Management Consultants World Conference Report

Last week's international conference on management consulting in Berlin was definitely Eurocentric and failed to acknowledge the power of the Internet in consulting, writes columnist Tom Rodenhauser. Read his report on the event.

The Management Consultants World Conference, a triennial event held in Berlin last week, attempts to stitch together the three major consulting regions—America, Europe, and Asia—through their professional associations. But without the support of major strategy firms, our frontline reports indicate that the results are less than global.

I got the sense that Berlin is equipping itself to be the effective capital not just of Germany, but also of the European hinterland, which embraces Poland and what used to be “MittelEuropa.” This impression was sustained by Germany's former President, Dr. Richard von Weiszacker, who suggested while making the conference's keynote speech that Poland and others would be joining the European Union by Jan. 1, 2003.

Maybe global consultancies with global ambitions should think about placing Berlin higher on the list of their investment priorities. Conference host FEACO (the European Federation of Management Consulting Associations) had the right idea locating the conference in Berlin, but took a risk because of high costs and uncertain attendance. The Association of Management Consulting Firms pulled out of a U.S. venue in 1999 for similar reasons, and many well-known American names scheduled to speak in Berlin failed to show up this year, forcing the BDU's (Federal Association of German Management Consultants) president, Jochen Kienbaum, to make some nifty (and mostly successful) local substitutions.

Among the best presenters were:
  • Flemming Poulfelt, Copenhagen Business School professor, who talked about ownership models, pointing out that the sentiment is now swinging back from equity to partner ownership.
  • Rudiger Tibbe, Germany's CMC President, spoke on the imperativeness of contingent pricing.
  • Peter Kilgour, the U.K.'s Towers Perrin demonstrated from many case studies that cultural differences can be very successfully managed in cross-border and other merger situations.

An interesting sideline: Edgar Britschgi, Germany's Country Managing Partner for Andersen Consulting (AC), let slip that a new company name will be unveiled at the end of this month. He bravely disclosed that in surveys, AC had been perceived as “arrogant,” adding that this was true of management consultants in general. So, the “personality” of AC’s new brand would need to be addressed.

Conference criticisms? This was more of a Eurocentric conference than a global one, despite a good Japanese turnout. Also, the big strategy consultants, such as McKinsey, BCG, and Bain, resolutely refuse to support these events. But then, their internal knowledge base and experience are generally superior to anything the primarily small-to-medium sized consultancies that attend this conference can put together.

In addition, there was far too little recognition of the Internet revolution. To be absolutely sure that attendees to the 2003 conference (which AMCF plans to host in New York) will get the full force of the revolution, maybe they ought to plunk the conference venue in the middle of Silicon Valley.

Heard on the street
Arthur Andersen’s Business Consulting unit posted revenues of $1.6 billion for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2000 (up from $1.4 billion the previous year), representing about 20 percent of AA’s total-year revenue. Richard Boulton, who replaced Chuck Ketteman as Arthur Andersen Business Consulting’s new managing partner, says AA is the “world’s best-kept secret in consulting.” That’s an understatement.
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.

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