Avanade Inc., the joint venture launched by Andersen/Accenture and Microsoft last March, is reemerging after seven months of relative dormancy. Whether by design or by accident, the delays and low-key approach have allowed Avanade a degree of anonymity that may actually work to the company’s long-term advantage.

Originally conceived as a way for Andersen to compete against the upstart e-consulting firms, target goals set at Avanade’s birth were impressive: 1,000 consultants in year one and $1 billion in revenues by year three. With headquarters in Seattle, the company currently employs about 400 consultants spread across 11 offices, and plans to open four additional offices in 2001. Revenue numbers are not available, but at present, Avanade has more than 30 active engagements—the majority of which are in the United States.

Mitch Hill, Avanade’s CEO and a 20-year Andersen veteran, says the company doesn’t fit an easily identifiable niche. “We’re a technology company as opposed to an ‘e-consulting’ firm. We may offer some of the same capabilities as an IBM Global Services, and we might also find ourselves up against a razorfish. But our competencies won’t be in the creative area. At the end of the day, we focus on delivering technological solutions.”

As Andersen/Accenture’s first independent operating company, Avanade is still working on its own identity. Both Microsoft and Andersen/Accenture have put caps on the number of people who can be pulled from those organizations to assure that the gene pool at Avanade stays fresh. Not surprisingly, the senior ranks offer a different picture: Seven of the top 10 executive posts are held by Andersen/Accenture or Microsoft people.

Hill’s mantra has changed little since the company’s launch. But Avanade now finds a landscape where many upstarts have become has-beens. Thus, the urge to go public (a more-than-suggested agenda item at the outset) has abated. What Avanade ultimately aspires to is a story that’s still being written.

Heard on the street
Booz-Allen & Hamilton has launched an interactive Web site that will track a group of consultants as they go about their daily business. The gimmick is supposed to offer recruits (and voyeurs?) a peek at “real” consultants in the “real” world. BAH marketing chief Chuck Lucier tells The Wall Street Journal he could see these consultants achieving “Survior-like” celebrity status. A suggestion to help achieve that goal: simulcast Friday kegger parties!
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