‘We saw a decisive shift in the type of assignments we do’

Andy Tinlin, Managing Director of Accenture Strategy, says 2015 saw continued growth. “We also saw a decisive shift in the type of assignments we do. Planning horizons for business are shortening. So we need more iterative, outcomes-based approaches. Client needs are complex. That means working with other parts of Accenture to provide rounded responses. And those needs evolve fast. We’re often creating approaches and reinventing them in the space of months.” Andy argues consulting is now about finding new kinds of value for clients. “Cost- cutting work now concerns agility as much as improved operating margins, and growth-focused work needs to drive cost as well as customer impact.” 

Financial services remains a healthy market for Accenture. “In banking, client needs are still changing, becoming more growth orientated. A first wave of banks restructured in 2010-12. They’re now being followed by others, who want growth at the heart of their transformations, creating more and different demands.” Andy also notes growth in capital markets and says insurers are starting to digitise and transform.

In energy and utilities things are different. “With oil trading at $40 a barrel, the market is volatile. Some energy companies have slashed capital and operational spend, issued moratoria on the use of consultants and cancelled new technology investments. Others continue to employ consulting to improve margins in a difficult market. We’ve just acquired Schlumberger Business Consulting, an upstream energy consulting business. But it’s not an easy sector right now and it’s unclear where it’s heading.” Utilities, also impacted by oil, know they need radical change, but Andy says that for now the sector is just starting what is likely to be a significant era of evolution.

“By contrast, our communications, media and high tech businesses are optimistic about future prospects.” The sectors are characterised by innovation, convergence and falling barriers. “There is a lot of telco merger activity. Predicted revenues from cellular and landline aren’t always there, so even big names have to diversify or consolidate. New players that have grown fast need to think about what being big means. New cyber security and Cloud approaches are changing business models and creating new orders of value. It’s very exciting stuff.” Andy says this means consultants want to work in these sectors. “That’s not just a superficial point. For us attracting the best talent is about giving them interesting careers. That is also the case for clients. Sectors that embrace Digital’s exciting potential will do well. Sectors that don’t may appear stale to the very best people.”

One sector embracing Digital is retail, where Accenture is very active. The company recently acquired Javelin Group, a retail consulting specialist, enlarging an already substantial footprint. “We’re also seeing lots more activity in consumer goods companies, who have lagged a little behind the retailers on Digital. Now they’re not just doing zero-based budgeting, but zero-based organisation, a sign of radical ambition.”

High value work in the public sector remains challenging. “Our health business is vibrant, because health is now embracing Digital. But buyer behaviours in the wider public sector make it difficult to contract for good work consistently. That may change with devolution. Cross-institution projects in powerful cities like Manchester may prove attractive and sustainable. But as yet things are mostly at the conception stage.”

Looking to 2016, Andy sees reasons to be cheerful, though worries occasionally about clients’ spasms of short-termism. “But the principal ingredient for our continued success is continual reinvention. That’s not just about hiring new talent, though we always seek fresh DNA and perspectives. It’s also about facing up to modern organisational and cultural issues, challenging ourselves to do better on diversity and work life balance.” 

Andy Tinlin, Managing Director of Accenture Strategy was interviewed for the MCA End of Year Report 2015.