Netherlands hosts International Consultancy Conference

12 June 2015

On the 22nd and 23rd of September this year the ICMCI will host its annual ‘International Consultancy Conference’, a two-day congress about innovation, with the theme “Global examples, local effects”. The event will be hosted in the Netherlands and is set to attract consultants from around the world. Several experts and top consultants from the industry will provide a keynote or contribution to the programme, including culture guru Fons Trompenaars, Fiona Czerniawska and HRH Princess Laurentien.

The International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI) was founded in 1987 and has as its goal to provide a global standard for management consultants worldwide and to raise the maturity of the management consulting industry to a higher level.

CMC - Innovation in Consultancy

Every year the ICMCI organises a congress for consultants – in 2014 the event was hosted in South Korea (Seoul) –  and this year the honour to organise the so-called ‘International Consultancy Conference’ has been given to the Netherlands*. In the lead for organising the event are the Ooa (the Dutch association for consultants) and the ROA (the representative organ for consulting firms; the counterpart of the MCA). The event, titled ‘Innovation in Consulting - Global Examples, Local Effects', will take place on 22nd and 23rd September in Huis ter Duin, Noordwijk. Three themes stand at the heart of the agenda: Technological Innovation, Social Innovation and Value for the profession.

Day 1: 22 September
On day 1 the participants will dive into the theme of innovation, worldwide trends and disruption. Global trends are to be covered in the morning by keynote speakers Princess Laurentien van Oranje Nassau and KPMG partner Fons Trompenaars**. The event continues with several workshops and readings. Several international speakers are lined up, including Fiona Czerniawska (Managing Director of Source for Consulting, UK), Alfred Harl (UBIT, Austria) and renowned Dutch experts like Henk Volberda (Erasmus Strategic Renewal Centre), Marie-Pauline Lauret (Mazars), Rik Maes (Academy of Information Management) and Léon de Caluwé (Twijnstra Gudde). Rob Wagenaar, the co-founder of WagenaarHoes, will, with Ard-Pieter de Man from Sioo and ROA-chairman Michael van der Velden (partner at AEF), lead the session ‘Gamechangers in Consulting’. PwC’s Kenny van Ierlant will in turn provide a session about ‘Digital disruption’. The day is to provide “a rich palette that delivers inspiring and diverse perspectives from around the world,” says the Ooa.

CMC Congress - Speakers

The day will be concluded with a spectacular gala dinner in honour of the Ooa’s 75th anniversary.

Day 2: 22 September
The second day is dedicated to local effects. How do the global trends manifest in a local setting? To gain insight in key answers, the participants will visit renowned companies and institutes, with Deltares, De Nederlandse Bank (the Dutch central bank), Stage Entertainment and the ‘Vredespaleis’ (International Court of Justice) opening their doors to the congress. Participants will work on concrete issues faced by the companies for which the keen intellect and the resultant advice of the visiting consultants may prove ground-breaking, or at least valuable. Issues tackled will be related to innovation in government, manufacturing, high tech waterworks or international conflict mediation.

DNB - Stage Entertainment - Deltares - International Court of Justice

The International Consultancy Conference will this year be supported by several parties: the ROA and Ooa are organisational partners, while training firm Sioo, Vakmedianet, Management & Consulting, the Amsterdam Centre for Management Consulting, Ngi-NGN, PZO-ZZP, Achmea, KPMG, NVP and have also attached their support to the event.

CMC congres - Partners

* The decision for the Netherlands coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Ooa. The association has been part of the ICMCI since 1989.

** Fons Trompenaars is the co-founder of Trompenaars Hampden-Turner (THT). In February this year the firm was acquired by KPMG.

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

18 April 2019

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.