How to harness the power of social media PLUS

The journal of high-performance business
2011, Number 1
How to harness
the power of
social media
Cloud on the horizon: Is
outsourcing obsolete?
Jumping the S-curve: How to
sustain long-term performance
Does your company have the
talent to grow?
2011, No. 1
Outlook is published by Accenture.
© 2011 Accenture.
All rights reserved.
David Cudaback
William D. Green
Managing Editor
Letitia B. Burton
Chief Executive Officer
Pierre Nanterme
Senior Editor
Jacqueline H. Kessler
Chief Marketing &
Communications Officer
Roxanne Taylor
Senior Contributing Editor
Paul F. Nunes
Contributing Editors
John Kerr
Craig Mindrum
Industry Editor
Wendy Cooper
Contributing Writers
Lance Ealey
David Light
Assistant Editor
Carolyn Shea
Design & Production
IridiumGroup Inc.
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The Long View
Pierre Nanterme
Chief Executive Officer
New ideas, new opportunities
During my 28 years at Accenture, I have always been
passionate about helping our clients use innovation
to drive growth and achieve high performance. So it
is both a privilege and pleasure to be CEO at a time
when so many exciting new things are happening
around the world. I believe that innovation transforms companies, and this has never been truer than
it is today.
Another article explores new ways to attract and
retain the best talent—an essential source of innovation
for every company—while a third piece looks at how
the cloud has fundamentally redefined outsourcing
relationships. Innovation is not limited to the private
sector, of course; readers will also learn how it can
dramatically transform the delivery of government
Part of my job is to introduce each issue of Outlook,
our journal of high-performance business. This is
something I look forward to, because Outlook helps
shape Accenture’s innovation agenda by showcasing
our best thought leadership and chronicling how
the world’s top companies are leveraging new
Just as innovation informs the rich content of Outlook,
it also defines who we are and what we do at Accenture.
Today’s world is one of new opportunities, driven by
new ideas. I look forward to sharing them with you
in future issues.
Drawing on our latest research and client experience,
this issue of Outlook is a source of fresh ideas for
leaders to consider as they seek to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive marketplace. The cover
story focuses on a particularly critical innovation in
customer relationship management—the use of social
media and digital marketing to become more relevant
to customers.
From the Editor’s Desk
Growth through collaboration
It’s one of the most important facts of economic life in
a multi-polar world: The complexity and volatility that
are permanent features of global markets mean that no
organization can succeed on its own. Collaboration, in
other words, is essential to high performance. It is also
a theme that runs throughout this issue.
Take the electronics business. Few industries are more
competitive or change more quickly. As our industry
professionals demonstrate in one article, the best
electronics and high-tech companies stay ahead of the
competition by skillfully leveraging alliances with
partners across this industry to drive growth, access
specialist talent and encourage innovation (the article
starts on page 70).
Collaboration is very much an internal phenomenon
as well, playing a more and more important role within
companies at the operational level. For example,
harnessing the power of social media—for superior
marketing, sales, customer service, innovation and HR,
among other business functions—demands high-level
cooperation, starting with an unprecedented degree of
collaboration between the chief marketing officer and
the chief technology officer. A pair of articles beginning
on page 22 explores how social media is fundamentally
transforming the way business is done.
Meanwhile, outsourcing is becoming a more collaborative endeavor as well. Despite predictions of its
imminent demise, outsourcing has, in fact, become
Outlook 2011, Number 1
more important with the advent of the cloud model
for delivering business services. An article starting
on page 42 looks at how outsourcing is playing a key
new role as a value-added services aggregator and
integrator in the new cloud environment.
Collaboration is often the handmaiden of innovation.
In a multi-polar world, Western managers can learn
from their colleagues in emerging economies who
develop new and innovative solutions through a process
one article describes as “workaround innovation”
(page 62).
Collaboration has also become essential to success in
the public sector. Another article explores a series of
innovative collaborations—from interagency programs
to public–private partnerships—through which governments at all levels are providing better services at
lower cost (page 78).
As the authors of the article on the electronics industry
note, “Collaborations of all kinds are helping leading
companies adapt their global operating models to the
uncertainties of the upturn. Alliance partners have
brought them closer to consumers . . . [and] have also
contributed key capabilities that they would otherwise
have to build themselves, from scratch.” It’s a valuable
lesson for organizations everywhere.
David Cudaback
Editor-in-Chief, Outlook
On the Edge
What the C-suite should know about analytics
basis for answering such questions
about the physical world.
Much the same way that an empirically based scientific method
became the basis of our understanding of the world around us, analytics
will eventually bring empiricism
into business discourse and dethrone
many of today’s business practices.
Mundane decisions
Kishore S. Swaminathan
Chief Scientist
Case study after case study has
confirmed the value proposition
for analytics across a wide range
of business functions, including
pricing, demand prediction, targeted
marketing, supply chain optimization, CRM and HR. In my view,
analytics is something much more
than a technology with an ROI; it’s
a transformational phenomenon
that will fundamentally change how
business discourse will be conducted
and decisions made. An analogy
may help in understanding why.
If you drop a feather and a rock
at the same time from the same
height, which will hit the ground
first? At one point in history, this
was a question for philosophers to
resolve. Aristotle opined that the
rock, because it was heavier, would
fall faster and hit the ground first.
Aristotle’s armchair wisdom was not
questioned until the 16th century,
when Galileo, through cleverly
designed experiments, proved him
wrong and established an empirical
Recently, I received a memo saying
that all employees at my location
would be required to keep their
offices clean, subject to inspection
every other Friday. I wanted an
explanation, so I asked if there was
any data to show that clean offices
lead to higher productivity.
My question, of course, was sidestepped, and I was told that clean
offices would make a better impression on clients. Undeterred, I asked
if there was any data to show that
clients walking through our offices
buy more of our services or express
their “better impression” in any other
way. Not unexpectedly, I was asked
by the powers that be if this really
was a battle that I wanted to fight.
I chose this example to illustrate how
average, mundane decisions are made
in organizations daily based on wellintentioned, plausible yet armchair
theories—those that, like Aristotle’s,
lack any empirical evidence. While
highly specialized functions such
as pricing or customer segmentation
may be based on sophisticated
models and empirical data, my contention is that the long-term impact
of analytics will be in instilling
a culture of data-driven decision
making at all levels of an enterprise.
Or, put more bluntly, business
proposals and decisions—big or
small—will have to provide satisfactory answers to this question:
“Do we think this is true or do we
know?” (This particular formulation is attributed to Gary Loveman,
CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment.)
A sophisticated and analytically
oriented enterprise of the future
will behave and operate differently
from today’s enterprise along five
major dimensions.
High analytical literacy
Data is a double-edged sword. When
properly used, it can lead to sound
and well-informed decisions. When
improperly used, the same data can
lead not only to poor decisions but
to poor decisions made with high
confidence that, in turn, could lead
to actions that could be erroneous
and expensive. Let’s consider some
specific examples.
When one has access to real-time
data, it’s tempting to make real-time
decisions. For instance, if you are a
retailer and you have real-time access
to sales data from cash registers from
all your stores and real-time access
to your inventory in your warehouse,
you could be tempted to run sales
promotions on the fly and manage
your supply chain in tandem to
support your real-time promotions.
However, this is unlikely to work
because three types of events—your
decisions, the ensuing customer
behavior and supply chain events—
operate in different timeframes, so
making decisions any faster than the
slowest-moving event could be useless at best and dangerous at worst.
On the Edge
Another problem with data and analytics is that they give you very finegrained visibility into your business
processes, and you could be tempted
to overoptimize the processes. Highly
optimized processes—just-in-time
inventory being an example—are
very fragile because circumstances
beyond your control could arise, and
there is little room for error.
An analytically literate
organization will have
a firm grasp of its risk
tolerance and guidelines
and models for action
under uncertainty.
A third problem is what’s known as
“oversteering,” or making decisions
when none is needed. So, for example,
your data could tell you that a project
is behind schedule, which, in turn,
may lead you to berate the project
manager or tell your stakeholders
that the project will be delayed.
Yet neither of these actions may be
necessary if the project has contingency built in, if the status update
has a different frequency than your
sampling frequency or if perhaps the
employees who are aware of the project delay will put in more work time
to get the project back on schedule.
Businesses thrive on stability and
repeatability. Stable and repeatable
processes justify large-scale capital
expenses; they justify large-scale
employee training; and they reduce
cognitive overhead because processes
and decisions do not change and
hence their rationale does not have
to be explained repeatedly.
By contrast, an analytically based
enterprise of the future will have to
be designed around volatility rather
than repeatability.
When you have fine-grained visibility into your processes, customers,
suppliers and competitors, you have
the ability to make very fine-grained
decisions. In fact, your decision rules
can capture subtleties such as “stock
more beer on Sunday nights in locations where the home football team is
Outlook 2011, Number 1
on a winning streak.” Such decisions
are highly context-sensitive and can
change as rapidly as the fortunes of
the football team.
Volatility—or rapidly changing
decisions that are context- and
time-sensitive—will be a big challenge for enterprises. Decisions
are no longer easily explainable;
capital investments cannot be
based on mass repeatability but
must cater to endemic volatility.
Integrated awareness
Today’s enterprises have more
information than they can act upon
because the information is siloed in
so many ways: technologically (data
in different systems that cannot be
brought together), organizationally
(data in different governance units
that cannot be brought together) or
by ownership (inside versus outside
the enterprise). The enterprise of
the future will be (or will be forced
to be) “conscious” in the sense that
it will know that it must integrate
everything it has access to.
As an extreme example of “integrated awareness,” let’s consider
pharmaceuticals, an industry that
has traditionally relied on clinical
trials data as a means of establishing the efficacy and the side
effects of a drug.
A pharmaceuticals company today
can legally and morally claim immunity from any adverse effect of
a drug that was not revealed during
clinical trials—in other words, any
information that it did not explicitly
collect as part of a clinical trial
protocol. But in a world of blogs and
social networks, where people share
this information unprompted and in
public, it will become both a responsibility and an obligation of pharmaceuticals companies to monitor
public sources and integrate the public
information with their own clinical
data. (For more on the business
impact of social media, see page 22.)
“I should have known” (either for
regulatory or competitive reasons)
will be the new normal, replacing
the “I did not know” or “I could not
have known” approach to awareness
and information integration.
The end of analysis-paralysis
In the future, businesses will likely
be run by managers and leaders who
are no-nonsense empiricists; they
won’t move a finger until after all the
relevant data has been gathered and
analyzed. A recipe for organizational
“analysis-paralysis”? This is not an
unreasonable fear. But though it may
seem counterintuitive, an empirical
enterprise with high analytical
literacy is less likely to fall prey to
this malady than today’s enterprises.
There are three very distinct ways
that organizations can fall into
the analysis-paralysis trap. One is
a managerial tendency to “over-fit
the curve”—a statistical term that
refers to the diminishing value of
additional data once a pattern (or
curve, in the graphic sense) has been
found. Data collection has a price,
inaction has a price and an analytically literate organization will clearly
understand the cost of over-fitting.
The second cause of analysis-paralysis is waiting for data that simply does
not exist, which reflects an inability
to design experiments to generate
the needed data. As mentioned above,
experimentation has a price and inaction has a price, so an analytically
literate organization will be characterized by a clear understanding
of data gaps and the value of experimentation to break the logjam.
The third cause of analysis-paralysis
is the fact that most companies
do not know or articulate their risk
tolerance clearly and are much
more likely to penalize failed
action than inaction. As a result,
many managers do not act unless
there is enough data to assure
them of successful outcomes. An
analytically literate organization
will have a firm grasp of its risk
tolerance. With guidelines and
models for action under uncertainty,
it will restore the symmetry between how it treats failed action
and inaction.
Intuition’s new pulpit
Empiricism and analytics sound
a death knell for such vaunted
business traits as intuition, gut feel,
killer instinct and so forth, right?
Science is purely empirical and
dispassionate, but scientists are not.
Science is objective and mechanical,
but it also values scientists who
are creative, intuitive and can take
a leap of faith.
Data, by itself, can be interpreted
in many ways. Imagine a physical or
business phenomenon that produces
the following sequence of data: 1,
2, 6, 24, 33. Perhaps it’s a factorial
sequence with 33 as noise, or a
sequence where every fourth term
is twice the multiple of the previous
three. Or perhaps every fifth terms
if the sum of the previous four.
All are indeed correct. To prove or
disprove any theory, you need the
next several terms of the sequence.
A good scientist knows when there
is enough data to warrant a theory,
when there isn’t, what new data to
gather and how to design an experiment to gather the right data.
Apple’s Steve Jobs is known to explicitly discount the value of surveys
and focus groups for designing new
products. How do you explain this
apparent anti-empiricism?
One explanation is that, much
like a creative scientist, people
like Jobs recognize when there is
not enough data or the right kind
of data to form a theory. They
recognize that, for completely new
lines of products that will change
a user’s experience or behavior,
the only useful data is experiential data, not commentary and
reactions from those who have
never used the product.
Jobs and people like him are akin to
scientists who recognize what type
of data is needed to support a theory
(in this case, whether a product will
succeed), recognize that such data
cannot be gathered through focus
groups (one type of experiment)
and boldly design new types of
experiments (release the product
and gather experiential data).
It should be noted that some products—in Apple’s case, it was the
Newton—do not succeed and are
terminated. Intuition, creative leaps
and clever experimentation are not
incompatible with empiricism; in
fact, the value of these traits will be
even better understood in the future
enterprise by analogy to theoretical
and experimental scientists.
The enterprise of the future, based on
empiricism and analytical decision
making, will indeed be considerably
different from today’s enterprise.
You may well ask: “Do you think
this is true or do you know?”
Kishore S. Swaminathan is based
in Beijing.
[email protected]
The Long View
1New ideas,
new opportunities
By Pierre Nanterme
From the Editor’s Desk
2Growth through
By David Cudaback
On the Edge
3What the C-suite should
know about analytics
High-Performance Business
8Jumping the S-curve:
32Melding marketing and
How to sustain long-term
IT: Are you ready for performance
the digital revolution?
By Paul F. Nunes and Tim Breene
By Tim Breene and Brian Whipple
o make the jump from one market-leading business to the
next, successful companies manage growth across multiple
efore the ultimate promise of digital and interactive channels can be fulfilled, leaders must
make sure that marketing professionals work actively
with the IT department—and
vice versa.
High-Performance Business II
14A team you can count on
By Kishore S. Swaminathan
By Paul F. Nunes, Tim Breene and David Smith
nalytics is a transformational phenomenon that will fundamentally change how business
discourse will be conducted and
decisions will be made.
he best companies surpass
competitors in part by attracting and retaining serious talent— people at the top of their professions.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
By Caroline Firstbrook and Robert
42Has the cloud made
outsourcing obsolete?
22Harnessing the power
of social media
Marketing II
By Jimmy Harris and Gavin Michael
he shakeup within the business services industry means
more complexity, not less,
resulting in a critical new role
for value-added outsourcing.
Talent & Organization Performance
52The talent to grow
ompanies that actively
experiment with social media
in their business processes will transform their relationships
with customers and create value
in unforeseen ways.
By David Smith, Catherine S.
Farley, Diego Sánchez de León and
Stephanie Gault
o drive growth, companies
need to embrace a human capital strategy that more
closely links workforce planning to business objectives
and the organizational culture.
F or additional thought leadership from Accenture, including the Accenture Institute for
High Performance and Accenture Technology Labs, please visit
For a personalized electronic newsletter tailored to highlight specific industries and
issues, subscribe to My Outlook at
Emerging Markets
62Why the West
needs to learn about workaround innovation
78Joining forces
By David A. Wilson, Michael Henry,
Daniel J. McClure and Jason B. Wolenik
By Karen Crennan and Carola Cruz A
different approach to innovation pervades emerging
economies, expressed in levels of ingenuity, resourcefulness and drive that are harder and harder to find at Western
ollaboration is the key to
effective government in an era
of fiscal austerity—and not just
because it cuts costs.
