41 consultancy firms battle for The MCA's 2019 awards

03 December 2018 Consultancy.uk

The MCA Awards – the flagship event for excellence in UK’s consulting industry – is set for its largest and most competitive edition ever. The organisation will now task a jury of 30 experts with shortlisting potential winners, before handing out top prizes at a special gala ceremony on Thursday 28th March 2019 in London.

The representative body for the UK’s £10 billion consulting industry, the Management Consultancies Association (MCA), has received a record number of entries for the 2019 MCA Awards, with 41 companies from across the breadth of the UK consulting sector entering the competition. This represents growth of a fifth on the total number of entries received by the MCA last year, while the ceremony to announce the winners will be hosted in March 2019. That will be the 22nd incarnation of the MCA Awards.

The MCA has been its industry’s collective voice for more than six decades, with its members making up more than 60% of the UK consulting industry, and employ roughly 45,000 professionals, while working with more than 90 of the leading FTSE 100 companies and the vast majority of the public sector. As a result, the yearly MCA Awards have become a major date in the calendars of the UK’s leading management consultancies over the past two decades. The event commends best practices and recognises high-quality performance in UK consultancies across three areas, with awards for client excellence handed out in the process.

41 consultancy firms battle for The MCA's 2019 awards

The 2019 event in Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel will celebrate top performers across 21 categories. This will see gongs distributed to winners in 12 project categories, 5 individual categories and 4 overall awards; of these, nine are brand new classifications. In the projects segment of the ceremony, the MCA will debut prizes for Change and Transformation in the Private Sector; Change and Transformation in the Public Sector; Customer Engagement and Marketing; and Innovation in Digital and Technology. Meanwhile, the individual wing will feature trophies for Team Leader Consultant of the Year; Thought Leader Consultant of the Year; Innovation Consultant of the Year and Outstanding Achievement.

Finally, the MCA has also introduced a prize which recognises firms that have best adopted the body’s Consulting Excellence Principles. In 2016, the MCA introduced nine principles across ethics, client service & value and professional development that according to the organ comprise a ‘hallmark of quality for management consulting firms’. Speaking on the new award, new MCA Chief Executive Tamzen Isacsson explained, “The winner in this category will have to demonstrate their commitment to, and understanding of, the practical implications of the Principles of Consulting Excellence.”

Recognising the value of consultancy

This will be the first ceremony with Isacsson at the helm of the organisation, and commenting on the event as a whole, she said, “The MCA Awards provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the important work consultants do, both in teams and individually, on projects across the private and public sector."

The selection of winners will be performed by a jury of 30 experts, consisting of business leaders, consultants with an established track record, journalists and academics, among others*. The process of shortlisting will take place shortly, with the finalists for the MCA Awards set to be announced early in the New Year. Isacsson says that as a result of the high quality of entries, she expects “judges have their work cut out for themselves and we can expect some long, intense judging sessions.”

“The MCA Awards provide a high profile platform to recognise the great achievements in consulting, both in teams and individually, on projects across the private and public sector, as well as to demonstrate its value to the UK economy and wider society,” concluded Isacsson.

Last year 16 different consulting firms managed to scoop a prestigious MCA Award. PwC Advisory and Deloitte Consulting dominated, with the two members of the Big Four scooping a total of 12 accolades between them. Among the other consulting firms celebrated at the 2018 MCA Awards were Simon-Kucher Partners, Coeus Consulting, Jacobs, OEE Consulting, PPL, Thales Cyber & Consulting, Arup, Egremont Group, Carnall Farrar, IBM, GE Healthcare Partners, Proudfoot, Turner & Townsend Suiko, and Atos.

* The jury for the MCA Awards 2019: Andreas Credé (Director at Credé Associates), Andy Gannon (Executive Coach and Mentor), Carol Smith (Director of Client Services at Combat Street), Charlotte Sweeney OBE (Founder at Charlotte Sweeney Associates), Christoph Marr (Managing Director at Marr Procurement), David Bailey (Advisor to Professional Services Firms), David Smith (Board Level Commercial and Procurement Advisor), Dr. Duncan Robertson (Fellow in Management Studies at Oxford University), Edward Bickham (Managing Director at Extracting Value LTD), Jan Gower (Partner at Medway Consulting), Jen Stevenson (Head of Category Indirects at Your Housing Group), Julie Hodges (Associate Professor in Management at Durham University), Kirsty Birks (Strategy Director at Boost Drinks), Lesley Wilkin (Director / Co-Founder at Smart Space Learning Ltd), Mitchell Leimon (Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy at BEIS Corporate Services), Patrick Newberry (Non-Executive Director at Paragon Bank and Shepherd & Wedderburn LLP), Paula Sussex (CEO at Student Loans Company), Paul Collins (Chairman at Equiteq), Paul Vincent (Managing Director at Sapient Professional Services), Rachel Sanders (Director & Co-Founder at Westmount Partners Ltd), Rob Garner (Advisor | Director | Investor), Sally Scutt (Strategic Advisor at International Compliance Association), Sandra Macleod (CEO at Mindful Reputation), Simon Atkinson (Chief Knowledge Officer at Ipsos MORI), Simon Clark (Adviser), Stefan Stern (Columnist), Vicky Pryce (Board Menber at CEBR), Vlatka Hlupic (Professor of Business and Management at University of Westminster), William Etchell (CFO at Education Placement Group), William Johnson (Managing Director at The Openside Group).

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Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.