Consultant matching platforms in DACH strike alliance

06 November 2015

NEWCOVENTURE, a German online platform for finding management consultants, has struck an alliance with consultingsearcher, a similar service which operates in Switzerland.

The consulting industry has in recent years seen an influx of online databases of consultants and matching platforms. With the rise of online, clients are increasingly turning their sights towards digital channels to support their search and selection processes as part of their wider tender strategy. While the market still finds itself in its infancy – not just in consulting but across the professional services arena – the long term potential is massive. According to a recent study from McKinsey & Company, digital talent matching platforms are set to revolutionise business, holding the potential to add $2.7 trillion to GDP by 2025.

Online databases of consultants and matching platforms rapidly gaining terrain

In Germany two platforms have of late been built from the ground up: Comatch, a service set up in 2014 by two former McKinsey advisors*, and NEWCOVENTURE, launched in May this year by Frank Braun, who previously gained insider experience at among others goetzpartners, EY and J&M Management Consulting. Both platforms have gotten off to a flying start – in its first year of operations Comatch completed 40 consulting projects, executed by more than 450 consultants, while NEWCOVENTURE has grown its database of advisors to 450+ consultants since going live six months ago. And in a move aimed at repeating their success story both have also set their sights on international expansion. Comatch last month unveiled that it has entered the Dutch advisory market (worth an estimated €1 billion), with NEWCOVENTURE now following suit with its move to expand its operations into Switzerland through an alliance with consultingsearcher.

Founded a few years ago by Cardea, a Zürich-based firm established in 1999 that focuses on business development in the consulting industry, consultingsearcher helps local clients with finding the right advisory firm or freelancer. The platform’s database focuses on management consulting services, and reportedly segments consulting firms across more than 800 combined dimensions, such as industry and functional expertise, geographical presence and consulting role.

New coventure

As part of the alliance, the two platform will jointly pursue growth opportunities, serve their markets as a team, and together perform studies of the consulting market. “Through this cooperation, we can combine our expertise in consulting and various digital services and thereby jointly offer our business clients an optimised package that fits all their needs,” comments Eva Manger-Wiemann, Managing Partner at Cardea. The deal will also see the newly-wed partners bolster the quality standards around the selection process of consultants, a pillar which both label as key to client satisfaction and their offering. “Thanks to our collaborative efforts, we set new standards in the consulting process and consistently use the capabilities of the digital age to enhance the transparency of the market,” says Braun.

By joining forces, NEWCOVENTURE and consultingsearcher aim at consolidating their online grip on the German-speaking market – an industry valued at €25.2 billion by the BDU. Looking further ahead, NEWCOVENTURE has set its sights on pan-European growth. Building on a successful venture capital investment completed two months ago, the platform has set the goal to have 1,000 consultants and interim managers by the start of 2016, to be realised through pan-European expansion. “These days, companies and consultants operate internationally. We knew right from the start that rapid expansion to the entire European market had to be part of our plan,” acknowledges Braun. Last month one of the first steps was taken through the launch of an English website and app.

Frank Braun, Eva Manger-Wiemann

Other examples of matching platforms between clients and consultants are blur in the UKExpert360 in Australia, and VirtualCC in the Netherlands.

* Comatch founders are Christoph Hardt and Jan Schächtele.


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.