News analysis: consultants face definition questions

Friction within the consulting market is increasing, with firms questioning
what actually constitutes ‘consulting’ and how that affects membership of trade
body, the Management Consultancies Association.

The question as to which firms undertake consulting, or specifically which
offer more than just consultancy services, initially stoked the fires at
Deloitte in January.

The firm threatened to pull out of the MCA over what it saw as ‘segmentation
issues’ within the trade body. Simply speaking, Deloitte was unhappy that some
of the big IT services businesses were treated as consultants.

Sources in other consulting firms have raised concerns over what they
perceive as IT companies using consulting services as glorified sales
operations, so they can bring in technical experts for the provision of
outsourcing and IT implementation services to clients.

Bosses from two of the largest IT services firms – Accenture and Capgemini –
recently told Accountancy Age they offered a ‘greater breadth’ of
service than the Big Four.

Deloitte head of consulting David Owen has already called on the MCA to
differentiate firms on its books between IT service providers and consultants.

Six months into its latest annual membership and Owen says the firm is not
clear on whether it will commit to a further year.

But he thinks MCA chief executive Peter Hill has taken the body ‘a hell of a
long way’, as the issue was ‘ignored’ a year earlier.

‘He’s taken [the message] on board and formed a group looking at the issue,’
says Owen.

Both Hill and Owen talk of organising another meeting between themselves on
the topic but nothing has been confirmed.

Hill admits that other consulting firms have raised the issue of including
members with business models beyond those represented by the MCA.

But the latest MCA annual report does attempt to provide some clarification,
believes Hill, by explaining the different services provided by its members.

‘It’s up to us how we ringfence this and try to ensure we promote and support
the consulting part of the model. Our members come from a broad church,’ says

‘We were trying to provide some clarity, not just as part of the industry
report, but as a representative group. We live in a vibrant industry and
nothing’s set in stone.

Hill believes that members will ‘respond in different ways’ to the MCA’s
efforts, but has yet to receive any adverse feedback on the report. As far as he
is concerned: ‘It’s part of a debate that will go on.’

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