E-Business Turns the Heat up on The Big Five

SAN MATEO (03/20/2000) - Perhaps no topic will elicit a stronger response from IT executives than a discussion about consultants, particularly the mighty Big Five consulting firms. For years these companies have acted like the tech industry's power brokers, choosing those vendors -- be it SAP AG or Microsoft Corp. -- that will define your business processes and technology architectures.

But the days of winning the business with the best MBA buzzwords and coziest relationships may be waning. Feeling the heat from regulators, these firms are finally facing the fact that auditing and consulting do not mix well.

Perhaps more significantly, Web-focused integration companies are running circles around the drawn-out methodologies and business-process re-engineering mind-sets that just don't fly in the age of electronic business.

As detailed in our Page One story by Ted Smalley Bowen and Ed Scannell, there may not be many tears shed for the tough times that the top consulting dogs are having. How often have the best and brightest been there for the sell, but programming rookies have shown up to do the work? And how about the effectiveness of IT and end-user training, or "knowledge transfer?"

Lingering resentment aside, the shape of business and technology consulting is rapidly shifting with the Web, demanding a broad range of skills.

Clearly, all companies need to design their business processes around the Internet. But time to market dictates Web projects: They should be relatively short, prove a business benefit, and typically focus on one part of the business.

The good news is that integration technology and skills are fast improving, making these one-off Web projects more easily digestible by the rest of the corporation. The Big Five's experience with complexity, plus its extensive vertical industry knowledge, should play to the strengths of the firms involved.

That is, if they don't spin off into too many pieces in an effort to gain start-up cache.

Is the old guard or new school meeting your e-business services needs?

Write to me at martin_lamonica@infoworld.com.

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