Outsourcing

Watching the stars in the e-consulting galaxy

With so many consulting specialties in the e-business universe, it's difficult for clients to know what they're buying. Columnist Tom Rodenhauser makes a case for a clearer definition of e-consulting.

The current e-services market is as dynamic as a converging galaxy. Dozens of well-known firms are blazing trails across the e-business horizon.

To most industry observers, there are no clear winners and, seemingly, many losers. In fact, even the most astute analysts see very little differentiation among the e-firms.

Before the Internet revolution, consultants and technologists shared ideas but usually had different agendas when dealing with clients. The idea of a business strategy driven exclusively by technology remains a relatively new phenomenon. Recognizing the void, e-business consultants stepped up with a plethora of services that sometimes defied comprehension.

Pick up any business paper or magazine and you’ll see ads touting “complete e-solutions” from a wide range of providers—hardware/software builders, ASPs, enterprise providers, management consultants, and even interactive agencies. Where once existed a relatively clear separation of capabilities, there now exists a potpourri of techno-consultants. Accenture has raised the stakes even further by expanding the definition of consulting to include such activities as raising venture capital.

Unfortunately, Web savvy does not always translate into business savvy, and vice versa. In the chameleon-like world of business services, yesterday’s enterprise solution provider may not be today’s Web enabler. So it’s important for buyers to cut through the marketing drivel.

A great chasm exists between hype and reality. Most e-services firms do a great job marketing their services. But because the e-business market is still so new, there is little evidence that e-firms can back these claims.

One area that does warrant attention centers on management pedigrees at e-service providers. Newer e-consulting firms appear to be touting management pedigrees as one of the best indicators of quality—at least until better work metrics emerge.

From a broader perspective, there are dozens of other e-consultancies that ascribe to the “thought leader” philosophy; whether that be singular supernovas or vast groups of dwarf stars depends on the founder. The need for dynamic, intellectual leaders is apparent in a business where ideas and people are one and the same.

Does business genealogy matter in e-services? Certainly not as much as it matters in traditional management consulting. But lacking other measurements, it’s probably enough to make a good guess at which e-consulting stars will continue to shine.
Inside Consulting is written by Tom Rodenhauser as a free weekly supplement to The Rodenhauser Report. The report informs senior advisors and business executives of consulting trends and best practices. Subscription cost is $295 per year for 10 issues. Copyright 2001, Consulting Information Services, LLC. Reproduction is prohibited. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.
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