Electronics & High Tech
70Connecting for
competitive advantage
By Hans Von Lewinski, Armen
Ovanessoff and Joshua B. Bellin
mart electronics and hightech companies are forging
and strengthening alliances and partnerships to capture
new growth opportunities, fill capability gaps and get
closer to customers.
The ongoing uncertainties of the current
economic situation underscore a critical
fact about today’s business strategies:
Growing effectively, at the right pace
and in the right ways, takes talent.
“The talent to grow” (page 52)
High-Performance Business
Jumping the S-curve
How to sustain
long-term performance
By Paul F. Nunes and Tim Breene
Successful companies often manage growth to the curve of their financial
performance. But that isn’t enough. High performers also manage the
maturing of three other equally important elements of their enterprise to
make the jump from one market-leading business to the next.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
High-Performance Business
Back in 2003, when Accenture began
its program of High Performance
Business research, there was a lot of
talk about good companies becoming
great. A generation earlier, a similar
conversation had focused on the
meaning of “excellence” in business.
Yet our ongoing research, bolstered
by lessons from global client work
across dozens of industries, has
taught us that high performance
isn’t just about achieving “greatness”
or “excellence,” concepts that are
far too static. Nor is it just about
ensuring long-term survival by
building a company that will last.
High performance is about outperforming rivals again and again,
even as the basis of competition
in an industry or market changes.
Truly great companies show the
world that their first arrival at the top
was not an accident. To do this, they
accomplished a difficult feat: They
jumped what Accenture calls the
S-curve of business performance.
When we say S-curve, we mean
the pattern of revenue growth in
which a successful business starts
small with a few eager customers,
grows rapidly as demand for the
new offering swells, and eventually
peaks and levels off as the market
matures. High performers not only
manage to successfully climb
S-curves; as each business performance curve begins to flatten, they
jump to the start of the next curve.
String of successes
The ability to both climb and jump
S-curves is what separates high
performers from those that never
manage to translate a brief period
of accomplishment with a single
winning offering into a string of
business successes.
Making the jump again and again
is crucial to sustained business
success and outperformance of
industry competitors. Consider
that once a company hits a major
stall in its revenue growth—as
Matthew Olson and Derek Van
Bever note in their book, Stall
Points—it has less than a 10 percent
chance of ever fully recovering.
Those aren’t good odds, and they
do much to explain why twothirds of stalled companies are
later acquired, taken private or
forced into bankruptcy.
There are many reasons offered
for why businesses fail to avoid
a stall. Some companies simply
don’t see the end coming, preferring
to view slowing revenue growth
as the result of a bad economy or
an industry slowdown, not as a
referendum on their own products
or services. Others don’t recognize
how slim their chances for late-stage
recovery and change really are
and thus fail to muster the urgency
needed to jump to a new S-curve.
As we discovered when we wrote in
these pages about the role of the chief
strategy officer, many companies
hope they can pull off a reinvention
The hidden S-curves of high performance
Three key aspects of business mature and start to decline much faster than
the financial performance of a company.
Hidden S-curves
Market relevance
Ebbs as the basis of
competition in the
industry shifts away
from the dominant
of capabilities
Lessens as competition intensifies and
imitation occurs
Talent development
Slows as companies
learn to do more with
less and competition
forces the lowering
of costs
Source: Accenture analysis
Outlook 2011, Number 1
late in the game by appointing a CSO
or a chief innovation officer. But no
matter how good the executives put
into such positions are, they usually
aren’t miracle workers.
Still, companies see the problem
primarily as one of execution.
Observers after the fact often accuse
companies of sticking too close to
their core—or of moving too far
from it. They fault a failure to
commit to a new business model,
introducing the wrong products
and relying on the achievement of
massive scale as a strategy (or in
place of a strategy). The focus of
such criticisms has typically been
on fixing what is clearly broken
with a company. But at that point,
it’s almost always too late.
As a result of our research, we
came to a very different conclusion
about why companies fail to jump
their S-curves. The secret, we
found, lies in understanding the
hidden S-curves of performance.
We observed that too many companies invest most or all of their
energies managing to the growth
curve of their revenues. In the
process, they fail to manage to
three much shorter but equally
important hidden S-curves (see
chart, opposite).
The hidden competition curve
Long before a successful business
hits its revenue peak, the basis of
competition on which it was founded
expires. Consider cell phones. Competition in that industry, for both
manufacturers and service providers,
has shifted several times, from price
to network coverage to the value
of services to design, branding and
applications. High performers see
the shift and create the next basis
of competition in their industry
even as they exploit an existing
business that has not yet peaked.
the capabilities curve may not be
apparent to executives until time
to develop new ones has run out.
Take Polaroid and Xerox, two iconic
companies whose names were once
synonymous with their offerings
and the distinctive capabilities they
possessed. For Xerox, the renewal
of capabilities, including new
skills in office services and software, came in time. But for Polaroid, the next round of distinctive
capabilities failed to materialize
before the company was forced
to file for bankruptcy protection
in 2001.
margins. They will then reduce
both headcount and investments
in talent, and will increasingly
focus on talent that can best
execute the existing business
model. This has the perverse
effect of driving away the very
people—the entrepreneurial risk
takers and business builder types—
best able to help them reinvent
the business.
focused on the revenue growth
S-curve—the high performers in
our study had typically started
the reinvention process well before their current businesses had
even begun to slow. In essence,
they had the foresight and wherewithal to begin to fix what didn’t
yet appear to be broken.
The hidden capabilities curve
In creating the offerings that will
enable them to climb the financial
S-curve, high performers invariably create new capabilities. If they
are successful, these capabilities
become distinctive. But distinctiveness is fleeting. As with the
basis of competition, the end of
The hidden talent curve
While companies are in some
senses always on the lookout for
the best talent, they often lose
focus on retaining in quantity
what we call serious talent—people
with both the capability and the
will to drive business growth.
When the business is successfully
chugging along but has not yet
peaked, executives feel that operations can be leaner—they’ve
moved far down the learning
curve by then—and meaner, since
they are under pressure to boost
As a result of managing to these
hidden curves—and, it must be
emphasized, in addition to keeping
If, in fact, this should be management’s real agenda, how do high
performers create an organization
that manages to all four curves
High-Performance Business
They do so by engaging in three
distinct management practices:
creating strategy in a way that is
“edge-centric;” changing the top
team well before it appears necessary; and ensuring that they have
more talent than seems required
by becoming hothouses of talent.
These and other important insights
gave rise to Accenture’s new book,
Jumping the S-Curve: How to Beat
the Growth Cycle, Get on Top and
Stay There (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011), which presents
the latest findings from our ongoing High Performance Business
We will return to these and
other topics in future issues of
Outlook as we continue to report
on new insights drawn from our
ongoing research. In this issue,
we introduce one of three essential business practices a company
must employ to successfully
climb the S-curve of business
In the following article, we examine
the practice of being “worthy of
serious talent.” It is critical to
attract and retain the right talent
for the right reasons, something
that is at the core of the performance anatomy we have previously
described as necessary for high
The article makes clear how high
performers turn the war for talent
on its head. Rather than battle
for high-priced stars, they focus
on creating a corporate environment and culture that attracts
and retains employees who have
both superior skills and a strong
desire to thrive in a demanding
environment with equally skilled
Jumping in a downturn
It may be argued that the recent
severe downturn has made it
impossible to think about reinventing the business—that mere
survival was an accomplishment
during the past two or three
years, and may even continue to
be so in the near future. But such
reasoning is flawed.
Many managers believe that a
recession is primarily a time for
retrenchment, belt-tightening and
a redoubled focus on selling. But
economic slowdowns also call for
greater attention to innovation
and increased preparation to jump
an S-curve. One reason for this
urgency: Reduced sales and increased
discounting tend to flatten the
revenue growth S-curve, which
can limit available funding for
new initiatives over time.
Another reason: As a downturn
bottoms out, the S-curve does
not regain its original shape; thus
companies do not regain time to
recoup their losses. Here are four
why this is so.
Intellectual property continues to lose protection as patents expire
The patent office doesn’t put years
back on the clock just because a
company’s sales have tapered off in
a bad economy. Such an unfortunate
fact of corporate life can have a devastating effect on some businesses.
In pharmaceuticals, for example,
patented drugs are under continual
assault from the relentless tide of
approved generics. In 2009, the FDA
approved 112 new generic drugs
aimed at exploiting the recent rash of
blockbuster patent expirations known
in the industry as the “patent cliff.”
With the patent clock ticking,
companies must be prepared for
the ill effects of a downturn at
some point during their period
of protected rights.
Technologies continue to evolve rapidly
Economic downturns can slow the
introduction of new technologies.
But they don’t hold them back
for long. Disruptive technologies
continue to advance even as companies struggle in lean times to
recoup their investments in older
technologies. Witness the fate of
plasma television.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
The recent downturn has pushed
consumers to seek smaller televisions at lower price points. Expensive large-screen plasma TVs
have a hard time competing with
the improving quality of LCD and
LED televisions. The intense price
competition at the lower end and
reduced potential for sales at the
high end, along with other factors
like LCDs showing better in a store
setting, have caused Vizio, once
a leading maker, to exit the plasma
sector, and the former top plasma
maker, Pioneer, to exit the television
market altogether.
Competitors continue to enter industries
and press advantages
During a downturn, the competition
can become even fiercer. Companies may be able to grow sales
only by seizing market share from
competitors, and already weakened
businesses face possible extinction
with further slips. In 2010, both
Hollywood Video and Blockbuster
filed for bankruptcy, while Netflix
and Redbox (which offers DVD
rentals through kiosks for $1 to $2
per night) gained market share and
enjoyed surging revenues. A variety
of new channels for obtaining
movies drove the final nails into
the coffin of brick-and-mortar
outlets constructed by the titans
of the VHS rental.
Consumer tastes and preferences continue to change
Novelty wears off with time,
regardless of the strength of the
economy. Therefore, products
introduced in a downturn often
fail to capture their full potential.
Consumer tastes advance, and lost
sales can never be reclaimed.
Even during the current downturn,
for example, consumers accustomed
to the idea of “fast fashion” will not
be interested in last year’s styles.
And innovators have to prepare for
sudden changes beyond their control.
Witness the automakers that introduced new pickup trucks targeted
at American construction workers . . .
just as the housing market crashed.
Bottom line: A strategy focused
mainly on retrenchment during
tough economic times is a strategy for
continued trouble during the recovery. The logic of the S-curve demands
early innovation and preparation for
the jump, regardless of GDP growth.
About the authors
Paul F. Nunes is the executive director
of research at the Accenture Institute
for High Performance. His work has
appeared regularly in Harvard Business
Review and in numerous other publications, including the Wall Street Journal.
He is also the coauthor of Mass Affluence:
7 New Rules of Marketing to Today’s
Consumers (Harvard Business School
Press, 2004). In addition, Mr. Nunes
is the senior contributing editor for
Outlook. He is based in Boston.
[email protected]
Tim Breene is the senior managing
director of Accenture Strategic Initiatives
and the CEO of Accenture Interactive.
Since joining the company in 1995,
Mr. Breene has held a number of senior
positions, including Accenture’s chief
strategy and corporate development
officer, group chief executive of Accenture Business Consulting and managing
partner of Accenture Strategic Services.
Mr. Breene is based in Boston.
[email protected]
For companies that want to be high performers, the lessons that result from
these insights may sound counterintuitive. But what matters most to longterm performance is not so much what you do to reach the top—though that
is certainly important—but what you do to cross over to the bottom of the
next S-curve and begin the climb again. Similarly, the secret to successfully
jumping the S-curve is not about what you do at or near the top of the
curve, but what you do to prepare for the next jump on the way up.
For further reading
“A team you can count on,” this issue, page 14
“The talent to grow,” this issue, page 52
“Rise of the chief strategy officer,” Outlook, January 2008
“Marks of distinction,” Outlook, June 2005
“In search of performance anatomy,” Outlook, October 2004
For these and other articles, please visit
High-Performance Business II
A team you
can count on
By Paul F. Nunes, Tim Breene and David Smith
The best companies surpass competitors in part by attracting serious
talent—people at the top of their professions. And they keep them on board
by ensuring they are part of an enterprise staffed with extraordinary
individuals all striving toward the same ambitious goals.
High-Performance Business II
Remember Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory?
If you don’t, you’re not alone. Truth be told, the lab is
much more famous for what it could have been than for
what it was. That’s because, back in the mid-1950s, Mountain
View, California–based SSL could boast some of the best
minds in the electronics industry. The lab was hardly the
ideal workplace, however, and in 1957, a group of SSL’s
top scientists (later dubbed the “Traitorous Eight”) would
leave to form Fairchild Semiconductor.
But Fairchild itself would suffer its own share of defections,
losing supremely talented individuals whose names read
like a Silicon Valley hall of fame roster: Bob Noyce and
Gordon Moore, cofounders of Intel; Jerry Sanders, cofounder
and former CEO of Advanced Micro Devices; Charlie Sporck,
former head of National Semiconductor Corp.; and Eugene
Kleiner, cofounder of the venture capital firm that would
later become Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
What happened to SSL and Fairchild? Why do some companies
lose world-class talent? And perhaps more important, why are
high-performance businesses able to retain such individuals?
Through seven years of ongoing research into what separates
high-performance businesses from the rest, we have come
to understand that the most successful companies surpass
competitors in part by developing a superior culture of talent.
They attract what we call serious talent—and then keep top
performers on board by making it clear that they are part
of a serious enterprise, one that is stocked with committed,
talented individuals all striving toward the same ambitious
goals. In other words, high-performance businesses make
themselves worthy of such serious talent.*
* This article is based on material drawn from the authors’ recently published book, Jumping the S-Curve:
How to Beat the Growth Cycle, Get on Top and Stay There (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011), which
presents the latest findings in Accenture’s ongoing program of High Performance Business research.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
By serious, we are not talking
about stars with big egos. We are
talking about people who are at the
top of their professions (the best
researchers in the pharmaceuticals
industry, for example) as well as
those who are very good at what
they do (such as salespeople who
consistently land big new accounts).
We are also referring to the individuals for whom work is not
just a job but rather a source of
personal pride.
must establish a kind of perpetual
chain reaction in which top-notch
workers attract other highly capable
people. Those workers must place
expectations of merit on themselves
that are every bit as high as those
they place on recruits. This turns
the focus of the “war for talent”
on its head; it shifts the emphasis
from enticing “star” performers to
creating a company any employee
serious about his or her work would
want to be a part of.
Put another way, employees who
are considered serious talent have
both superior capability and the
right attitude.
High performers establish an
environment in which three fundamental and equally important
qualities desired by serious talent
flourish. The first is capability.
Serious talent want to know that
the team they join has what it
takes to succeed in difficult situ-
We have found that if organizations are to turn themselves into
magnets for serious talent, they
ations. Employees observe this
through the pervasive competence
of those around them. The second
quality is predictability. To measure
its own likelihood of success, serious
talent demand to know what they
can expect from others. High performers generate this through a
widespread commitment to mutual
The third is reliability. Serious
talent believe they must be able
to count on their colleagues to
do the right thing. This trust arises
in high performers when an implicit
culture of honor is present. In
addition, serious talent need to
be working with others who share
a mindset that won’t settle for
harmful compromises and who
strive for continual improvement.
Capability through pervasive competence
Incompetence corrodes an organization’s ability to be worthy of serious
talent. Ineffectual employees who
are allowed to keep their jobs are like
broken windows in rundown urban
neighborhoods, which, according to
theory, signal an absence of concern
and control that encourages further
decline. The presence of inept employees sends a signal to coworkers,
customers, partners and others that
no one cares how they perform and
that, in any event, no one has the
power to change things. High performers know that tolerating work
that doesn’t meet high standards
destroys the trust and confidence
of the best employees.
