Consulting services have always been crucial to the success of major CRM initiatives. However, as the face of CRM shifts—with a rapidly growing focus on mobile, analytics, and software-as-a-service (SaaS)—consultancies must learn to adapt. In the last few years, the search for a CRM service provider has morphed from a beauty pageant to a comprehensive evaluation. “A trend today is the idea of ‘best for need,’” says Matthew Goldman, research vice president at Gartner, who adds that buyers are looking for “the specific skill set in [their] industry to address specific business issues.”
Emphasis on true value over branding has led to a small shakeup in our leaderboard this year, with the entrance of two newbies and the dethroning of one old standard. Robert Bois, research director for AMR Research, hints at more change to come—the rapid growth of SaaS, he says, is in opposition to the long-term strategic engagements that consultancies traditionally rely on. Bois says that, for consultancies, this is “not an easy task, but a necessary shift to compete in the new SaaS world.”
Accenture has been ousted from the winner’s circle for the first time in five years—but only by an inch. The firm continues to innovate and deliver impressive market share around the world. In the spring of 2008 alone, Accenture purchased consultancies in Brazil (ATAN) and Japan (SOPIA), and opened a delivery center in Mexico. With growth may come a dip in consistency: a low 3.1 score in customer satisfaction and one analyst lamenting a “high cost for junior consultants who learn on the job.” However, with innovators on its team such as partner Kevin Bandy (also one of this year’s Influential Leaders; see page 25), Accenture promises bigger and better things ahead.
Capgemini earned its spot on the leaderboard this year due to an excellent reputation for customer satisfaction. “Capgemini continues to innovate with new Web 2.0 tools that really make an impact,” says Ray Wang, principal analyst at Forrester Research. The firm has also moved forward with SaaS initiatives, partnering with Google to leverage Google Apps, and creating more vertically targeted offerings for financial services and the securities sectors—both cited as hot trends by analysts.
IBM Global Business Services has strengthened its performance this year, coming out of a two-year slump during which it was the lowest-rated in customer satisfaction among our leaders. In fact, Gartner says the firm’s increasing its share of the CRM services market faster than the competition. Leslie Ament, partner at Hypatia Research, says that IBM GBS has expanded its expertise through new hires, and that customers can expect excellence in technological knowledge. With a solid long-term partner in SAP and rapidly expanding practices in India and elsewhere, IBM promises impressive strides going forward.
Last year, Tata Consultancy Services was the first offshore consultancy ever to clinch a leading spot. This year, the company proves that 2007 was no fluke. Established in 1968, the Indian service provider has become the largest technology service provider in Asia, and a top performer globally. TCS’s net profit declined 6.2 percent during the fourth quarter of 2007, but this loss may be due to the weakened U.S. dollar—not the company’s performance. “They have packaged products—and they go in and get the job done,” Ament says.
Ever a standout in customer satisfaction, Deloitte shoulders out the competition this year, making 2008 the first year we’ve crowned a new winner in nearly half a decade. Deloitte’s central differentiator is its focus on CRM, which, according to Gartner, receives the majority of the firm’s investments. “They’ve got the business processes piece, and the implementation piece,” Ament says. “You’re getting value there.” Wang notes that, this year, “consultancies have had to beef up on Oracle technologies to stay competitive.” That’s Deloitte’s sweet spot: In 2008, the firm acquired Oracle specialist Xcelicor and signed a collaborative agreement with the vendor to support Oracle CRM On Demand. Whether that was vision or luck may be up for dispute, but this newly crowned leader’s title isn’t.
ones to watch : consultancies
If “best for need” is really catching on, customers would do well to keep their eyes on two other CRM consultancies.
First up is Hitachi Consulting. This global consulting company currently counts 30 percent of Fortune 100 companies as customers and is “a good fit for small, focused initiatives,” according to Gartner. Forrester’s Wang says the vice president of Hitachi’s Microsoft Dynamics practice gets a lot of the credit: “Mike Gillis and company continue to delight customers.”
Innoveer Solutions, formerly part of Akibia Consulting, separated from its parent company in January 1995. Since then it has made quite a splash in the CRM space with serious dedication to customers’ projects. Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research at Nucleus Research, says, “Innoveer is an example of an organization that has focused on analytics to help its customers get further value from their existing CRM investment.”
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