MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS thrive on a simple business model. First, scare companies by laying bare where they are failing. Then soothe them with counsel on how to improve. The scaring part has grown easier as technology upends one industry after another. Rare is the chief executive these days unconcerned about cyber-security, artificial intelligence (AI) or their online offering. The soothing, though, may have become harder. Who is a boss to trust when consultancies themselves are only slowly getting to grips with the meaning of technological upheaval?
To a growing number of CEOs the answer is Accenture. The firm, whose name is a portmanteau of “accent on the future”, certainly has pedigree when it comes to tech. It is descended from Arthur Andersen, an accounting-and-advisory giant which helped persuade General Electric to install a UNIVAC 1, corporate America’s first computer, in 1954. In 2000 Andersen Consulting finally severed its strained ties to its parent (whose remaining accountancy business was felled two years later by the Enron fraud scandal). It changed its name and, in 2001, listed on the stockmarket at a value of $14bn.
Since then its growth has been tentacular. Today around 200 clients are thought to pay Accenture at least $100m each annually to keep their tech humming. Its 500,000 or so employees perform...
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