That’s one reason companies need
pervasive competence—employees
with the right knowledge, skills,
abilities and other characteristics
at every level. Another reason:
When an organization is pushing
itself to the limit of what can be
done, seemingly minor lapses can
have large repercussions. That
is, in top-performing businesses,
the fault tolerance before failure
occurs is usually much smaller.
To achieve pervasive competence,
companies need to know what
kinds of skills and capabilities are
required at each level of the organization, and they need to enforce
those standards across the board.
Defining competence
High-performance businesses have
their own definition of what competence is and rigorously adhere to
that standard. They define not only
what constitutes general competence
but also the specific elements that
are known to drive business success.
Requirements for roles are clear and
consistent, and people throughout
the organization are aware of what
they need to do to perform their
jobs well. At UPS, for example,
truck drivers need to know the
“340 methods,” which set out everything from the most efficient way
to carry keys (to avoid fumbling
for them) to the number of steps per
second that would be considered
walking at a “brisk pace.”
When corporate goals change, definitions of competence must change
too. In the early 2000s, Procter &
Gamble set out to encourage more
innovation. It began by conducting
a survey of 2,000 former and current
employees to identify the leadership
behaviors that would best foster
innovation. Using the results, it
implemented a new performance
evaluation system that emphasized
key attributes, including the ability
to generate innovations by building
collaborative relationships. Those
criteria were then used to assess
High-Performance Business II
managers regularly, and those who
failed to show a consistent record of
business-building innovation weren’t
allowed to become line-group presidents, even if they had demonstrated
outstanding qualities in other areas.
Enforcing standards
Pullquote goes here and
here and here and here
and here and here and
here and here and here
and here and here and
here and here.
At low- and average-performing
companies, the so-called Peter Principle—in which employees are promoted
to their level of incompetence—often seems to be in effect. Not so at
high-performance businesses, which
don’t fall into the trap of trying to
keep people happy with inflated titles
when the company can’t up their pay.
With that approach, too many vice
presidents and associate directors
fill small niches, and many of those
promoted are in over their heads.
High performers actually prefer to
go in the other direction, paying
an employee well into the next title
range as the person develops but
holding back on the promotion itself
until there’s no question that the role
requirements have been fully met.
Within a role, stretch projects are
assigned to build and assess competence for future roles; they are not
assigned as an early test for a newly
promoted employee. If anything,
employees at high-performance companies are typically overqualified for
their positions by industry standards.
What do minimum high standards
look like at a high performer?
Consider the approach Best Buy
took with its salespeople when
it launched an initiative to shift
from a product-centered strategy
to a customer-centric one.
All new hires, after an initial
four-hour classroom session, had
to undergo online training and
then take an exam after each
course segment. After that initiation,
they shadowed a more experienced
salesperson until they were ready
to fly solo. Even then, they continued to receive monthly training
to stay abreast of new technologies,
and they were responsible for
learning about products outside
their department so that they
would be better able to cross-sell
them to customers.
The salespeople who showed
leadership promise weren’t then
promoted automatically into managerial roles. Instead, they had to
take a four-week training program
with a coach, undergo more job
shadowing, and work on small teams
to solve real business problems.
That type of employee development
doesn’t come cheap—Best Buy was
spending the equivalent of about
5 percent of its payroll on training
at the time, reportedly more than
any other retailer.
Predictability through mutual accountability
High performers are known to
operate like well-oiled machines, and
doing so requires more than rules,
regulations and standards. It requires
employees who deliver on their promises, on time, day in and day out.
What high performers’ employees
share is a sense of mutual account18
Outlook 2011, Number 1
ability. The purpose is less about
holding employees’ feet to the fire
than it is about getting to a place
where employees know that a
coworker’s word is his or her bond,
making future actions and results
highly predictable. This increased
ability to count on coworkers to
deliver gives employees and teams
the confidence they need to take
on the more challenging tasks high
performers tend to engage in.
Two principles are critical to making
this work. The company must
constantly measure its progress
against its own stated goals, as
well as those of individuals. And
accountability must be a two-way
street, working not just from employee to supervisor but in the other
direction as well.
A system of mutual accountability is
only as good as its weakest link. No
employee can be exempt from this
obligation, and nobody—not even a
top executive with numerous past
successes to his or her credit—should
be allowed to “retire in place.”
Accountability means making good
on promises, or paying a price.
That kind of philosophy is a
hallmark of high performers like
UPS, a company committed to
measuring everything to ensure
that management and employees
remain accountable to each other
as well as to customers. UPS relies
on a variety of metrics, such as
a customer satisfaction index that
takes into account how the company
is doing with respect to package
handling, claims processing, billing
and pricing. And customers are just
one of four major areas of emphasis;
the other three are financial, people
and internal processes.
At high performers, mutual accountability is both lateral (between
coworkers) and vertical (between
supervisor and employee). As a
result, these organizations make the
development of people an obligation
of company leaders—and they
measure these leaders on their
skill at this task. In contrast, many
low- and average-performance businesses make the mistake of focusing
only on upward obligations—what
employees must do for their bosses.
At top performers, mentoring, counseling and leadership development
programs are not just paid lip service;
they are taken seriously. Novo Nordisk, for example, assesses its managers partly by how well they develop
and retain talented employees.
Thanks to that approach, the company boasts, it loses no more than
4 percent of its top talent every year.
At UPS, hiring outsiders for anything other than entry-level positions is generally frowned upon.
Specifically, it raises questions
about the managers involved—why
couldn’t they develop someone
internally for that position? UPS
expects its managers at the district,
regional and senior levels to have
in place succession plans that they
must keep updated so that the
company always has an accurate
view of its leadership pipeline.
Reliability through a culture of honor
To maintain order and punish
misconduct, societies typically
rely on a culture of law, in which
the group enacts and enforces a
body of rules and regulations. But
a culture of law by itself is not
sufficient in society or in business.
The primary reason is that not even
myriad rules can cover every conceivable infraction, and enforcement
can be costly and impractical.
For companies in particular, a
second reason is that serious talent
want to know that their colleagues’
actions are not governed by rules
alone, so when an urgent situation
arises, those colleagues will act out
of duty, conviction and courage,
not mere compliance. In that sense,
serious talent look for companies
that are not only reliable followers
of the rules but also reliable in
a crisis. And that’s why high-performance businesses also tend to rely on
another system—a culture of honor.
In a culture of honor, when a
person violates some generally
accepted norm, others in the group
ostracize or otherwise punish that
individual swiftly to set an example.
Because people are concerned with
maintaining their reputations (and,
ultimately, their honor) within the
culture, they are less prone to become
transgressors and more likely to
punish those who transgress.
People can find loopholes in laws
or otherwise discover ways to
sidestep a rule or regulation, but
they can never truly outsmart a code
of honor, because it’s self-policing.
That’s why cultures of honor can
be particularly effective for maintaining order in an organization
stocked with serious talent, because
those types of individuals tend to
be especially concerned about their
professional reputations (as well as
the reputations of the groups they
associate with).
It is important to note that the
objective here is not to create
vigilante justice and boardroom
intrigue. Rather, cultures of honor
bring about confidence in distributive
justice, with profits going fairly to
those most responsible for creating
them; procedural justice, ensuring
that a system of patronage and
High-Performance Business II
favors doesn’t overwhelm effective
processes; and interactional justice,
which requires certain measures
of respect be shown to all members
of the organization in their dayto-day dealings.
Going above and beyond
The best way to establish
a culture of honor is
to have zero tolerance
for violators, no matter
how far up the corporate
ladder they may be.
One of the best ways to establish
a culture of honor is to hire people
with the right values in the first place
and then reinforce those qualities
regularly, a process that takes a concerted corporate commitment. Novo
Nordisk is a case in point. “Every
ad, site and selection tool has a
strong component of individual
value and alignment with our
culture,” Jeff Frazier, Novo’s vice
president of human resources told
Medical Marketing & Media. “Culture
and values are a significant component of management training.”
To continually reinforce a culture
of honor, many high-performance
businesses rely on judicious storytelling—the stuff of corporate lore.
At UPS, managers frequently tell
anecdotes about employees who have
gone above and beyond the call of
duty, like the driver who was delivering a package on Christmas Eve to
a military base in Aberdeen, Maryland. The address wasn’t properly
filled out, but instead of leaving the
package at the base to be routed later,
the driver made the extra effort to
locate the soldier, who was grateful
because it contained a surprise gift—
airline tickets for a flight later that
day that would allow him to be home
for Christmas. Such stories regularly
make the rounds at UPS, reinforcing
the core values of the company.
Typically, cultures of honor require
a rigorous initiation for new members. At the multibillion-dollar oilfield services provider Schlumberger,
engineers hired out of college must
Outlook 2011, Number 1
go through years of rigorous training
before they become field engineers
in North and South America. They
first need to complete an intensive
three-year program that includes
classroom work at training centers
as well as on-the-job experience at
various sites. After that, they have
to complete a project that addresses
a real business need, and only those
who pass that test are eligible for
promotions. According to the company, 40 percent of the newly hired
engineers don’t make it through
their third year.
Staying true to the code
Perhaps the best way to establish
a culture of honor is to lead by example and to have a zero tolerance
for violators, no matter how high up
the corporate ladder they might be.
This is one of the most controversial
aspects of a culture of honor, but
it’s crucial that people believe the
punishment for violating an honor
code will be swift and harsh, even
for senior executives. Otherwise, they
will quickly lose faith in the system.
If after reading about cultures of
honor you begin to wonder why
your own organization’s commitment
to honor seems to have slipped,
that’s a good sign. Writes James
Bowman in his book Honor: A
History: “Honor cultures always
tend to be nostalgic about the past . . .
since honor’s tendency to venerate
the authoritative and traditional
naturally creates a built-in dissatisfaction with the present.” In other
words, people in honor cultures
often worry that their best days are
behind them. That’s a good starting
point for working to improve the
culture in the present.
Shared success
When companies provide a working environment with those three
essential qualities—capability,
predictability and reliability—they
set the stage for serious talent to
shine and for the organization as
a whole to thrive.
corporations include Jeff Immelt
(General Electric Co.), Jim McNerney,
(3M, Boeing Co.), Meg Whitman
(eBay) and Steve Ballmer (Microsoft Corp.).
Perhaps the best way to assess
whether your business is worthy of
serious talent is to ask yourself this:
Are your employees so good that
they are being recruited heavily by
competitors? And when they choose
to leave, is it because they are
the most talented in the industry
and have been persuaded by generous enticements? Most important,
have you managed to attract and
retain sufficient talent that you
can sustain the losses?
Here we need to make a crucial
distinction: The nature of your
business is not nearly as important as the nature of your organization. By that, we mean that any
company can become a magnet
for serious talent, regardless of
the products it sells. Yes, Apple
attracts some of the best minds
in its industry, but that’s not
necessarily because it makes snazzy,
buzz-worthy products like the
iPhone and iPad. Companies that
sell more mundane items, such
as laundry detergent and disposable
diapers, can also become powerful
magnets for serious talent. P&G is
one example.
At Shockley Semiconductor, the
loss of superior talent was enough
to doom the company. In contrast,
high-performance businesses like
PepsiCo, P&G and Danaher Corp.
have become veritable breeding
grounds for the future executives
of other corporations while maintaining their own extraordinary
level of success. Former Danaher
managers, for instance, are now
the CEOs of several other industrial companies, including Belden,
IDEX Corp. and Polaris Industries.
And erstwhile P&G employees
who have gone on to run major
What do Apple, P&G and other high
performers have in common? A
keen sense of purpose and constant
striving to be the best at what they
do, as well as an organizational
environment with demonstrated
capability, predictability and reliability. These characteristics make
them worthy, in the eyes of highly
skilled and dedicated individuals,
of serious talent.
For further reading
“Jumping the S-curve: How to sustain long-term performance,” this issue, page 8
“The talent to grow,” this issue, page 52
For these and other articles, please visit
About the authors
Paul F. Nunes is the executive director
of research at the Accenture Institute
for High Performance. His work has
appeared regularly in Harvard Business
Review and in numerous other publications, including the Wall Street Journal.
He is also the coauthor of Mass Affluence:
7 New Rules of Marketing to Today’s
Consumers (Harvard Business School
Press, 2004). In addition, Mr. Nunes
is the senior contributing editor for
Outlook. He is based in Boston.
[email protected]
Tim Breene is the senior managing
director of Accenture Strategic Initiatives
and the CEO of Accenture Interactive.
Since joining the company in 1995,
Mr. Breene has held a number of senior
positions, including Accenture’s chief
strategy and corporate development
officer, group chief executive of Accenture Business Consulting and managing
partner of Accenture Strategic Services.
Mr. Breene is based in Boston.
[email protected]
David Smith is the managing director
of the Accenture Talent & Organization
Performance service line. He has been
a guest lecturer at Wharton Business
School and Babson College and is a
frequent speaker at industry conferences
and events. Mr. Smith, who is based in
Hartford, Connecticut, has published
numerous articles and papers, has contributed his viewpoints on the business
impact of human capital strategies to
various media and industry publications,
and is the coauthor of Workforce of One:
Revolutionizing Talent Management
Through Customization (Harvard Business
Press, 2010).
[email protected]
Harnessing the power
of social media
By Caroline Firstbrook and Robert Wollan
Outlook 2011, Number 1
The impact of social media is embryonic today but could ultimately surpass
the predictions of the industry’s most daring visionaries. Companies that
actively experiment with embedding a social media mindset and capabilities
in their business processes will transform their relationships with customers
and create value in unforeseen ways.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube: To some executives, these
and other user-generated-content sites resemble little more
than social networking soufflés—fluffy, youth-focused
concoctions with more empty calories than real content.
Known collectively as social media, you may not associate
it with sweeping business change.
Think again.
Social media is a genuine game
changer for business. Companies
that invested early to harness the
power of social media claim returns
as high as 20 to 1, with even greater
gains predicted to be on the way.
Meanwhile, those on the wrong side
of this customer-driven uprising
have already learned the hard way
how quickly brands and reputations
can be built—or destroyed—by this
Many companies have recognized
the potential of social media as
a new communications channel.
But the reality is that its impact
will be felt along the entire length
of the value chain. Companies will
be forced to reexamine outdated
business practices and create opportunities to leverage these new
capabilities in powerful ways.
The repercussions will be felt
throughout the organization.
The business function most commonly charged with engaging customers through social media has been
the marketing department. However,
the growing prevalence of online
communities that allow consumers to
exchange information about products
or services, and to compare prices
among competitors, has also meant
that marketers have lost control
over how and where their products
are presented to potential customers.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
Some of the more sophisticated
online retailers have used this trend
to their advantage, employing recommendation algorithms, user reviews
and unique customer-generated
content to build trust and increase
a consumer’s propensity to purchase.
A variety of online players, including, Netflix and Internet
radio site Pandora, are recognized
for having state-of-the-art recommendation systems that effectively
match customers with the products,
movies and music they love.
Social networking also provides an
effective channel for introducing new
products and services to customers
while gathering real-time feedback.
Ford Motor Co. broke with tradition
by launching its 2011 Explorer crossover vehicle on Facebook, achieving
higher levels of customer interest
than an ultra-expensive Super Bowl
commercial (which ran to nearly $3
million for a 30-second spot in 2010)
for significantly less money.
Even minor brands can benefit from
viral marketing campaigns that
capitalize on user willingness to pass
on relevant or entertaining content.
One example from Europe: Tipp-Ex,
a brand of correction fluid. In “A
hunter shoots a bear,” the company’s
interactive “tippexperience” video,
the hunter in the clip applies Tipp-Ex
to the word shoots in the title and
then asks viewers to type in a happier
alternative, such as hugs or dances
with. Each change generates a dif-
ferent ending to the video, giving it
an appeal that resulted in more than
10 million hits in the first six weeks
after being posted on YouTube.
