2020 Vault Rankings
At a Glance
"A very strong brand to add to your CV"
"Large organisation, so there are ample opportunities to move around and experiment"
"The culture of the company is very formal"
Most projects are technology-driven, rather than strategy-driven
"Truly global reach"
"Good in IT and BPO"
"A lumbering giant; likely to get lost in the crowd"
About Accenture Europe
Accenture -- whose name derives from "accent on the future" -- was formally established by partners from the consulting division of various Arthur Andersen firms in 1989 as Andersen Consulting. Their goal: To create a new consulting and technology services company built on the idea of "business integration," or aligning a company's people, processes and technology under one strategy to improve business performance. Within 10 years, Andersen Consulting had grown into a global brand.
On January 1, 2001, the company cut its ties to Arthur Andersen and renamed itself Accenture. Shortly thereafter, rumours swirled that the name change was an attempt to conceal involvement with Enron (Arthur Andersen performed accounting for Enron, and was completely ruined by its implication in the scandal), although the historical timeline proves this impossible. Accenture also went public in 2001, listing its stock on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ACN.
Strive for five
For the purposes of financial reporting, Accenture groups its services into five industry-focussed operating groups dedicated to communications and high technology, financial services, products, resources and public service. In 2008, the products group outperformed all others, making up 25.9 per cent of net revenue, and includes the automotive, consumer goods and services, health and life sciences, industrial equipment, retail, and transportation and travel service industries. The second-highest performing group was communications and high tech (23.3 per cent of net revenue), and includes the communications, electronics and high tech, and media and entertainment industries. All groups, meanwhile, cover a broad array of 26 industries, ranging from aerospace and mining to automotive, chemicals, finance, media and logistics, to name but a few. Multinational clients like Bank of Ireland, Siemens, Vodafone, Pfizer, Barclays, ING and BP all benefit from Accenture's consulting advice.
While the five groups listed above cover the firm's global operations, not every Accenture footprint offers every service area. Particular offerings tend to be a reflection of the firm's ability to scale its operations to meet local demand -- something that is critical in Europe, where the company has practices in 26 separate countries. The practices in Hungary and the Czech Republic, for example, offer expertise across to nine and 11 major industrial groups, respectively, while in both the Irish and UK markets, Accenture's full menu of services is on offer to 23 industries. Likewise, the specific consulting services offered vary from country to country; while the Czech practice offers nine main consulting management services (from change management to workforce performance), the practice in Poland offers just six, with notable areas such as HR management and service management available in the former country but not in the latter.
Today, Accenture is one of the largest companies of its kind in the world. It prides itself -- and capitalises -- on being able to deliver its services from 50 locations in its global delivery network, depending on skills and language requirements, costs and the client's location. Roughly 145,00 of the firm's 181,000-plus employees live outside the United States. That kind of reach and flexibility has helped to insulate the consultancy from direct hits in the market; as BusinessWeek put it in December 2008, the firm is a "recession-resistant â€¦ one-stop-shop IT services company". As an added boon, BusinessWeek noted, Accenture "is able to use exactly the right resource in the right place at the right price to service its clients".
As a mark of just how far-reaching the firm's global brand is, meanwhile, look no further than its most famous spokesperson: Tiger Woods, arguably the most famous and easily recognizable sporting figure in the world.
Reporting from the front lines
When they are not helping multinational companies improve their performance, Accenture consultants keep themselves busy working to put together a number of reports and papers. These are published through the Accenture Institute for High Performance, which applies academic research to the problems facing today's businesses and organisations. Many of the published works appear in major international newspapers, such as the Financial Times, Harvard Business Review and The New York Times, as well as magazines and journals, while others have a more limited circulation as research notes and papers in books.
So ingrained is a culture of staying ahead of the game that Accenture even has its own research and development technology lab where it investigates new and emerging technologies, uncovering new trends and helping clients take advantage of the opportunities they offer. Made up of 150 professionals, the technology R&D team operates from four labs in the US, France and India, and like the Institute for High Performance, they too produce volumes of research known as Points of View.
THE LATEST ON ACCENTURE
Accenture launched a carbon footprint reduction program with a difference. Rather than targeting ways in which the business can make a difference, the firm challenged its employees to pledge to reduce their carbon consumption both at home and at work. Launched to coincide with the UN's World Environment Day, the Eco Challenge is a three-month program that enables Accenture's staff to figure out what their carbon footprint amounts to, before encouraging them to set about mitigating it.
To ensure that employees are serious about the project, the firm introduced an element of national competition: The team from the country with the greatest reduction will be honoured in a ceremony, with prizes including financial donations on the team's behalf to environmentally focussed charities.
Adding intelligence in Amsterdam
The firm was selected to assist the city of Amsterdam in implementing a new "smart city" program that will see it become the EU's first "intelligent city". While that may sound like a snub to the intellectual prowess of other European locales, it's not how the title is intended; rather, the "smart city" project is about implementing smart technologies -- from the electric grid and meters to buildings and vehicles -- to reduce the city's carbon footprint and gain greater control over its energy usage.
Accenture's role in the project is to help deploy and integrate the smart grid technology throughout the Venice of the north, support applications to reduce carbon emissions, and to provide analysis of the project and the data it generates.
Irish eyes are smiling
Amid heightened US government scrutiny of the use of corporate tax havens, Accenture's board voted to change the company's place of incorporation from Bermuda to Ireland. According to a company press release, "Accenture does not expect any material change in its operations, financial results or tax treatment as a result of the change in its place of incorporation. The company will continue to be registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and be subject to the same reporting requirements as it is today. Accenture's shares will continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol 'ACN.'"
