Leader – Five, four, three, two, none

“In time the Rockies may tumble, Gibraltar may crumble” … but the Big Five are here to stay. Aren’t they? Well, Cole Porter may have been a reliable commentator on love, but he knew nothing about the world of consulting.

News this month that Cap Gemini has swallowed up Ernst & Young’s consulting practice surely heralds the beginning of the end of the Big Five, as we know them. PwC’s consultants have been wrenched away from their audit practice and we await their fate as an independent; and there are rumours afoot that IBM is showing an interest in the consultancy operation. Times are a’ changing. The latest moves are proof positive that the consulting industry is organisationally shuffling towards a more IT-focused operation.

Cap Gemini’s £7bn investment in the Ernst & Young practice shows that IT consultancies are eager to take in strategic partners in order to provide clients with holistic solutions.

E&Y admits that it was in talks with other organisations keen to spend a bob or two. One assumes that E&Y was not only attracted by Cap Gemini’s sizeable offer, but also by the considerable IT clout that it could bring to the party. It adds much needed muscle to the E&Y IT operation. Be in no doubt, E&Y provides the beauty in this relationship and Cap Gemini the brawn.

The Big Five as an entity is irrelevant. It is no longer a standard. It is no longer a benchmark by which others are measured. The industry is becoming more lithe. IT vendors are now major players in the consultancy market and IT consultancies will become the new power brokers.

Over the next year, the industry will change beyond recognition. Remember how we all drew in our breath when Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand joined forces? Such events are becoming commonplace. IT is reshaping the way in which the consultancy industry is fashioned. Let’s not talk of love … let’s talk alliance.

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