20% of the total industry. With trends such as artificial intelligence, automation, IoT and cybersecurity still in their infancy, the market is forecasted to boom further in the coming years, providing players such as Avanade with huge growth opportunities. 

An integrated offering

Besides rapidly scaling Avanade’s Advisory practice on the continent, De Jong will be focused on working with regional leadership to align Advisory with Avanade’s technology capabilities (“we aim to position an innovative Advisory practice at the forefront of our services portfolio”), as well as forge cooperative relationships with the US and UK, where Avanade’s Advisory practice is more mature. “We operate as a truly global business. So integral to our strategy is to leverage the global best practices and expertise of Avanade Advisory Services to provide the very best counsel and partnership to our clients in each region.” 

While the large consulting firms typically tend to shun their strategy and management experience to edge them ahead of the traditional IT players, De Jong contended that in the digital scene, the real value to clients is the other way around. “I see that the innovation and technology implementation expertise in Avanade’s broader business will provide value to clients that other business consulting firms can’t offer.”

Demonstrating the firm’s track record, she pointed at a number of client cases recently supported in Europe. “One client story that resonates with me is services and software provider DNV GL in Norway, which deployed PowerBI analytics to give its people access to better customer insights. The solution worked great, but DNV realised it needed a new governance framework to manage risk and called on Avanade Advisory Services for help to establish those guidelines without diminishing business agility and user engagement.” Meanwhile, in France Avanade helped a leading luxury brand reimagine their customer service processes, while in the Netherlands, Specsavers was supported with an end-to-end digital 

The common denominator, according to De Jong, is that, “clients in the market are demanding both strategic and practical execution capabilities to help them solve transformational problems quickly and deliver outcomes – not just advice, products, solutions or lofty plans that take years to come to fruition. This is what we promise to deliver on: maximum, positive impact.” 

The Head of Avanade’s European advisory practice concluded, “The market opportunity is there. I strongly believe that Avanade has the right vision to capitalise on this and look forward to getting started!”