Other campaigns take advantage of
the immediacy of social media to
create a sense of urgency regarding
limited-time offers. Airlines including JetBlue and United have begun
using Twitter to promote fixed availability or last-minute flight deals—
tasks ideally suited to the dynamic
environment of social media. Online
store and community Woot, which
focuses on selling “cool stuff cheap,”
has built a strong following on the
basis of selling one and only one item
per day at a discount.
Customer insight
Social media creates opportunities
for companies to supplement traditional sources of customer insight
with a wealth of information gathered by listening in to community
sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn
and Twitter, as well as customer
forums and product review services.
Social media monitoring gives companies unique access to unfiltered
feedback from customers—and at a
scale unavailable via other means
such as focus groups and surveys.
Technical challenges abound, however, such as the need to understand
the context in which comments are
being made and to distill key themes
and sentiments from unstructured
text. To help companies take advantage of this growing data source,
new players have emerged, offering
technologies and services such
as web crawling, web scraping
(or extracting data from websites),
text mining and sentiment analysis.
Companies that want to experiment
with monitoring the Web can
outsource the entire process to
third parties, or build the capabilities internally. However, the
technologies are evolving rapidly,
The rising tide
The traffic to social networking sites and the time spent on these sites have grown steadily since 2007.
Time per person, per month (HH:MM:SS)
Unique visitors (millions)
Source: The Nielson Company
so firms need to choose carefully
and avoid locking themselves into
a solution that constrains their
future capabilities.
Social media has an
increasingly important
role to play in helping
companies identify
and address unmet
customer needs.
Social media also opens ways to
conduct market research more
quickly and cheaply than ever
before, and to engage in a realtime dialogue with a wide range
of customers, replicating the
insights traditionally provided
from direct customer feedback or
expensive and time-consuming
focus groups. Electronics retailer
Best Buy, for instance, engages in
about 5,000 customer dialogues
per week through online forums,
and has more than 1.3 million followers on Facebook, with whom
it interacts regularly. This direct
interaction can also help companies
benchmark themselves against the
competition and gather valuable
input on what shoppers like about
them—and what they don’t.
The once clear-cut boundary
between marketing and sales
continues to blur as online advertising and links to third-party
comparison sites allow companies
to drive traffic to their retail websites. As a result, firms can rapidly convert shoppers into buyers,
and those buyers into salespeople.
Computer maker Dell has experimented with Dell Swarm, an application that invited customers
in Singapore and Canada to enjoy
volume discounts by joining group
purchases. The results of these pilots
have led to plans to roll out similar
apps on the company’s website in
2011. Mobile apps such as Find Starbucks also allow customers to locate
physical outlets quickly, while others such as Dunkin’ Donuts’ Dunkin’
Run make it possible to compile
Outlook 2011, Number 1
orders from friends or colleagues
that can be picked up by one person
in the group.
Customer expectations regarding the
online purchase experience continue
to climb, as leading retailers such
as continue to raise
the bar by customizing recommendations, providing intuitive,
straightforward online navigation
and minimizing the number of clicks
needed to complete a purchase.
Social media has an increasingly
important role to play in helping
companies identify and address
unmet customer needs. Firms
can engage employees, customers,
suppliers and other third parties
as active participants in the innovation process, expanding the
range of ideas and gathering realtime feedback on their potential
take-up. For example, Nokia operates an online lab that allows users
around the world to download beta
applications and provide feedback
to its product development teams.
This provides an early opportunity
to identify potential problems and
alerts the developers to customer
differences across geographic markets that need to be addressed.
Companies can also tap customers
directly for new product and
service ideas. Austrian crystal
and jewelry firm Swarovski has
developed a software tool that
customers can use to design and
then create their own jewelry by
stringing together crystal beads,
pearls, stones or pendants ordered
from Swarovski Elements. Energy
Brands (also known as Glacèau), a
US enhanced water manufacturer,
introduced a new black-cherryand-lime-flavored drink developed
and named (“Connect”) by Facebook
users—and awarded $5,000 to the
grand prize winner and each of
the four finalists for playing key
roles in the process.
are using social media to be more
proactive in seeking customer
feedback and engaging customers
to diagnose and resolve problems.
Customer service and
problem resolution
From Microsoft to Dell and from
Best Buy to Comcast, companies
are using social media to enable
customers to get answers directly
from other customers or specially
trained employees—empowering
their most knowledgeable customers
to serve as an informal ecosystem
of answer centers. Other innovations
include cloud monitoring services
such as those offered by RightNow
and, which provide
the ability to track and respond
to Twitter-borne and other online
complaints customers make.
Social media isn’t all upside, however, and its potential to dramatically publicize poor performance
has been well documented. Blog
posts and YouTube rants can attract
wide readership and cause significant damage to brand reputations.
Musician Dave Carroll’s YouTube
video “United Breaks Guitars” received more than 9.4 million views
and secured what nine months’
fruitless correspondence via phone,
email and fax with customer service
could not—an offer from the airline
to repair damages to his guitar, as
well as flight vouchers worth $1,200.
At the same time, one of the largest opportunities to tap the potential of social media is in customer
service. Innovative companies
Information technology
The need to integrate information
from a wide range of immature and
rapidly evolving sources creates new
challenges for often poorly prepared
IT departments. For example, combining unstructured customer data
from social media sites with the
structured information gathered
through billing and CRM systems
can be a daunting challenge, one
that requires IT managers to become
expert in the use of rapidly evolving
That’s a very different task from
installing and supporting mature,
stable systems. As a result, IT must
learn to cope with an unstable and
complex environment, one in which
new technologies and applications
sometimes emerge and then disappear within a few months as strategies change, and where data volumes
continue to grow exponentially.
Human resources
In the rapid-fire, real-time world
of social media, company representatives and other employees need
concrete guidance regarding how
and when to react—and when not
to. At the extreme, companies could
discover overzealous employees
revealing the organization’s most
Overnight sensation
The rate of adoption of social media has been breathtaking. It took 38 years for
radio to have 50 million users, but it took Facebook less than four years.
Time to achieve 50 million users
Source: Accenture analysis
closely held secrets in online forums.
Concern about the potential for
industrial espionage is one reason
that one European carmaker is
blocking employee access to social
media like Facebook and Xing.
Organizations thus need new
policies to govern the use of social
media that outline what employees
can and can’t say on public websites,
and their authority to respond to
customer comments and queries,
all the while ensuring that data
privacy laws are upheld. Employers likewise will be compelled to
recalibrate their own responses to
the online musings of employees.
In the United States, for example,
the National Labor Relations
Board has accused an emergency
medical response company of
illegally terminating a medical
technician for critical comments
she made on Facebook concerning
a supervisor.
Social media also offers new
avenues for recruiting, allowing
companies to spread a much wider
net and to differentiate themselves to younger generations.
One company seeking a marketing
director with a strong background
in social media used Twitter to
identify and ultimately hire the
ideal candidate.
Driving cultural change
Integrating social media will compel
companies to make dramatic cultural
changes, shifts that will ultimately
become essential for any organization hoping to thrive in this new
interactive environment.
Companies need to adopt new
attitudes and behaviors, and to
unlearn many of the lessons of
the past 20 years. Take customer
service interactions. In pursuit of
efficiency, companies have made
Outlook 2011, Number 1
them increasingly structured
and scripted, allowing relatively
low-skilled, low-cost personnel to
perform these roles. Agents follow
strict escalation rules, and the
resolution of problems can take
days, weeks or even months.
While this was perhaps acceptable in
a world where customer support was
the first, last and only place to get
help, today’s customers will instead
bypass the official systems, connect
with one another and take their
problems public in a flash. This highspeed environment clearly requires
a much faster, more flexible response
from companies that want to avoid
disaster. Southwest Airlines Co.,
hoping to ground any social media
problems before they gain altitude,
rigorously monitors its Twitter
and Facebook pages, enabling the
company to respond promptly to
customer complaints. With more
than a million Twitter fans and close
to the same number of Facebook
followers, the company actively
uses social media to interact with
customers, drive sales and build
brand loyalty.
Furthermore, companies no longer have a monopoly on information. Customers are much better
informed than in the past—and in
many cases, better informed than
even companies and their agents.
Conversations and situations that
once took place in private, with the
company in full control of information, can now take place in the
public eye, with highly damaging
consequences if the company gets
it wrong. One passenger, trapped
aboard a grounded airliner at John
F. Kennedy International Airport,
decided to record the saga of his
flight from London to New York,
which took 16 hours rather than
eight, and post it on YouTube.
After viewing the excruciating
documentary, the company’s CEO
personally called the passenger
to apologize, and then refunded
every passenger’s money for the
flight and gave each $100 off their
next one.
Social media provides the information companies can use to segment customer groups more finely
than in the past, along with the
tools to tailor products, services
and communication campaigns to
suit the needs and expectations of
individual segments. This spells
the end for standard responses
and one-size-fits-all offerings.
Customers increasingly demand
to be treated as individuals—and
will give their business to suppliers
that provide either unique experiences or superior value.
To leverage social media to its
fullest, organizations need to
become more nimble and entrepreneurial. Social media creates the
opportunity for much greater collaboration between departments,
engendering more experimentation, faster decision making and
more precisely tuned responses.
Some years ago, telecom giant
BT asked employees to begin
using a variety of social media
applications such as social networks, blogs, project-focused wikis
and podcasts to collaborate better
across different time zones and
locations. Today, the organization
routinely shares knowledge via
BT’s Blog Central, for example,
and provides tools that enable
employees to search all of the
intranet’s content from one place.
As a result, its people have boosted
their innovation productivity,
developing products and getting
them to market faster. The company
(Continued on page 30)
Pipeline to collaboration: An energy industry perspective
By James Arnott, Craig Heiser and Brian A. Miller
Most of the news about business uses for online collaboration
has been about consumer products and services companies
(see story). But can wikis, blogs and social networks play a
significant role in a heavy industry like oil and gas?
The potential at first glance seems enormous. Like any global
industry, oil and gas is driven by the need to unite far-flung
workforces, attract the best talent, create partnerships across
organizations and seek resolutions to problems in real time.
To better understand this issue, Accenture and Microsoft
jointly undertook a two-part study on the use of collaboration
tools in the oil and gas industry. The global study, which
covers the views of engineers, geoscientists, executives and
project managers from a range of companies, attempts to
quantify the industry’s perceptions regarding the business
value of social media and the readiness of oil and gas professionals to use it—both overall and geographically. The research
reveals an industry that broadly recognizes the business value
of collaboration technologies but is split along regional lines
regarding their use.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents see the business value
of collaborating via social media, and almost 40 percent say
its use has improved productivity by 10 percent to 25 percent.
Just about half indicate that social media tools have enabled
them to reduce travel expenses by anywhere from 10 percent
to 50 percent, while fully 95 percent assert the technology
drives greater work flexibility.
Respondents from the Asia Pacific region lead the others
by a wide margin in using social media to do business.
When it comes to instant messaging, videoconferencing,
social networking sites, mobile phone text messaging, video
sharing and blogging, Asia Pacific professionals sometimes
surpassed other regions by 10 to 1. In fact, 37 percent of Asia
Pacific respondents say social media is “very valuable” for
work collaboration.
Nearly 70 percent of respondents, including many frontline
work groups and oil and gas asset management teams, view
the use of these tools as an effective way to boost work
performance. In fact, almost 80 percent of respondents
spend up to four hours of their workday collaborating, while
more than 30 percent indicate they collaborated more this
year than last. The study shows that collaboration is already
an integral part of an oil and gas professional’s daily work
environment and will only grow in importance going forward.
The survey shows that social media tools enable oil and
gas players to work smarter and more effectively across
companies and continents alike. Survey respondents value
them because of their ability to improve productivity and work
performance compared with more traditional collaboration
methods. In other words, social media gives workers the
flexibility to work the way they want to work.
While collaboration plays an integral part in the daily work
lives of many oil and gas industry professionals, corporate
endorsement of collaborative technologies is less than
enthusiastic, with just over 10 percent of social media adoption being driven by the executive suite. The main concern
behind this hesitancy is security—nearly 40 percent of those
surveyed were apprehensive about the ability to control or
secure collaborative environments, even though nearly 75
percent already had security policies in place.
(Continued from page 28)
claims that every £1 it spends on
its intranet provides a £20 return.
Players in a number of
industries may decide
that that they need to
restrict their participation in social media.
While opportunities for experimentation and collaboration abound,
risk-averse cultures will benefit
far less, as will firms that engage
in lengthy and bureaucratic decision making or that have overly
siloed organization structures.
The newness of many of the social
media technologies and the speed
with which fresh ones are emerging
will require a highly agile response
from companies that interact
with them.
The IT function in particular must
alter how it interacts with other
parts of the organization, and adapt
its working style to incorporate a
higher degree of experimentation
and iteration instead of rigidly
adhering to tightly controlled build
and release processes.
Ultimately, players in a number of
information-sensitive industries
may decide that they need to restrict
their participation in social media.
Already, a majority of the blue
chip firms on Germany’s DAX
financial index have banned the
workplace use of Facebook and
Twitter, with many companies
from other regions undoubtedly
ready to follow suit.
Broader reach, greater connectivity
and the emergence of special
interest communities with ever
more powerful online viral word
of mouth will allow customers to
quickly and easily find products
that meet their needs. As a result,
genuinely successful innovations
will rapidly find the customers
who value them the most.
Companies can use social media
to tap into the power and wisdom
of virtual crowds, enlisting them
in support of other users and
empowering employees to act as
agents for the company. Doing
so can generate a huge customer
service multiplier effect, allowing
organizations to more rapidly
identify, diagnose and resolve
problems while simultaneously
delivering exceptional value.
Netflix, the online movie purveyor,
literally took concerns about improving its film recommendation
algorithm to the online “street,”
offering a prize of $1 million to
anyone who could boost the system’s
effectiveness by at least 10 percent.
In true social media fashion, the
winning entry (announced in 2009)
cracked the problem through crowdsourcing—the unorganized, informal joining together of a variety of
different teams, none of which had
the whole answer alone but came up
with it by working together.
The impact of social media on business remains embryonic today, but
it could ultimately surpass the musings of the industry’s most daring
visionaries. Despite such uncertainty, companies can safely make several
informed bets. First, the impact will be bigger, not smaller, than that
currently anticipated. Second, companies that actively experiment with
embedding a social media mindset and capabilities in their business
processes will transform their relationships with customers and create
value in unforeseen ways. And third, organizations stuck in wait-and-see
mode will face bruising competitive challenges when they do finally attempt
to catch up.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
About the authors
For further reading
Caroline Firstbrook is the managing director of Accenture Strategy in Europe,
the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Ms. Firstbrook has extensive experience in
M&A strategy and target evaluation, merger negotiation, positioning for privatization
and new market entry strategies across a wide range of industries. In addition to her
consulting experience, she spent five years as an entrepreneur, setting up and later
selling Easychem, an Internet retailer of crop inputs to farmers, and partnering
with life sciences company Syngenta to explore biotech venturing opportunities.
Ms. Firstbrook is based in London.
The Social Media Management
Handbook: Everything You Need to
Know to Get Social Media Working
in Your Business, by Robert Wollan
and Nick Smith (Wiley 2011)
[email protected]
“Oil & Gas Collaboration Survey 2010,”
Microsoft and Accenture 2010
Robert Wollan is the global managing director of the Accenture Customer Relationship
Management service line. With more than 20 years of experience, he leads a global
team of specialists in customer-centric marketing; sales, service and customer operations;
advanced segmentation; digital transformation/social CRM; multichannel customer
contact; and enterprise service delivery across the 19 industries Accenture serves
globally. He is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“Melding marketing and IT: Are you
ready for the digital revolution?”
this issue, page 32
[email protected]
James Arnott is the global lead for the Accenture Talent & Organization Performance/
Resources group. Now based in Perth, Australia, Mr. Arnott previously headed Accenture
Energy in Spain, Portugal and South Africa.
