US consulting market to continue strong growth in 2015

08 September 2015

Last year the US consulting market grew by 9% to over $50 billion. Latest estimates from market analysts reveal that 2015 is yet to be another bright year. Finance and risk management lead the growth at around 12%, followed by technology consulting at 10%. Particularly tech advisory is expected to stay in demand over the coming years, providing a strong basis for continued high growth in the US consulting market.

Big time growth
The US consulting market is the largest in the world, representing 55% of the $101 billion global market in 2014, making it nearly 8x the size of the UK consulting market, and more than 11x the size of the Australian advisory market. Not only is it the largest market, it is also one of the fastest growing in Western economies, adding 9% in 2014 – an increment which represents the equivalent of roughly half of the German consulting industry (third largest globally, and just behind the UK). This year’s growth too is expected to be a blazing 10%. Yet with the US consulting sector already being relatively mature, while growing at emerging market rates, concerns are being raised about the sustainability of the growth trajectory

Size of US Consulting Market

Strong fundamentals
According to a recent study by Source Information Services, a UK-based analyst firm, concern about the rate of growth can be put to rest for the time being – with the strong growth a reflection of strong fundamentals in the US rather than the outward symptoms of another bubble. The researchers see three major factors driving the consulting figures in the US: the US economy’s strength; clients’ use of consultants; and technological development, with an emphasis on digital transformation. 

The rise in the US GDP of between 2% - 2.5% annually projected for the coming years mean that firms have more funds available for investment in consulting advice in at least the near term. And with many executives still keen on hiring providers to deal with problems – with inhouse teams remaining relatively expensive – consults continue to reap the benefits of demand. The biggest issue to solve for clients, and thereby the biggest boon for the consulting industry, remains digitalisation.

Digital growth
Of the different consulting segments, financial management and risk consulting remains the fastest growing – although the market itself remains relatively small – at 12%. The second fastest growing sector is technology, which is expected to grow by 10%. Relatively lagging – but still with fierce growth – are operational improvement consulting and strategy consulting at 7% and 8% respectively.

2015 growth rate per service line

The transformation of businesses – particularly large corporates – into behemoths of the 21st century through digitalisation remains a cash cow for many consultancies, and thereby, a major growth factor. And with businesses seeing the direct benefits of digitalisation within their competitors’ value chains, demand for such transformations are expected to remain high – and with it, demand for consultants.

According to a survey held among 9,000 consultants in North America, McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company and Boston Consulting Group are the best consulting firms to work for in the US and Canada. The advisory units of Deloitte (Deloitte Consulting) and PwC (PwC Advisory) complete the top five.


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.