Since splitting from Arthur Andersen, the firm has been incorporated in Bermuda -- a British territory known for its minimal direct taxation on corporate income and relatively lax regulation of business enterprises. Further, a company spokesman told The Wall Street Journal that "Accenture has always paid its taxes in the countries where the income is generated." That statement came in response to questions about Accenture's decision to shift its "home" country to Ireland -- a country that offers similar benefits on the tax front as Bermuda, but which has the added advantage of having a tax treaty with the United States. That means companies registered there would likely escape the sort of legislation affecting companies still registered in traditional havens such as Bermuda or the Cayman Islands.
The move still needs to be ratified by Accenture shareholders, with a vote scheduled to take place within three to four months of the initial announcement.
Global green credentials
In recognition of Accenture's ongoing commitment to responsible stewardship of the environment, the firm achieved Global ISO 14001 Environment Management System (EMS) certification. An internationally recognised standard for EMS, the certification covers some 53 of Accenture's locations around the world -- around a quarter of its total. To achieve the certification, companies must identify their significant impacts on the environment -- carbon emissions, energy and water use and the like -- and work to control and improve them through implementation of environmental management programs.
According to Accenture, its environmental efforts not only include efforts to measure and manage its impact, but to engage employees in the efforts. The firm has pledged to continue working toward gaining ISO certification in more of its locations.
Fortune favours Accenture
Accenture made it into the top 50 -- at no. 49 -- on Fortune magazine's annual list of the world's most admired companies. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Apple, Berkshire Hathaway and Toyota on the primary list, the consultancy also found itself with some noteworthy company on the sublist of most admired infotech services firms. There, Accenture ranked second, behind rival IBM -- a reversal of positions from 2008.
Accenture's placement in the top 50 follows on from its January 2009 recognition on another Fortune list -- the 100 Best Companies to Work For, where the firm landed in 97th place.
The downturn begins to bite
Reporting its second-quarter earnings for 2009, Accenture lowered its predictions for the remainder of the year -- the first real hint that it was feeling the effects of the troubled economy. Despite the dire global situation, however, the firm's revised predictions weren't exactly the stuff of nightmares: Revenue was expected to grow somewhere between zero and 4 per cent, while new bookings were revised downward to a range of $23 to $25 billion from a range of $24 to $27 billion.
While the revised predictions may have come as a surprise to some in the wake of a record year in 2008, it's worth noting that the firm files its annual report in August each year, meaning that 2008's appeared before the worst economic events of the year took place, thus giving little idea of how the consultancy was likely to fare over the course of the downturn. What it did show, however, was a record revenue of $23.4 billion for the year. That represents a 19 per cent increase over 2007, while the firm also added 54,000 people to its payroll. Profits increased, as well, up to almost $1.7 billion.
Of the firm's five main operating groups, its products division had the best showing in 2008, posting a 24 per cent revenue gain, although currency fluctuation was responsible for some of that. The resources group wasn't far behind, with a 22 per cent increase, while the communications and high tech, financial services and public services groups posted gains of 18, 15 and 12 per cent, respectively.
Up, up and away
Accenture landed the spot of "privileged sponsor" of the International Paris Air Show -- Le Bourget. Scheduled to take place in June 2009, the show will be the 48th occurrence of the biannual event. In addition to the prestige associated with sponsoring the event, the move heightens Accenture's visibility in the aerospace and defence industries -- both of which are likely to be well represented among the 2,000 exhibitors and 153,000 professional visitors expected to attend. It also sends one more important message: At a time when every business is cutting back, Accenture is still spending on "nonessentials" like advertising and sponsorships.
Going Dutch on an outsourcing agreement
The firm signed a seven-year outsourcing contract -- with a "multi-million dollar" valuation -- with the independent Dutch bank Van Lanschot Bankiers. Under the terms of the deal, Accenture will provide development, implementation and ongoing maintenance services on a project to transform the bank's core IT banking applications, which include credit services, asset and risk management capabilities.
An Accenture report on the use of business analytics -- information gleaned from customers and operations and processes -- found that most companies do not rely on them enough when making business decisions. More than half of companies -- 57 per cent, to be precise -- Accenture surveyed in its report, "Competing through Business Analytics", said they don't have a beneficial, consistently updated enterprise-wide analytical capability. "While executives understand that companies with enterprise-wide business analytics have an advantage over those still relying on nebulous sources to make decisions, they face institutional challenges to reforming their processes across the board," said Royce Bell, head of Accenture's information management services.
Love from Russia
Together with Fadata -- a leading European insurance software vendor -- Accenture was selected to help Russian Standard Insurance streamline its insurance operations. The second-largest life insurance company in Russia, RSI was seeking a software solution that would enable it to grow its business while reducing risks and keeping costs down. Enter Fadata, with its INSIS Life software solution, and Accenture, with an expertise in systems integration.
Finger(prints) on the pulse
In partnership with Sagem Défense Sécurité, Accenture was chosen to develop the European Commission's Biometric Matching System -- an information search engine with the ability to match biometric data from different sources (visa applications, police systems, etc.) across 29 EU member countries. Accenture is responsible for overall programme management, while Sagem -- a part of the SAFRAN Group -- will provide the biometric matching software. The system is a central component of a plan laid out under Schengen rules, which are designed to eliminate physical borders among European countries.
Accenture signed the United Nations Global Compact, joining a group of nearly 3,700 companies from more than 120 countries that have promised to advance 10 universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anticorruption.