[email protected]
Based in Houston, Texas, Craig Heiser is the North America lead for the Accenture Talent
& Organization Performance/Energy group. He has more than 20 years’ experience
working with oil and gas clients on change programs.
[email protected]
Brian A. Miller is a senior executive in Accenture Energy in North America,
responsible for the group’s technology growth platform and its Avanade alliance.
Mr. Miller is based in Houston, Texas.
[email protected]
Marketing II
Melding marketing and IT
Are you ready for
the digital revolution?
By Tim Breene and Brian Whipple
The ultimate promise of digital and interactive channels is personalization:
bringing timely and relevant offerings to customers wherever they are, at
that moment when opportunity and interest translate into a sale. But before
this can happen, leaders must make sure that marketing professionals work
actively with the IT department—and vice versa.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
Marketing II
The ancient Greeks had a word for it: kairos—the supreme
moment, the right time.
Right now, for many chief marketing officers, that moment—
keyed to digitally bred real-time customer expectations—is
slipping through their fingers. Marketing’s former lock on
branding, messaging and positioning has been weakened by
the increasing influence of peer-to-peer, crowdsourced and
affinity-based interactions.
Tech-savvy and endowed with a kind of digital omnipotence
regarding product and brand comparisons and deals, today’s
customers have vastly different expectations than they did
just a decade ago. Yet many marketers fail to grasp that they
need to respond to the profound changes ubiquitous connectivity has triggered among consumers.
The emergence of massive online communities, social media,
mobile marketing and interactive advertising has changed the
ways customers want to deal with companies and, in turn,
how firms can respond to customer needs. These digital channels and capabilities mean organizations can reach customers
now—in real time, all the time, anytime. Just as the inventions
of the telegraph and telephone effectively shrank distance, the
digital revolution is compressing reaction time itself, forcing
companies to step outside long-established comfort zones.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
The ultimate promise of digital
and interactive channels is personalization: bringing timely and
relevant offerings and experiences
to customers wherever they are, at
that moment—kairos, if you will—
when interest and opportunity
translate into a sale.
This article will examine the
challenges “real-time marketing”
presents and explore ways companies
can leap ahead of their competitors
in the use of digital, interactive
customer channels that can create
deeper and more profitable longterm relationships.
But many companies lack the
technologies, analytics capabilities, leadership and organization
structures to capitalize on this
seismic shift. A recent global
research study, conducted by
the CMO Council and Accenture
Interactive, of more than 600
senior marketing and information technology executives found
that just 11 percent felt ver y
prepared to exploit digital marketing channels.
The right data, the right time
It sounds fairly straightforward:
deliver personalized, relevant and
timely offers and information to
customers to influence their loyalty
and buying patterns. But without
the right data at the right time,
this kind of real-time marketing
remains a pipe dream.
Data in this case includes contextual
information about the customer—
background, location, interests,
Talking past each other?
In a recent Accenture Interactive global research study, CMOs said the chief obstacle to implementing
digital solutions is that IT departments don’t see marketing as a priority. According to CIOs, however,
the biggest obstacle is that digital solutions are complex and difficult to integrate.
CIO respondents
Solution complexity and
integration difficulties
Marketing bypassing IT and
working directly with the vendor
Insufficient budget and funding
for the project
CMO respondents
Marketing function not a
priority for the IT department
Insufficient budget and funding
for the project
Time and technical resources
not available to help
Source: CMO Council; Accenture analysis
Marketing II
relevant communities and so forth—
that enables companies to adjust the
customer experience in real time.
Companies need to collect data,
integrate that information using
real-time analytics to synthesize
findings, and then use the knowledge generated to support ongoing
relationships and more personalized
products and services.
In short, the company with immediate access to the most relevant
customer data wins.
Becoming a diligent data miner is
one thing; making sure company
representatives have immediate
access to insightful customer information is quite another. Information can’t remain packed away
in different organizational and
functional silos anymore. Companies need a unified IT backbone
and infrastructure that link data
housed in the far reaches of the
organization, often in different
forms, as well as information held
outside the company.
Furthermore, leaders need to pursue technology-based solutions—
sometimes across partnering
companies—that enable them to
crunch data better and faster, as
well as predictive analytics that
make it possible to personalize the
customer experience in as close to
real time as possible.
One online powerhouse that already
plays a leading role when it comes
to identifying customer interests
and actively generating product
Slow to commit
CIOs and CMOs indicate that companies have been relatively slow to adopt interactive
digital marketing strategies.
CIO respondents
CMO respondents
Heavily committed and
invested in this area
Growing proportion
of marketing spend
Testing and evaluating
different directions
Still committed to more
traditional approaches
Not embracing digital
Source: CMO Council; Accenture analysis
Outlook 2011, Number 1
recommendations recently raised
its game noticeably. The company’s
technological partnership with a
social media player makes it possible for customers to link their accounts at both portals. As a result,
the online retailer has improved its
ability to suggest products by also
taking into account the interests and
activities customers list publicly on
their social media pages.
Focused leadership
At first glance, the biggest challenge
in meeting the needs of real-time
customers appears to be technological. But strong, purposeful leadership also plays a critical role. In
fact, the Accenture Interactive-CMO
Council research suggests that in the
crucial area of integrating marketing
and IT efforts, much remains to be
done (see chart, page 35). Unfortunately, many companies fall short
in their attempts to meld marketing
and technology in this manner,
because leaders fail to ensure that
marketing professionals work
actively with the IT department (and
vice versa) to make the needed
changes happen.
The global study found that while
some marketing organizations and IT
departments are moving in the right
direction, most are falling behind
(see chart, opposite). The problem?
Digital marketing practices and
technology-based customer analytics
solutions are simply changing too
rapidly for companies to keep up.
Lacking the required vision and
leadership, the majority ends up
taking baby steps toward creating
an integrated and truly digital marketing function; by the time each
step has been completed, it’s too late.
These organizations risk losing
out to more nimble and digitally
confident online competitors that
are led by savvy executives who,
much like the Native American
horseman an envious American
general once observed, seem born
to ride this bucking bronco.
To catch up, leaders have to make
new investments in the talent, technology and processes needed to forge
a new era of cooperation between
marketing and IT—and make this
transformation an organizational
mandate. This new, aligned strategy
must identify the investments
needed for businesswide growth
and optimized customer experience.
Filling the gaps
Our research also uncovered several
additional obstacles companies face
when attempting to use digital channels, social media and other interactive capabilities effectively (see chart,
page 39). For example, spending often
fails to keep up with needs or, worse,
goes to the wrong areas. As a result,
while executives may loudly proclaim
the benefits of leveraging digital
channels, they often make little in
the way of coordinated investments.
While executives may
loudly proclaim the
benefits of leveraging
digital channels, they
often make little in
the way of coordinated
One company’s experience perhaps
sums up the issue for most industries.
It proceeded reactively, financing
one-off technology projects and
implementing programs incrementally. But these moves actually
made the problem worse by creating
more complexity without a corresponding increase in transparency.
Such uncoordinated efforts make
it harder to put together an integrated, holistic solution to drive
relevant and real-time consumer
Companies also face an expertise
gap. Most don’t have the talent
and leadership they need to solve
the problem. Bluntly, they need
fewer people with isolated IT and
marketing skills, and more general
business managers who really
Marketing II
understand business recommendations and the optimization of
customer relationships.
Leaders need to create
new organizational
structures that are
nimble and responsive
to an environment
packed with uncertainty.
Companies that succeed at real-time,
digitally empowered marketing
are instantly recognizable. They
deliver personalized and relevant
experiences to customers through
the channels and in formats that
consumers demand. They work hard
to achieve consistent communications and brand experiences across
both digital and offline channels,
and have the capacity to track and
respond quickly to customer behavior
across every point of contact.
Real-time marketers focus on
becoming more data-driven, and
on creating a more measurable
and transparent marketing department, one where managers base
strategies, campaigns and budgets
on verifiable insights into markets
and customers. Such firms also
develop systems and processes imbued with the agility and flexibility
to respond to changing customer
preferences, business conditions
and market opportunities.
Pushing the envelope
One consumer electronics retailer
is pushing the real-time marketing
envelope with a Twitter-based service
that allows it to quickly tap into
the expertise of its employees. As a
result, the organization’s own techies
and product experts can answer
customer questions rapidly, resolve
service issues and troubleshoot
problems, all in real time, whenever
customer concerns arise. The service
provides a significant competitive
advantage, one that effectively positions customer service as an important element of marketing strategy.
One clear difference between
successful real timers and other
players can be seen in the manage38
Outlook 2011, Number 1
ment team’s knowledge and understanding of online technologies.
A generation gap of sorts separates
those companies that get the promise of digital, interactive channels
in transforming how they conduct
business with customers and those
that don’t. As a result, even though
increasing numbers of people
now live and work in an alwaysconnected way, many companies
continue to treat the phenomenon
as a fad or minor issue.
First steps, lessons learned
As a critical first step, companies
need to acknowledge and get a
feel for the size and heft of this
transformation. It’s big, comparable in potential scale and scope
to other major market disruptions,
like television or the automobile.
Companies also need to map out
a detailed change path—one that
includes some immediate, short-term
paybacks but also plots a course
several years into the future. And
they should factor some experimentation into this mix—pursuing
small, manageable chunks of digital
capabilities, which can enable them
to measure business returns before
making larger investments.
While no hard-and-fast rules exist
for successfully navigating the
digital world, six experience-based
suggestions can provide insights.
Nurture an appreciation
for ambiguity
Digital developments rarely proceed
in a straight line. Instead, winning
products and applications emerge
from a combination of vision, luck,
serendipity and sweat-drenched
effort. In such an environment,
doggedly adhering to a traditional
business strategy will virtually
ensure that a company gets continually blindsided.
Instead, leaders need to create new
organizational structures that are
nimble and responsive to an environment packed with uncertainty.
One leading consumer products
company is moving toward an “open
marketing” model by shrinking
its core marketing team, whose
members then lead a network of
specialized external partners. This
way, the company always has immediate access to the latest thinking
and newest approaches regarding
real-time digital marketing.
For instance, one prominent company simply outsourced the issue to
a couple of vendor employees, with
predictably disastrous results. In
fact, the change required represents
a fundamental transformation in
the way business is done, mandating
nothing less than a CEO-level
endorsement of, and engagement
in, both the strategy guiding the
change ahead and its robust execution. Anything less will likely spur
a series of one-off efforts that
simply increase organizational
complexity and inefficiency.
Put digital decisions on
the board’s agenda
Rethink investment approaches
As the Accenture Interactive-CMO
Council study shows, many companies continue to fall short when it
comes to capturing digital’s promise.
Moving toward now marketing
requires companies to maintain a
delicate balance of risk, innovation
and learning. Although going
When CIOs and CMOs were asked why their organizations were not prepared to take advantage
of the opportunities provided by digital marketing, both groups listed “insufficient funding” as the
most important factor.
CIO respondents
Insufficient funding for
digital marketing channels
Lack of understanding of
opportunity from senior management
Solution complexity and
integration difficulties
CMO respondents
Insufficient funding for
digital marketing channels
Lack of understanding of
opportunity from senior management
Insufficient support from
internal IT
Source: CMO Council; Accenture analysis
Marketing II
digital will involve significant
technology investments, the
return-on-investment cycle will
probably not follow that of a
standard technology rollout. If a
“typical” payback curve is gauged
annually, a digital ROI could take
five years or longer, and may not
produce returns at all.
Given the parlous state of the economy, this ambiguous, long-terminvestment approach will likely
cause considerable organizational
pain. But setting the wrong expectations will be even more detrimental to moving forward as the plug
is pulled on early “failures.” Given
the potentially protracted return
timeline, companies should choose
projects that promise to deliver the
greatest returns and take them on
in bite-size pieces.
One high-tech firm has earned
a reputation for identifying and
capitalizing on innovative business
ideas from everywhere, and one
way the company stays on innovation’s cutting edge involves its
wiki-based collaborative platform.
A dedicated team assesses ideas
submitted by employees to find the
killer concepts the company needs,
and then it helps involved employees develop the business plans in
support of each idea’s feasibility.
Ideas generated by the process have
already led to the startup of multiple
new company business units.
Abandon best-of-breed systems
and focus on flexible platforms
The digital revolution could
ultimately deliver true “segment
of one” personalization. To make
good on that promise, however,
companies need a unified data
backbone, one capable of delivering
the highly relevant data that generates valuable customer insights.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
In turn, this information enables
marketers to tailor content to
individual customers.
However, because many companies
operate on a hodgepodge of bestof-breed systems, most lack an
integrated technical infrastructure.
Today, marketing and IT can no
longer implement solutions that
address only the needs of their respective functions. Moving forward
boldly requires leaders to develop
a unified, companywide vision of
the end state required to make now
marketing a reality.
Don’t just mine customer
data—engineer it
Data mining digs up lots of facts
but few real insights. Teams instead
need to “engineer” information,
drawing insights and understanding
from a variety of internal and external sources to create and deliver the
most relevant customer experience
in real time.
For instance, an auto insurance
company offers a free iPhone GPSbased app that enables customers
to record information such as an
accident’s location and time; lets
them take and send damage photos;
and makes it possible to submit the
necessary insurance forms from
the scene. The app also offers ways
to locate collision repair shops as
well as contacts for local authorities.
It saves time and money, and it
increases customer satisfaction by
reducing uncertainty and making
a difficult situation more manageable.
To continue providing customers
with the best digital experience,
companies must constantly anticipate
and respond to evolving consumer
needs across an expanding array
of media and digitally enabled
touchpoints. But getting there
requires developing capabilities
that provide an end-to-end customer view.
One effective way to engineer data
focuses on understanding actual
consumer intent by evaluating
search queries and scanning for
potential customer-triggered “events”
on websites and elsewhere. By
puzzling out the meaning behind
search query data from onsite
search engines, teams can gain
invaluable insights into what consumers actually seek.
A number of technology platforms
make this type of analysis possible
at scale, enabling companies to
provide the best customer experience possible. As a result, firms can
readily serve “long tail” consumers
in ways that address their individual
needs instead of simply recommending mass-market offerings.
Rethink your talent
management models
Much the way the transistor’s invention eclipsed vacuum tube expertise, companies today face a digital
talent divide. Finding, attracting
and retaining tomorrow’s digitally
savvy leaders will force organizations to step outside of their current
comfort zones as they search for
people capable of dealing with the
high uncertainty levels this new
digital marketplace creates, and who
understand and can act to capture
the enormous value at stake.
The digital revolution is taking place now, in real time, irrevocably changing
the rules that define company–customer relationships. To win in this
intense new competitive arena, firms need to break down the internal
barriers that prevent the free flow of customer-relevant information, and
instead cultivate a new breed of leaders capable of accelerating company
performance to life speed.
About the authors
Tim Breene is the senior managing director of Accenture Strategic Initiatives and the
CEO of Accenture Interactive. Since joining the company in 1995, Mr. Breene has held
a number of senior positions, including Accenture’s chief strategy and corporate
development officer, group chief executive of Accenture Business Consulting and
managing partner of Accenture Strategic Services. Mr. Breene is based in Boston.
[email protected]
Brian Whipple has been with Accenture for more than 10 years, serving in a variety
of strategic and consulting roles. Mr. Whipple was also the chief operating officer of
an advertising and marketing services firm; the managing director of the northeast
region for a Fortune 500 global technology services company; and a senior vice
president and managing director of one of the world’s largest direct marketing agencies.
