Pundits blushed and backtracked this week as they tried in vain to pick an early winner in America’s presidential race. The same spinning often engrosses those who try to call the horse race that has consumed consulting: Who will emerge as e-consulting’s victor?

Consulting firms that win this particular race possess a distinct blend of ingredients. To vastly oversimplify, first, they have smart and humble people (yes, they do exist). Then, there is an operating structure that is both flexible and focused. Using those criteria, it’s easier to see which firms—old or new—will remain viable in the future.

For example, consider Inforte, an up-and-coming Chicago-based e-firm that is “Webifying” Michael Porter’s management theories…and with Porter’s official blessing, no less. Such heavy-duty brainpower should provide Inforte an advantage among e-strategists. Equally important, the company has operated under a basic consulting tenet: It makes money. Inforte has been profitable since its founding in 1993, and has remained that way since going public this past February.

Then there’s Booz-Allen & Hamilton. The classic traditionalist will announce a new wholly owned division next week. Booz’s carefully planned firm-within-a-firm counters the characterizations of an ossified partnership unwilling to change.

Bottom line: A blend of old and new—when correctly combined and properly managed—usually creates a solid entity that withstands consulting’s cyclical swings.

Heard on the street
Speaking of swings, the courtship of PricewaterhouseCoopers and HP has all the makings of an on-again, off-again TV romance. Will they or won’t they? For PwC, the low-ball offer (our assertion) should be motivation enough to say no. HP, meanwhile, may be seriously reconsidering the immensity of integrating PwC into its service division. Stay tuned.
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.