Nowhere is the changed consulting climate more apparent than on campus. Our annual pilgrimage to leading graduate schools reveals the giddiness of the past two years has abated. Camelot has ended.

The nascent e-consulting wave rejuvenated many b-schools. Just last year, eager MBAs talked excitedly about those “new” firms that arrived with slick presentations and bountiful promises. With the bottom falling out of e-services, stoic students now seem to have a different view—possibilities have been replaced by pragmatism.

A recent New York Times article on consulting-sponsored mini-MBAs is a punch to the solar plexus that will surely cause much consternation in academia. Reporter David Leonhardt questions the apparent devaluation of the MBA, offering as proof the fact that consultancies are increasingly sponsoring their own business curriculum to non-business hires. Rest assured the Times will bristle with the educated rants of snubbed b-school deans.

Despite the assertions, the symbiotic relationship between top b-schools and consulting remains strong. In fact, both are victims of their own success. Consulting firms find quality clay on college campuses and pay premium dollars to mold the finished product. Talented students see the exponential MBA payoff—fueled mostly by consultancies—as worth the price.

The dot-com phenomenon briefly upset the natural order. Suddenly students were presented with a third choice to consulting or corporate life—an interesting and lucrative alternative to change the world. For a very brief moment, consultancies faced the scary prospect of having to pick up their lines and fish in another talent pool.

Thankfully, that bit of silliness has passed. But some consulting firms are hedging their future bets by going after more non-MBAs. Maybe that explains the many furrowed brows on campus.

Heard on the street
Poor Lante. Like other Net consultants, the company announced an earnings shortfall. “Third quarter revenue and earnings were adversely affected by a few of our dot-com clients whose funding became uncertain,” says CEO Rudy Puryear. “We have taken additional steps to minimize this future risk.” Those steps—namely partnering with Dell and Microsoft to go after F1000 clients—will stanch the bleeding. But Lante has a perilous route to recovery. The good news is that employee turnover seems to be holding steady. But another shortfall could be deadly in this climate.
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 2000, Consulting Information Services, LLC. Reproduction is prohibited. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.