Since 2010, he has been managing director of Accenture Interactive. Mr. Whipple
is based in Boston.
[email protected]
Has the cloud made
outsourcing obsolete?
By Jimmy Harris and Gavin Michael
Many cloud enthusiasts—proponents of a simple utility model for providing
business services—have written off outsourcing companies for dead. But the
shakeup within the services industry has meant more complexity, not less,
resulting in a critical new role for value-added outsourcing.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
What if you could access information technology and business
services as easily as a homeowner accesses electricity?
That’s the promise of the “cloud,” as it’s now called: a
utility model for computing capacity, software and business
functionality that is redefining how organizations operate
and how they serve their customers and constituents.
It’s also redefining the role of service providers and outsourcing companies.
The big question: Is the cloud making outsourcing obsolete—
or more important?
The utility metaphor is inevitable. It also explains why
some might think that cloud technologies enable a kind
of do-it-yourself approach to business services, eliminating
the need for value-added outsourcing. After all, homeowners
don’t need a personal contractor to integrate the coal companies, turbine manufacturers and engineers behind electricity
delivery. They pay their bills and turn on a switch.
So is a similar kind of easy access to business power the
inevitable evolution of the services marketplace? It might
seem so. Companies already can simply provide a credit card
number to a cloud IT provider and get computing capacity
within minutes. They can contact a software-as-a-service
provider and get ready access to robust cloud-based capabilities in areas such as sales, CRM and finance. With that
kind of responsiveness and ready capability, will a CEO
or CIO need a service integrator—a traditional outsourcing
The answer is: Yes and no.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
The cloud is indeed simplifying
some aspects of the IT and business
services world. But it’s also making
many others more complex. Some
kinds of services might actually
become almost as easy as turning
on the lights. On the other hand,
customers often need more than
just raw power. The electric company isn’t in the business of providing
advice about what appliances your
home needs, for example, or about
how all your fancy new electronic
equipment works together. Different
folks need different strokes.
So the various levels of service
needed in the new cloud environment
will inevitably result in a kind of
shakeout within the outsourcing
industry itself, resulting in a range
of providers offering alternative
value propositions at a variety of
price points.
The danger for corporate customers
at this point in the evolution of
cloud services and outsourcing is
in overemphasizing the easy parts
while paying insufficient attention
to the hard parts.
Complex IT environments
From an IT perspective, the introduction of the cloud model actually
means that CIOs now have to
manage an even more complex,
hybrid environment: externally
provided cloud services along with
their own internal systems managed in a cloud-like manner, as
well as older legacy applications.
From a business process perspective, integration points between
different functions and processes
need to be carefully (and commercially) managed, since a utility
cloud provider most likely will not
have a perfectly clear sense of its
client’s overall business goals—to
say nothing of the needs of the
client’s customers.
Given the host of other challenges
companies face with cloud services—
security, data integrity and service
availability chief among them—
the important integration role
played by some outsourcing providers isn’t going away anytime
soon. Indeed, the ability to advise
companies on the proper design
of their business models based on
multiple service providers, and to
help them harness the potential
innovations arising from the interaction of these providers, will in all
likelihood usher in a totally new
era of outsourcing—for providers
ready to meet the challenge.
Beyond the hype
One thing that obscures a true
and serious read on cloud computing’s impact on the outsourcing
industry is the inevitable hype
that accompanies the introduction
of any new information technology.
Dr. Leslie Willcocks of The London
School of Economics and Political
Science—with whom Accenture is
currently conducting research into
the impact of cloud computing—
calls this a “misleading narrative
of transformation.”
The important integration role played by some
outsourcing providers
isn’t going away anytime soon.
According to Willcocks, “IT
industry hype about technology
as the primary driver of sustainable
change has been associated with
virtually every new generation
of technology. On the one hand,
you can see the almost religious
overtones in some of this—the need
to be ‘born again’ and leave the old
world behind.” On the other hand,
he continues, “there is also some
sense in which converts speak
of the inevitability of it all—that
these are predestined forces at
work and that the effects of this
technology will be linear and
What the hype ignores is the
complexity of change and the
considerable stake that the current
players (both buyers and providers)
have in what’s happening. Companies are not, in fact, powerless
entities buffeted by uncontrollable
forces; most are savvy enough
to understand that technology
evolution requires the evolution
of business models too.
A number of false
assumptions lie at
the heart of some
claims made for cloud
It is highly unlikely that large,
global enterprises will simply toss
out those IT solutions that keep the
lights on today in favor of the technology du jour. At the same time, IT
and business process outsourcing
providers are acutely aware of the
implications of cloud services and
are actively working to evolve and
leverage their own capabilities in
light of this change. Through their
existing client relationships, moreover, they are in a strong position
to shape how these new cloud
technologies develop.
Bells and whistles
Looking beyond the hype, however,
it is undoubtedly true that a number
of the aspects of cloud technologies
and business services do indeed
qualify as revolutionary.
First, the barriers to entry for new
players in any industry, and the
competitive constraints on the “little
guys,” are dramatically reduced by
the cloud model. A smaller company
doesn’t need its own data centers
now to handle mass applications
like email, nor does it need a costly
infrastructure for hiring, training
and retaining a cyclical or variable
workforce that may need to be
scaled up only occasionally.
This utility model extends the
benefits of outsourcing—defined as
the external provisioning of basic
services—to a wider community of
Outlook 2011, Number 1
organizations. Essential services
are now accessible, affordable and
quicker to provision, and that, in
turn, makes it easier to compete.
Second, looking at the financial
side of the equation, the cloud can
deliver some astounding results.
Software-as-a-service applications
cost less to implement and maintain
than a company’s own applications.
And because providers offer software for multiple clients running
on their cloud, marketplace competition creates stronger incentives to
continuously improve the software,
making sure all the new bells and
whistles are there for clients as they
are made available. That generally
doesn’t happen as effectively for
companies running their own shops,
providing services only to internal
customers and competing for scarce
investment dollars with other functions and business needs.
From an infrastructure cost perspective, the architecture that underpins
a serious cloud provider’s products
redefines presumptions about data
storage costs and may make it a
no-brainer to use a cloud provider
rather than maintain a company’s
own private data center. Some
estimates place the cost for storage
on the cloud at as little as 10 cents
a month per gigabyte, compared
with as much as 25 dollars a month
for storage inside a company’s own
firewall. For a large multinational,
those savings can amount to millions
of dollars per year.
A number of false assumptions
lie at the heart of some claims
made for cloud computing, and
companies that proceed based
on those assumptions could find
themselves in trouble.
For example, some commentators
who see the cloud as a kind of do-it-
yourself model for business and IT
services apparently presume that
cloud-based offerings won’t require
any modification or customization.
For a large enterprise, that is seldom
if ever the case—or will be for only
small and discrete processes that do
not require much coordination on
a firmwide basis, and whose impact
is thus less widely felt.
prise perspective, that means that
IT executives now must manage
multiple external cloud providers
and an internal IT environment
that is in all likelihood a hybrid
between traditionally run services
and others run in a cloud-like
manner, as well as various legacy
systems that cannot readily be
given up to the cloud.
The idea that a cloud-based model
will inherently simplify services
is also a dubious proposition, even
at the basic level of procuring raw
computing power. Yes, an organization can easily acquire storage
and run applications by renting
server capacity. But from an enter-
Finally, and most important, there’s
the not inconsequential matter of
service integration, which will
become considerably more complex
as the number of providers increases.
At the moment, such integration is
not part of the business model of
most utility cloud providers.
It is important to understand
what integration is all about in
the traditional outsourcing model,
versus how it will look in a cloudbased environment. Today, integration is really about getting
multiple vendors, across systems
and functions, to work together to
manage basic services in a common
and consistent way. If an application goes down, the company
providing the desktops needs to
be able to work easily with applications providers to solve the
customer’s problem.
In an environment where companies
are sourcing business and IT
processes on the cloud, however,
Cloud on the horizon
Both business and IT executives see the value of cloud computing across many aspects of the enterprise. Almost half of
the business executives surveyed believe that cloud technologies will enable them to focus on transforming their business,
not just their IT function. IT executives, however, appear to be somewhat more skeptical.
What aspects of the cloud value proposition especially appeal to you?
(Survey of 628 enterprises)
Cloud drives down the overall cost of
running business applications
We can implement business applications
we need much quicker when they are
provisioned in the cloud
Cloud empowers us to access best-in-class
applications quickly, which we could not
have accessed readily before
Cloud facilitates a virtual/distributed
Cloud enables us to focus on transforming
our business, and not only our IT function
Business executives
IT executives
Source: HfS Research and The Outsourcing Unit at The London School of Economics, November 2010
the greater integration challenge
will be integrating data consistently
across multiple services and then
understanding the end-to-end
business process that’s being serviced
so that a company can be confident
that its employees and customers
are being served properly.
The cloud will hasten
the emergence of
multiple classes of
outsourcing services
and providers.
Take a common financial process
like order to cash. In a cloud or
software-as-a-service environment,
a company might use five different
cloud-based services to run that
end-to-end function. But from the
company’s perspective, all executives
really want to know is how quickly
they can get from order to cash,
and how the speed, efficiency and
cost of doing so can be influenced
in a positive way. At this point,
monitoring and managing that
integration—keeping in mind the
ultimate business goal of the service—
is a capability well outside the comfort zone of most cloud providers.
Utility cloud providers are also
becoming aware that clients expect
them to assume liability for data
security and integrity. These companies are, after all, product and
software vendors at heart. Being
able to do more than issue periodic
software updates and attend to
the hardware details—to tend to
the data across services and ensure
its safety and integrity—requires
skills, mindsets and business models
that most utility providers do not
currently have.
Class system
The role of outsourcing is changing
dramatically and will continue to
do so as companies increasingly
rely on the cloud for IT processing
and business services. We are, in
fact, entering a period when the
cloud will hasten the emergence
of multiple classes of outsourcing
services and providers. At least
three service categories are likely
to emerge. And at this point in
the evolution of the industry, it
is possible to identify some of the
key success factors that will be in
place for each one.
Category 1: Utility providers
As suppliers of IT power or basic
business process functionality, the
value proposition for utility providers
will focus primarily on efficiency
and cost.
For example, we worked with a
large logistics company responsible
for shipping hundreds of millions of
items around the world every year,
each with a unique barcode. Those
barcodes represented hundreds of
gigabytes of data that had to be
managed each month. As part
of its quality control processes,
the company wanted to be able
to readily identify errors such as
different items accidentally being
assigned an identical barcode. That
Outlook 2011, Number 1
meant a fairly massive undertaking
in terms of the storage and computing power needed to perform
that kind of analysis.
When a cloud solution was implemented for the company, it involved
150 servers at a total annual cost
of $131,000. By comparison, if the
company had attempted to implement the same capability within its
own IT department, it would have
required the purchase of a $4 million high-end server. In addition,
the processing power of the cloud
solution was truly remarkable:
The company was able to process
an entire month’s worth of data in
4.3 minutes.
Success factors: The essential
capabilities of a utility cloud services provider will be driven by the
obsessions of a typical CIO, whose
primary concern is the availability
of services: On a percentage basis,
how often is an IT service up and
running when I need it?
For IT executives, the gold standard
of availability and reliability has
always been what they call “five
nines”—that is, services available
99.999 percent of the time. Cloud
providers are already coming
close, by developing industrialized
capabilities to deliver that level of
assurance. For example, Amazon
Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon
EC2) is a web service that provides
resizable computing capacity in
the cloud. Amazon’s service level
agreements with clients already
guarantee 99.95 percent availability.
Small percentage points of performance make a huge difference
over the course of a year. If your
network availability is 99.999
percent (a figure often achieved in
the telecommunications industry),
the amount of downtime over the
course of an entire year is only
about five minutes. By contrast,
99.9 percent availability means
that applications are down almost
nine hours a year.
That downtime translates into lost
productivity, missed sales oppor-
tunities, poor customer service
and more. For highly transactionintensive applications in industries such as financial services,
outages can cost millions of dollars
per minute.
Other considerations that will be critical to the success of utility providers:
recoverability—that is, if there is a
failure, how fast is the service back
up, and is all my data safe?—and,
of course, security. At the moment,
there is no denying that data security
and integrity are sticking points for
the ascendancy of the cloud business
model. Identifying who is responsible
for risk management and mitigation
among the new players in the cloud
ecosystem will be essential.
Category 2: Business function providers
The second category of cloud or
outsourcing companies will be niche
providers with deep expertise in
particular functions such as sales,
HR and customer support, enabling
them to command a premium for
their services. To use the utility
analogy, while the first category is
made up of the electric companies,
this category is the company that
provides the refrigerators, dishwashers, and home theater and audio
equipment you need for the home.
For the business function provider,
the value proposition will be to make
sure your company gets a business
function (the “appliance”) that is
properly configured for your needs—
in other words, not just any old
refrigerator but the one that fits
in your kitchen space and holds
the amount of food that’s right for
your family’s needs.
For example, consider one multinational risk management and
insurance brokerage company that
was using a variety of sales management tools in different locations,
making it difficult and time consuming to generate an accurate
global pipeline and forecast. Without
transparency into the pipeline, sales
management did not have the information it needed to make effective
decisions about which opportunities
required dedicated resources.
The company went with a softwareas-a-service supplier—in this case,—to provide a common
means of enabling an accurate global
pipeline and forecast. Although the
initial deployment was substantial,
involving 1,200 users, it took only
four months. The company now
has a much clearer picture of the
sales pipeline, which helps it align
resources more effectively; this,
in turn, has improved client acquisition and penetration. By reducing
the number of different sales management applications, the company
has also saved significantly on
application maintenance costs.
Success factors: The goal of the
second grouping of providers—
specialist groups with deep industry and functional knowledge—
will be to design applications
and services, at scale, that are
readily and securely configurable
to a client’s specific environment,
needs and business goals. These
providers will continue to offer
important value to their clients,
since engaging a software-asa-service provider is significantly
less expensive than a company
buying and maintaining its own
One important advantage of these
providers is their ability to offer
access to the latest generation of
software. Beyond that, however,
successful companies in this category will need to be able to drive
continuous improvement across
their offerings, as well as to include
their solution as a modular component in a more comprehensive
business design.
For further reading
“Cloud computing: Where is the rain?”
Outlook, October 2010
“Agile IT: Reinventing the enterprise,”
Outlook, June 2010
For these and other articles, please
Category 3: Integrators and value-added
business designers
The third type of outsourcing provider will be one that recasts itself
as a “business design” consultant
in addition to serving as an aggregator and integrator of critical
services. That is, such a company
will help its clients become “cloud
enterprises”—organizations that are
more dexterous and agile because
they can adapt their very business
design on the fly. Offering this kind
of business capability will require
an outsourcing provider to develop
a higher level of sophistication in
integrating its own and other services
and in managing them seamlessly.
Consider the complexity involved
even in a rather nascent form of
this business design consulting that
ensues from a cloud-based environment. One global financial services
company initiated a new strategy
to improve its client acquisition and
penetration efforts, and to enable the
better allocation of scarce resources
to business opportunities. The
solution was a hybrid between what
we’ve termed the “utility model of
raw computing power” and the sales
functionality delivered through
a software-as-a-service model.
The implementation strategy was
based on an extremely agile approach—starting with a common
core solution and then radiating
out to more configured solutions
for units in different countries, all
in an unusually fast, eight-week
timeframe. Offshore resources were
used for the raw utility needs, such
as data conversion. The result was
that the company met its goals for
transformation at scale in a compressed, accelerated timeframe.
