Proxicom bought by Compaq,
April 27, 2001 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Proxicom bought by Compaq, last week's purchase of Mainspring by IBM, the dissolution of MarchFirst, and the not-so-slow slide of Viant, Scient, iXL and the rest ... is there any future for the independent style of "e-consultancies" which seemed poised to revolutionize the business world only a couple of years ago?
posted by MattD (10 comments total)
Sure, I don't see why not. I just think they need to do a few things differently: hire consultants who have business and tech experience; have a better understand of the business drivers behind the tech they push (e.g. does company X even need to web-enabled their Y process?); have the balls to say no to a client, or to tell them they don't need the service the consultancy provides; and most importantly, don't go public.

Lots of service providers don't go public (and for the life of me I'm not understanding why Andersen a) changed their name and b) are going to IP0). Look at law firms and traditional consultancies: they keep the control of the company and are not subject to the whims of the market. They offer partnership positions to senior people and build equity on the inside. Not every company should IPO.
posted by megnut at 10:13 AM on April 27, 2001

I agree with all of that but would add that there should be enough people around with solid web experience to hire as consultants as well. People whose careers have been highly web-centered, and maybe who have learned business and or tech from that perspective first.

If the experience I have with the IS dept at my current job is any indicator, there's nothing that says techies automatically can or want to get the web fully. But there are lots of web folks who get the tech well enough to lead a consulting gig.
posted by mikel at 10:20 AM on April 27, 2001

Megnut, IMHO, e-consultancies are significantly trading on fluff; the "newness" of e-commerce, which, in a short period of time, will just be "commerce" and not require outside advice--sell your stock before then! Actually, I think "expert advice" is way overrated.

Anderson became Accenture pursuant to a law suit and an arbitration decision

Add to the list of e-commerce consultancy wounded, which layed off a second wave of about 50 yesterday...
posted by ParisParamus at 10:21 AM on April 27, 2001

Yeah, Andersen was split from Andersen accounting years ago, but retained the name ... until Andersen accounting wanted to start its own consultancy (again). Lawsuit. Settlement. New name for Andersen Consulting (who after all were the spin-off). I don't think there's any reason to assume that AC/Accenture is on shaky ground, simply because of the business they're in; they're not yesterday's start-up, they've got 20 years of experience in the corporate world. [Disclaimer: in various and sundry functions I have worked for three of the onetime Big Six accounting firms.]

Hmm, mikel, how do you define "techie" vs. "webbie"? In my experience techies get the web well enough (and are generally among the most cynical and cautious in the industry): it's the "mibbies" (MBAs) who have problems. Or maybe we're not using the same terms.
posted by dhartung at 10:29 AM on April 27, 2001

Oh! Thanks for the clarification, I knew about the whole Andersen vs. Arthur Andersen dealie, but it didn't click in my mind that this was related. That totally makes sense.

I guess I should clarify my statement a little: yes, obviously they need people with deep technology backgrounds and not just business smarts. I worked for a boutique management/IT consulting firm for three years, and I found the people who performed the best were those that had tremendous depth in both business and tech. Of course, those people are hard to come by, that's why our firm was small and had a very senior hiring model.

I also worked at Proxicom. For three months. I left to found Pyra. What I saw there was a ton of enthusiasm. But not a lot of experience, especially coming off my previous stint. The SF office hired a lot of ex-Price Waterhouse folks, which I think was good because they had some training and discipline. But on the whole, I think a lot of these firms grew too fast, built projects on "fluff" (good term pp), and hired a lot of web newbies to do the word. Those aren't the building blocks for success.
posted by megnut at 10:44 AM on April 27, 2001

It wasn't at all clear to me what MarchFirst did for a living. (Appears it also wasn't clear to a bunch of other folks also...) Is there a solid future for companies whose job is nobody-knows-what? I'd say not, except in the most extraordinarily gullible of times. What's Razorfish known for, other than having a whimsical name and being too dim to know that nothing gets tireder faster than last week's whimsy? I don't think just having staff that dresses like Men In Black on casual friday is likely to make up for this.

> there's nothing that says techies automatically can or
> want to get the web fully.

Speaking. Ever since certain idjits started yammering about "commercializing the Internet" I've been rooting for the whole fungoid phenomenon to extrude a puffball and go poof. My Ghod, there was a while there when you couldn't even look at some kid's Sailor Moon fanpage without getting a banner ad in your eye. I'm just extraordinary pleased at the rate at which I'm getting my way. Wheeee!

I've been itching to say this for some time: e-commerce is so last-century.
posted by jfuller at 10:52 AM on April 27, 2001

e-commerce is NOT last century; it's just that its development has been distorted by people with more $ than ideas. I wouldn't be surprised if it takes five years for .com to stop having bad conotations. But it will.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:29 AM on April 27, 2001

I used to work for one of the faceless put-an-X-in-the-name-and-it'll-be-cool e-consultancies of which we speak. And honestly, as one of their content consultants, the best thing they can all do is just decide what the hell it is they do and SAY IT. Clearly.

MarchFirst couldn't figure it out, as you've all obviously noted. Neither could my company. In fact, when I tried to pin it down to rewrite the corporate Web site, I was berated by the CEO for questioning his judgment. He said, "This is the message we want to align ourselves with." But he couldn't tell me why. Every day was misery as I donned my Jargon Busters cape and tried to do good deeds in the name of clarity. Alas, it was not to be.
posted by stevis at 11:34 AM on April 27, 2001

heh - just bounced in with this tidbit via robotwisdom re: the arsDigita mess here in Cambridge:

"As the crash of last year has shown the VC's model of Start-Spend-Explode does not replace Start-Learn-Grow. Money is not a substitute for industry knowledge, customer knowledge, methodical testing of markets." --Sanjay Nasta

I think we're just seeing those service companies that didn't have the foresight to build on more solid industry bases get whacked around. As as technology keeps up the rapid delta, I don't thing it's going to get much simplier and that these firms DO have a future (in keeping with the thread). Howevah - I think that basic business process has to be attended to first THEN attack those processes using technology.
posted by crankyrobot at 12:04 PM on April 27, 2001

A bit late I guess... but anyhow.

The difference between webbies and techies is that building websites isn't primarily a technical issue. It takes technical solutions to make the good stuff happen, for sure, but prior to that is an understanding of editorial/content issues, workflow (and workplace culture) issues, and a knowledge of how the web works - not technically, but socially.

There are many techies who are very broad people - perhaps more such folks than you get who go the other way (editors who get the tech, for instance).

So I'm probably using too broad a brush when I say "techies". Well, I definitely am using to broad a brush. But I've had far too many encounters with IS departments who just want to throw software - and worse, all-in-one "solutions" - at problems without understanding things like design or how the nature of the web diverges from perfectly sound internal IS decisions. IS departments who want to control and limit each and every install on their users machines - and who bring that urge to web development. Who insist that instead of building viable processes, including training and CMS development, that no matter what goes on a corporate site, they must be responsible for actually placing things on a site. Who insist that users - and hence, the rightful publishers (as they develop and "own" content) are not to be trained, or trusted.
posted by mikel at 4:00 PM on April 28, 2001

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