Leader – When ?the best of breed? is a pup

At the recent Edinburgh Festival TV conference, BSkyB chief Elizabeth Murdoch berated critics who attacked the approach of digital TV. The critics believed that the soon-to-burgeon channels would provide such considerable output that standards were bound to fall. Murdoch retorted, “Does anyone criticise Marks & Spencer for its large range of produce?

Just because you might not want something on a given day, it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be offered”.

The management consultancy industry has long subscribed to this philosophy. In fact, any close collaboration with a manufacturer used to be considered damaging. If a consultancy is offering technical solutions to a client, it should remain impartial and objective. This neutrality is, indeed, one of the major reasons that customers are attracted to consultants.

The likes of Microsoft, Novell, Oracle and IBM are all delighted to offer consultancy services but they cannot attract clients purely on the ground of their unbiased expertise. The management consultants can. It’s a strong USP.

Bearing this in mind, KPMG’s decision to drop its vendor-independent status in favour of providing its customers with a “best of breed” list of preferred suppliers is surprising to say the least. This move seems to fly in the face of the Management Consultancy/NOP survey featured last month, where clients cited independence as one of the main attractions of consultants. KPMG has been moving in this direction for some time. In May, it struck a “strategic alliance” with Microsoft and it plans similar deals soon. And other leading consultancies are rumoured to be thinking along the same lines.

Management Consultancy believes that such a move on the part of the major consultancies is not always going to be in the clients’ best interest.

Consultancies should be known by the impartiality of their advice and not because they have a strategic/financial partnership with an industry behemoth. It will be interesting to see the sort of companies that KPMG believes to be “best of breed”. On what criteria will they be judged?

Once a manufacturer has been so annointed, what measures will the consultancies use to ensure that it lives up to its moniker? There are many unanswered questions.

Everyone wants to be associated with pedigree. However consultancies must ensure that clients still have access to the odd crossbreed now and again. If consultants offer customers a limited choice, they are doing them an injustice.

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