Success factors: Far from putting
outsourcers and integrators out of
Outlook 2011, Number 1
business, the new cloud environment is likely to make the services
of an integrator even more critical
to becoming a high-performance
The specific role an integrator plays
will change, however. Critically,
it will involve managing a more
complex, hybrid computing environment. For many companies, an
integrator acting as a trusted broker
will be needed to solve the interoperability and security challenges
of cloud services. Such an integrator will be tasked with taking a
holistic view of IT and business
services across an entire enterprise,
helping mitigate risk and improve
quality by managing some or all
of those services end to end. This
means that a successful integrator
will have to be more than a pure
consultant, and will need to have
deep operational experience across
all major business processes and
technology solutions.
Because it is so early in the cloud
computing maturity curve, consistent standards are not yet in place.
If part of a process is run by one
provider and another part by a
different provider, the smooth and
seamless integration of services is
likely to be a challenge, especially
as companies eventually seek to
switch providers to improve performance or reduce costs. An integrator will be able to offer better
governance to harmonize the pieces
and also to ensure that a client is,
in fact, making proper use of the
computing and process resources
for which it has contracted.
The integrator should also be
able to provide what we can call
“frictionless business design.”
Aided by the other two categories
of outsourcers—utility services
and business function providers—
integrators will work with clients
to combine, recombine, commission and decommission different
components of a full IT and business
solution. This can reduce the friction
of functions operating in obsolete
ways, or of newer functions that
are not adequately integrated into
the business. Companies should
be able to acquire a service, use
it where it makes sense and then
say goodbye to it when it’s no
longer needed.
Finally, the ability to bring innovation to a client will be a distinctive
feature of successful outsourcing
providers in the cloud era. Our
research and experience suggest
that the next stage in outsourcing
will be achieved when service
providers and clients collaborate to
innovate, and this is another key
task of the new breed of integrator.
This novel kind of relationship
between provider and client will
draw on distinctive leadership
skills and pioneering contractual
relationships where risks and
benefits are shared more equally.
Achieving such relationships
takes time and commitment—a
commitment that is unlikely to
be achieved in a commoditized,
cloud–based contract but that
can leverage those commoditized
value points integrated into an
overall solution.
New game, new rules
Clearly, there are many unknowns
in this new cloud-based outsourcing
Will utility providers be able to
make the jump from what we
might call “consumer grade”
services to something that is truly
robust enough to be enterprise
grade? Will software companies
be able to make the jump to being
true service providers? Will integrators be able to manage the
new complexity and encourage
the kind of trusted relationships
with clients necessary to act as
their business designers or redesigners?
What is clear is that this is a
new game that cannot be played
successfully under old rules. This
is another evolutionary shift
in the relentless way that value
migrates in an industry. What was
innovative becomes commoditized,
leading—for those who intend to
keep playing the game—to another
era of innovations.
Companies that intend to be
effective in the new game need
to start changing the way they
manage their IT and business
operations now. They need to plan
for the environment of the future;
they need to carefully assess the
risks involved with deploying
new technologies; and they need
to understand at an even more
detailed level the capabilities of
their suppliers and providers so
they can choose their integrator
About the authors
Jimmy Harris is the Washington,
D.C.-based managing director of cloud
services for Accenture. In this role, he
works with the company’s consulting,
systems integration, outsourcing and
integrated markets groups to identify,
develop and implement cloud computing
solutions for clients and enhance
Accenture’s market position in cloud
computing. Previously, Mr. Harris was
managing director for Accenture’s
Customer Contact Services and Infrastructure Outsourcing Services groups.
[email protected]
Gavin Michael is Accenture’s managing
director for innovation and alliances,
which includes responsibilities for alliances, technology-based innovation
and Accenture Technology Labs. He
has more than 20 years’ experience in
technology leadership. Prior to joining
Accenture, Dr. Michael held several
executive positions with major financial
services companies, including Lloyds
Banking Group and National Australia
Bank Group in Sydney, Australia. He is
based in San Francisco.
[email protected]
Most important, perhaps, is to
begin to understand what it means
to operate in a multisourced environment, where the different components need integrating, not just
once in a while but constantly.
Talent & Organization Performance
The talent to grow
By David Smith, Catherine S. Farley, Diego Sánchez de León and Stephanie Gault
New research suggests that few executives believe their recession-battered
workforces are prepared to fully exploit the global recovery. To drive
growth, companies need to embrace a human capital strategy that more
closely links workforce planning to business objectives and looks at the
broader implications for leadership and the organizational culture.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
Talent & Organization Performance
For most of the world’s companies, growth appears to have
regained its place at the top of strategic agendas, displacing
the cost-control mentality that has dominated boardrooms
and executive suites for the past three years. That’s the
good news. But by having eliminated tens of millions of
jobs during the Great Recession, are these companies now
unprepared for economic recovery? Do they, in fact, have
the talent they need to grow?
Almost half the companies that participated in Accenture’s
2010 High-Performance Workforce Study report having a
smaller workforce than they did before the recession, and
almost two-thirds of them say they do not intend to return
workforce numbers to pre-recession levels within the next
couple of years. Add to the mix the fact that more than a third
of companies based their workforce cuts not on individual
performance or careful workforce planning but rather on who
responded to buyout and early retirement offers, and you
have a situation less than ideally suited to assembling a team
of stars capable of driving growth.
It’s not a pretty picture. Basic talent
management functions—employee
sourcing and recruiting, for example—
have been allowed to atrophy during
the downturn. Reduced workforce
numbers increase the importance
of incumbent workers for driving
better productivity, yet confidence
in the skill levels of today’s critical
workforces is not high. Companies
are increasingly aware of how the
ever-changing, multi-polar nature
of the world’s economy places tough
new demands on their global reach
and capabilities, yet few of their
executives feel their workforces are
prepared to adapt.
The broader implications
Developing the talent to grow will
require coordinated initiatives
that include developing a human
capital strategy that more closely
links workforce planning to business
Outlook 2011, Number 1
objectives and looks at the broader
implications for leadership and
the organizational culture. New
approaches to employee development
will also be essential.
The ongoing uncertainties of the
current economic situation underscore a critical fact about today’s
business strategies: Growing effectively, at the right pace and in the
right ways, takes talent.
Economists are uncertain about
what will happen to the near-term
economy, but most expect growth
to be somewhat lackluster—between
perhaps 4 percent and 5 percent
GDP growth globally over the
next year. But our research finds
that companies across industries
and geographies are, in fact,
focusing less on cost control and
more on growth.
In mid-2009, during some of the
worst months of the economic downturn, 41 percent of the companies
in our study were dominated by
strategies aimed at keeping costs
under control. Today, that number
is down to 27 percent, and executives
show a degree of optimism about the
coming year: Only 15 percent believe
cost control will be their exclusive
focus a year from now.
But looking at the numbers of
workers still in place today after
months of economic turmoil, one
might well have doubts about how
realistic those growth plans are.
Sixty-three percent of companies
globally have reduced their fulltime employee workforce in the
past year. Almost equal numbers
do not expect to add jobs over
the next year, or even in the next
two years.
Less than top-notch
Companies that expect to execute
growth strategies with fewer employees are placing an additional
burden on the skills of existing
workers to innovate and improve
overall productivity. Yet few executives express confidence that their
companies’ most critical workforces—
frontline positions such as sales
and service—are world-class.
For example, a majority of executives
who cited sales as their most important business function said their
companies either lack the needed
skills in the sales function (29 percent) or that a significant proportion of the skills they do have in
sales are out of date (24 percent).
Disturbingly low percentages of
executives see some of their other
important workforces as top-notch:
engineering (30 percent), training
(35 percent), customer service (30
percent), IT (22 percent) and strategic planning (23 percent).
Overall, just 16 percent of respondents consider the current skill level
of their entire workforce as industry
leading. Worse, 30 percent said it
will take a year or longer for their
organization’s workforce skills to
return to an effective level. The
situation appears to be especially
troubling among companies in
the insurance, chemicals/natural
resources and banking sectors, where
only between 6 percent and 8 percent
of executives said their overall
workforce has industry-leading skills.
Did companies at least make sure
to keep their top performers during
the workforce cutbacks of the past
couple of years? The analysis is
again troubling. Thirty-five percent of companies based decisions
about severance in part on who
accepted a buyout offer or early
retirement. Just over half used
performance criteria to make such
decisions, a number that was even
lower at government agencies (24
percent) and health organizations
(21 percent).
Companies report that
substantial portions
of their leadership and
workforces lack resilience
and the ability to
manage through change.
External marketplace and industry
shifts also focus attention on
changing skill needs. For example,
as retailers expand their online and
mobile presence, they need more people with digital skills and fewer for
traditional in-store positions. Financial services companies are looking
for more workers with knowledge of
risk management. Many industries,
from manufacturing to high tech,
require more employees with science,
technology, engineering and math
skills than are readily available,
especially in many industrialized
nations. This skill gap explains the
number of unfilled jobs—3 million
in the United States and a similar
number in Europe, according to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics and the
European Commission—in spite of
high unemployment rates.
Talent & Organization Performance
The global nature of competition
also has executives looking at the
effectiveness of their operating
models. In the United States, for
example, recent data shows that
46 percent of the profits at S&P
500 companies come from abroad.
We spoke recently with an executive of a US-based aerospace and
defense company looking to address
a situation in which 70 percent of its
employees are in the United States
but 70 percent of its customers are
not—a situation that can make it
difficult for any company to respond
adequately to local needs.
Even when the capabilities to manage
this kind of change exist, they often
leave much to be desired. Companies
report that substantial portions of
their leadership and workforces lack
resilience and the ability to manage
through change. Just 8 percent of
survey respondents said their workforce is extremely well prepared to
adapt to and manage change through
periods of economic uncertainty.
Only 23 percent strongly agreed that
their leadership was up to the task.
Putting the right capabilities in place
to drive expansion in the coming
years will depend in part on HR
capabilities in areas such as sourcing,
employee development and performance management, yet cuts made
during the recession have weakened
that part of most organizations.
Nearly 30 percent of companies said
they have either reduced or entirely
eliminated campus recruiting, talent
sourcing or experienced hire/executive recruiting in the past 12 months.
Four in 10 companies said it will take
them at least a year, if not longer, to
return their talent management capabilities to the appropriate level.
Differentiated capabilities
A critical aspect of the Accenture
High-Performance Workforce Study
Outlook 2011, Number 1
is a comparison of leading companies
and their lower-performing counterparts across all relevant talent and
organization performance domains.
Leaders were identified as those companies with the highest total scoring
in the self-assessment of their capabilities across all 18 critical dimensions, including workforce planning,
training, performance management,
sourcing and leadership development.
Overall, several characteristics
separate leaders from laggards in
terms of their readiness for growth.
For example, leading companies
in the talent arena are more likely
than laggards (51 percent versus
43 percent) to be balancing cost
control and growth strategies instead
of focusing only on cost. Leaders
were also more likely to have
retained a more robust workforce
planning capability (42 percent
versus 36 percent) and employee
development programs (47 percent
versus 33 percent).
If more organizations are to become
leaders in the areas of talent and organization performance and support
better execution of a growth strategy,
we believe they need to focus especially on the following areas.
Workforce planning in the
context of a human capital
One of the critical dimensions of
strategy execution today is taking
a more holistic and proactive approach to workforce planning—that
is, planning for the types of skills,
where and in what numbers, an
organization needs to ramp up to
a new level of performance.
Whether they call it HR, talent
management, workforce planning
or something else, industry leaders have always had some means
of putting in place the people and
skills needed to run the business
effectively. Indeed, by 42 percent
to 36 percent, leading companies in our workforce study were
more likely than laggards to have
increased their use of workforce
planning over the past year. This
finding supports the belief that
business effectiveness depends significantly on better planning about
the workforce capabilities needed to
execute strategy.
For several reasons, however,
economic challenges and the speed
of marketplace change have outstripped the ability of traditional
workforce planning to meet today’s
business needs. As a result, although
executives may feel they already
have a workforce plan in place, it
is frequently nowhere near robust
or comprehensive enough. It may
address traditional matters such
as sourcing, hiring, training and
rewards. But these touch only some
of the critical dimensions of human
capital—a term that captures the idea
of executives treating employees
as an asset that the company can
invest in and, based on how that
capital is nurtured and treated, see
a return on that investment.
Executives must now pursue a
more comprehensive human capital
strategy across four interrelated
dimensions—talent, leadership,
culture and organization structures.
A human capital strategy helps
put in place the right leaders to
source, develop and direct the
right workforce talent, supported
by the right culture, organization
and operating model.
As with a business strategy, an
effective human capital strategy
informs many of the company’s
most important decisions about
where and how to compete, and
supports the enterprise as it balances short-term decisions with
longer-term imperatives. In this
way, it can meet today’s business
needs and still be agile enough
to reposition itself to support an
enterprise’s ongoing market competitiveness and growth.
Several examples of the multidimensional aspects of a human
capital strategy highlight its
importance to a company’s growth
strategy. National Grid, one of the
largest utilities in the world, faced
a pressing need to rapidly develop
new leaders throughout a business
unit facing unprecedented competitive pressures. The company created
a leadership development program,
tied to a transformational business
strategy, that connected managers’
personal leadership experiences to
real business problems.
According to John Pettigrew, the
company’s former executive vice
president for US electricity distribution and generation and current COO
of the company’s UK Gas Distribution
and Metering business, National Grid
needed to extend its leadership
development focus more broadly.
“There had to be a new mindset
about who our leaders are,” he
notes. “We had to develop an
extended leadership team that
would become more accountable
for our business results.”
The new program combines individual coaching with a series
of learning forums supported by
action learning teams—groups
Under pressure
Nearly half of executives surveyed say their companies have smaller workforces now than before the recession—and
almost two-thirds of those executives report they have no firm plans to increase headcount to previous levels.
This puts pressure on organizations to execute a growth strategy while shorthanded.
How does the size of your workforce compare
to its pre-recession levels?
Do you plan to eventually return your workforce
to its pre-recession size?
Our workforce is now
smaller than before
Our workforce is the
same size as before
(or no changes made)
Our workforce is now
larger than before
Yes, within six months
Yes, within 12 months
Yes, between 12 months
and two years
Probably not
Definitely not
Source: Accenture High-Performance Workforce Study 2010
Talent & Organization Performance
banding together to work toward
common goals and share leadership
lessons from that work.
grow in a challenging market and
to expand into global markets for
increased profitability.
The company’s transformation
program, enabled by the development of new leaders, has produced
numerous business benefits. For
example, the number of “lost time”
injuries has been halved over the
past two years. National Grid’s reliability metrics are also markedly
better, resulting in a dramatic reduction in regulatory penalties for
failing to comply with acceptable
standards of electricity supply.
Growing skills
An interesting example of aligning culture and growth strategies
comes from work that one large
Asian manufacturer undertook following a European acquisition. The
executive team defined the beliefs
and values that were to guide the
refashioned European unit and
aligned these to a new global
operating model. A mix of executive interviews, proprietary surveys
and workshops drove clarity and
alignment. The executives identified existing beliefs they felt would
work in the new company, and the
merger integration project team
dug into details to make sure that
mindsets about stretch targets and
accountability were understood the
same way in both companies.
The team explored areas of disagreement, working these out and
achieving consensus for moving
forward. The top team attended
daylong workshops each month (in
addition to work between meetings)
in different countries in which the
company operated. One important
result of this work was a strongly
aligned leadership team with deeper
relationships across silos and shared
experiences of working together
effectively. Three years later, the
European business unit continues to
Outlook 2011, Number 1
Even if they’re aware of the skill
challenges they’re facing across
most corporate functions and industries, many companies will find
it difficult to get back on the path
to growth in an improved economy.
This is especially true for organizations that practically shut down the
talent pipeline during the recession
and likely won’t be hiring in the
near future.
An “academy” approach to learning
is one highly effective way to get
extended workforces up to speed
faster, and to ensure a more consistent skill level across a particular
functional workforce, while providing the flexibility to accommodate
the needs of other workforces and
individuals. An academy’s curriculum generally is developed with the
help of outside experts—leaders in
the various fields covered by the
academy’s courses—and is designed
to build competencies critical to the
effectiveness and productivity of
specific employees and their jobs.
