Ten years ago, IT consulting and human resource (HR) consulting existed as separate and often unequal services, even within the largest consulting organizations. Now, you would expect those services to be inextricably linked, as clients continue to require help in understanding—and seizing upon—extraordinary shifts in technology for their businesses.

Unfortunately, many consultancies do a much better job marketing integrated services than delivering those same services to the client. There remains a substantial credibility gap regarding how they incorporate HR services into large-scale IT projects.

Today’s prototypical consultancies, such as Accenture, have moved well beyond their systems-implementation roots. Likewise, IBM, CSC, and EDS all offer services that are more than just global IT plumbing.

These third-party implementers have to invest massive resources to successfully deliver solutions. But far from production-line installation of software and systems, today’s IT/management consultancies must also meld effective and credible HR services with IT implementation to both satisfy clients’ needs and deliver real value.

In other words, firms must figure out how to blend “organization” with “technology” to create a seamless delivery of services.

Based on conversations with senior partners and practice leaders at the world’s largest consulting firms, the linkage between IT and HR is still thin. Only a fraction of every dollar spent on IT projects goes to change management initiatives. Traditional HR consultancies, such as Watson Wyatt and Hewitt, have virtually no formal partnerships or alliances with any large-scale systems implementers. And many IT projects, such as legacy-system overhauls, usually involve after-the-fact delivery of HR services.

Despite the posturing, most consulting firms still operate compartmentalized HR practices that don’t always interact with IT practices.

Ironically, the majority of all clients now perceive the HR link as vital to the success (or failure) of large-scale IT implementation projects. Consulting firms are just beginning to recognize the competitive advantages of offering superior HR services.

Given the screeching halt in IT spending over the past six months, the timing couldn’t be better for clients and consultants alike.

Heard on the street
On June 19, Accenture named Harry L. You as chief financial officer, effective immediately. You, 42, was previously a managing director at Morgan Stanley, where he ran the Information Services Group. He supervised a global team that guided major professional firms through the transition from partnership structure to public ownership—the same task he will perform for Accenture later this year.

About the author

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.