International beverage and food
company PepsiCo has used an academy approach to build consistent
skills within its finance workforce
in a more global operating environment. PepsiCo has been expanding
into developing nations, including
Russia, Brazil, China, Indonesia,
Eastern Europe and the Middle
East. Yet, as Richard Goodman—
former chief financial officer, now
executive vice president of global
operations—looked across PepsiCo’s
finance organization, he saw a
need to provide advanced learning
opportunities to his finance professionals—both to meet growing
functional demands globally and
to respond to accelerating business
growth in the company’s developing
Goodman and his senior finance
leadership team developed a comprehensive roadmap to address this
need. The result was PepsiCo Finance
University—a way to reinvent
how the company’s finance talent
around the world was trained, build
a broader set of skills in its finance
workforce and distribute those skills
globally. In turn, this approach could
improve retention and increase the
impact of the finance function on
business results.
Using an academy-based learning
model was important for several
reasons. Historically, enterprise
learning for the finance function
had emphasized division-specific,
on-the-job experience and individualized coaching. Only about 10
percent of learning occurred as part
of a common, formal curriculum.
Now, however, the finance organization needed to get consistent
training and information to all
finance associates.
PepsiCo Finance University packages scalable, online offerings based
on carefully defined curriculums
and organized into “colleges” representing specific subject components
of the overall finance curriculum.
The university uses a blended
learning model, employing innovative e-learning, self-paced courses
and virtual learning experiences.
The courses are enriched with
PepsiCo business content, which is
drawn from subject matter experts
and thought leaders throughout the
One of the most distinguishing
features of the university is its
focus on applying course learning
to real business issues. Groups come
together, in person or virtually,
to talk about problems facing the
business and they work to solve
local business challenges. Hands-on
practice and virtual learning labs
augment e-learning to reinforce
knowledge and desired behaviors.
PepsiCo Finance University has had
both quantitative and qualitative
effects on the performance of PepsiCo’s finance organization and the
business as a whole. For example, in
light of global economic conditions,
the company recently increased its
focus on overall cash flow across
the company. So the university
created a new course to disseminate
more effective cash management
practices throughout the company.
Three months after completing the
course, an analysis of skills development found that 60 percent of
participants reported improved performance in cash flow management;
Serious skill shortcomings
Workforces critical to the success of companies may not have the skills needed
to drive growth. Among executives identifying the following workforces as critical,
significant percentages of respondents noted serious skill shortcomings.
Workforce lacks needed skills
Strategic planning
Customer service
Research and development
Human resources
Distribution and logistics
Training and development
Source: Accenture analysis
Talent & Organization Performance
51 percent of participants’ managers reported seeing this change in
behavior as well; and nearly 50
percent of participants reported
improving cash flow accuracy.
Creating a more strategic
HR organization
Managing talent across
national borders is
especially important,
given the global nature
of most large companies.
One of the biggest disparities
between leaders and laggards in
our study was in the effectiveness
of their HR organizations. Leaders’
HR and training organizations are
much more prepared to adapt to and
manage change through periods of
economic uncertainty. Eighty-seven
percent of leaders, versus just 28
percent of laggards, rated their HR
and training organizations as either
well prepared or extremely so.
New success factors for HR have
arisen in recent years. Managing
talent across national borders
is especially important, given the
global nature of most large companies today; this includes enabling
the businesses to operate consistently around the world, while also
satisfying the legal requirements
of individual nations. It’s also
essential to have better metrics,
which now means more than
simply monitoring administrative
costs. To be industry leaders, HR
executives now must understand
and measure the value of human
capital itself—the total costs and
investments in people.
For example, one aerospace and
defense company set out to design
and staff a new business unit and
wanted to ensure it could source the
right kind of talent. Companies in
this industry continue to struggle
with finding adequate engineering
talent, since the demand for engineering skills is growing even as
the supply dwindles.
The company adopted a multi-phase
approach called “smart sourcing.”
Workforce planning took place to
create a competency framework—the
20 to 30 key skills that would be
needed within the business unit’s
workforce. Research was then used
to map where the supply of talent
was likely to be within the country.
Finally, a sourcing strategy and
recruitment campaign was designed
to meet both short- and long-term
talent demands.
Through this work, the company
was able to identify geographic
pockets of talent and then drive
targeted sourcing recommendations
on a regional and national level.
With a recruitment strategy closely
tied to the talent sources, the
company can increase its chances
of drawing the skills it needs from
the available talent pool.
The common theme crossing all dimensions of our research findings into
high-performance workforces is the need to think more strategically about the
related dimensions of workforce, leadership, culture, organization, training
and HR. In some areas of the world, a great deal of attention is being paid to
whether we will be mired in a “jobless” recovery. But few executives actually
think that way. Those companies that plan to grow know that to execute
that strategy, their workforces will need to grow as well. The questions are:
When, and at what pace?
Among the most important characteristics of tomorrow’s high-performance
businesses will be their ability to optimize the value of their human capital,
in part by eliminating workforce strategies and efforts that are not aligned
Outlook 2011, Number 1
with business value. They will achieve better productivity and better retention
of top performers, as well as improved business results that include faster
product innovation, higher sales and better customer service leading to
increased market share.
However, as they also find untapped value with less redundancy and waste
in workforce performance—and in managing that performance—organizations
will be able to redirect those savings into new resources and capabilities
focused explicitly on new business needs. That ability to reinvest will be one
of the key ways that high performers will find the talent to grow.
About the authors
David Smith is the managing director of the Accenture Talent & Organization
Performance service line. He has been a guest lecturer at Wharton Business School and
Babson College and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events. Mr. Smith,
who is based in Hartford, Connecticut, has published numerous articles and papers, has
contributed his viewpoints on the business impact of human capital strategies to various
media and industry publications, and is the coauthor of Workforce of One: Revolutionizing
Talent Management Through Customization (Harvard Business Press, 2010).
[email protected]
Catherine S. Farley leads the Accenture Talent & Organization Performance service
line in North America. Ms. Farley has more than 20 years’ experience with workforce
restructurings and the implications of business change on multiple human capital
dimensions, including executive leadership, talent management, organizational
structure and design, learning, business readiness and change management. Ms. Farley
has contributed to articles and papers published in major US publications. She is
based in Seattle, Washington.
[email protected]
Diego Sánchez de León leads the Accenture Talent & Organization Performance service
line in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. He has extensive experience
working with international companies, governments and non-profit organizations
in the areas of talent management, global operating models, IT implementations,
HR cost reduction and culture change. Mr. Sánchez de León, based in Madrid, is a
frequent speaker at industry conferences and has contributed to articles published
in major media outlets in Europe, Africa and Latin America.
[email protected]
Stephanie Gault leads the Accenture Talent & Organization Performance service
line in Asia Pacific as well as Accenture’s Management Consulting business across
Southeast Asia. Ms. Gault specializes in developing major change programs and
designing human capital and HR strategies aimed at improving staff performance in
larger organizations and governments. She is a frequent speaker at conferences and
a member of Accenture’s Management Consulting Women Leaders’ Business Board.
Ms. Gault is based in Singapore.
[email protected]
For further reading
“A team you can count on,” this
issue, page 14
“The change-capable organization,”
Outlook, October 2010
“A workforce of one,” Outlook,
June 2010
For these and other articles, please
Emerging Markets
Why the West needs
to learn about
workaround innovation
By Karen Crennan and Carola Cruz
Bold new ideas are not predestined to flow into emerging markets from
the developed world. A different approach to innovation pervades the new
economies, born of scarcity and expressed in levels of ingenuity, resourcefulness
and drive that are harder and harder to find at Western companies.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
Emerging Markets
Over the years, the typical narratives about innovation
have had a distinctly Western bias: Edison and the filament
bulb, Marconi and the wireless, Berners-Lee and the World
Wide Web. But perhaps it’s time for a new icon—or several
of them—to illuminate the fact that innovation today is
very much a global phenomenon.
It is relatively easy for business leaders in Chicago or Stuttgart
or Osaka to overlook the richness and range of innovation
in the developing world—innovation not only in products
but in business processes and behaviors as well. But Vijay
Govindarajan, professor of international business at the
Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, believes
that more and more innovation will take place in emerging
economies because that is where the bulk of tomorrow’s
customers are. And anyone who still believes that innovation is the exclusive province of developed markets has
somehow missed the rise of nanotechnologies and biotech
in Beijing, digital media and genomics in Seoul, biofuels
in Brazil and automotive technologies in Poland.
But there is another crucial aspect to this innovation story.
It is not about where research and development funds are
raised or spent, or even about the innovations themselves.
It is about the innovation mindset that is pervasive throughout
emerging markets—a mindset born of scarcity and expressed
in levels of ingenuity and resourcefulness that are harder
and harder to find in the West.
We call the fruits of this mindset workaround innovation,
the entrepreneurial and usually resource-strapped approach
to innovating seen everywhere from Mexico to Nigeria and
from Vietnam to Ukraine. It is a way of approaching innovation that businesses all over the developed world now need
to rediscover in themselves—and not only because they are
pursuing market opportunities across the globe.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
With the spotlight again on growth,
business leaders in the developed
world are placing their faith in
innovation. Nearly 9 out of 10
US and UK executives surveyed
in Accenture’s latest research say
innovation is as important, if not
more important, than cost reduction
to their company’s ability to achieve
future growth. And despite the
anemic recovery, there is support
for innovation funding: Almost half
(48 percent) of the executives polled
report that funding overall for
innovation initiatives and activities
increased in the six months prior to
the survey. However, when it comes
to putting innovation into practice,
most are challenged to bridge the
considerable gap between ideas and
execution (see chart, page 66).
Falling behind
More troubling, those British and
American executives and their
Western peers are not keeping pace
with their counterparts in the
developing world in terms of their
rates of investing in research and
development. Research published
last year by R&D Magazine and
the Battelle Memorial Institute
showed that while R&D funding has
been largely flat in the West, it is
set to show strong gains in emerging
economies, both now and projected
into the future. One snapshot: China
and India were forecast to drive an
aggregate 7.5 percent increase in
R&D in Asia in 2010, whereas R&D
spending in Europe was projected
to grow only 0.5 percent.
At the same time, the Accenture
study found flaws in the way
innovation is managed in the West,
including process shortcomings
and a lack of business discipline—
both big internal barriers to successful innovation. In addition,
among developed-world companies
there is widespread aversion to
risk and a failure to learn from
past mistakes in innovating.
There are bright spots, to be sure.
In recent years, Western businesses
have begun to uncouple their overall R&D efforts from the in-house
resources available for those efforts.
Companies as large as Procter &
Gamble and Eli Lilly & Co. have
moved assertively toward “open
innovation” models. Those models
transcend straightforward outsourcing of R&D activities; they
use systematic Web–based “seekersolver” idea exchanges and
“crowdsourcing” techniques to tap
ideas from far beyond the company’s
walls. They also actively involve
diverse university faculty and
fellows at research institutions
around the globe.
But as many corporations continue
to struggle to reignite growth, the
need for a reenergized approach
to innovation couldn’t be more
urgent. This is especially important
as more organizations expand
globally, increasingly working
with customers, employees, financiers, suppliers, infrastructure,
legal frameworks and competitors
whose outlooks and experiences
can be a world away from what
their leaders are accustomed to.
Indeed, many developed-world
corporations, wedded to approaches
and behaviors that have worked
closer to home, appear not to
have fully grasped the different
approaches needed to properly
address emerging markets.
Out of touch?
Ask any emerging-market business
unit manager at a Western multinational, and there is a good chance
she’ll tell you the global leaders in
her organization have only limited
understanding of, let alone direct
experience with, the complex maneuvering and multitasking required
of operators in Latin America, Asia
or the Middle East as they seek to
meet world-class business standards
while operating with minimal
human and financial resources.
That is especially true when it
comes to serving the “bottom of
the pyramid” market segments
that tend to be highly fragmented,
hard to categorize and out of range
of conventional services, both
geographically and financially.
Yet such challenges are taken in
stride by businesses that grew up
in those markets.
Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo—the world’s
largest bread-maker —provides a
compelling example. Emphasizing
the freshness of its products and
serving a vast, complex and widely
dispersed system of traditional
grocery stores and changarros, or
small shops, Bimbo has developed advanced systems for everything from
sales and distribution to payments
and inventory management. (The
company’s first packages of bread
were transported by public bus to
Mexican grocery stores in 1947.)
Bimbo invests heavily to control
its delivery chain to the point
of sale. Its capabilities in Mexico
and Latin America, born of endless
workarounds as it turned to
unorthodox solutions to common
problems, allowed it to rapidly
develop an efficient distribution
network when it expanded to
China a few years ago.
This kind of heterodoxy can be
attributed in considerable measure to
the entrepreneurship that is flourishing in many emerging economies.
Entrepreneurs are risk takers, and
risk taking is often the enabler of innovation. By contrast, there is at least
Emerging Markets
anecdotal evidence to suggest that
in recent years, multinationals from
the developed world are more reliant,
not less, on practices and protocols
promulgated at “headquarters.”
The facts of life
In essence, a workaround is a
temporary fix that requires minimal resources. It is an approach
to innovation that relies heavily
on judgment and experience at the
point of the problem, and that puts
a premium on speed.
Workarounds are facts of life for
many in emerging markets; they
are necessary and usually rapid
responses to everything from
blackouts and phone outages to
onerous bureaucracy and the daily
grind of poverty. The scarcity and
unpredictability now seen as the
“new normal” in the West are
quite normal—and hardly new—in
emerging economies.
As such, a workaround mentality
is commonplace throughout the
emerging world. In India, in fact, it
is summed up in the Hindi word
jugaad, which Harvard Business
Review translates loosely as
“overcoming harsh constraints by
improvising an effective solution
using limited resources.” Indeed,
the street-level inventiveness and
resourcefulness on display from
Cairo to Kolkata is legendary among
world travelers and expatriate
workers from industrialized nations.
However, it is essential to distinguish between precarious
Committed to R&D
The United States, Japan and the European Union are still spending more than China and India on R&D.
However, US, Japanese and European research investments have been either flat or falling since 2008, while R&D
investment is growing significantly in China and India.
Global R&D spending ($ billions), PPP, 2008–2010
United States
Source: R&D Magazine; Battelle; Accenture analysis
Outlook 2011, Number 1
European Union
improvisation—think of homemade
motor vehicles and jury-rigged
household wiring—and the kind
of genuine innovation, often
characterized by out-of-the-box
thinking, that can lead to lasting
solutions. Properly harnessed,
workaround innovation, like other
forms of innovation, can generate
a step-change in the performance
of a system, product or process,
or a material change in cost
structure. It will usually lack
conventional funding, however,
and won’t fit within formal R&D
Of course, workaround innovation is by no means exclusive
to emerging economies. But to a
large extent, the Western world’s
resource richness—ready access
to technology, financial services
and telecommunications infrastructure, for instance—has robbed
it of its reliance on the native
imagination, drive and perseverance that helped produce the
unprecedented surge of prosperity
seen in the global economy in the
second half of the 20th century.
Shining a brighter light on the
capabilities innate to many in
developing nations can also help
undo the bias implicit in the term
“reverse innovation”—an expression
that effectively stigmatizes innovations that come from, say, India or
China and that hints, uncomfortably
and often unfairly, at patent or
copyright infringement.
Workaround enablers
Before business leaders in developed markets can start to consider
how they might foster workaround
innovation in their own organizations, they need to get inside
the heads of today’s practitioners.
Here are the core attributes of
emerging-market innovators.
1. T hey encourage and
support resilience
It is important to ensure enough
flexibility in policies and practices so that when staff members
hit setbacks, they have the latitude and space to find innovative
responses. It is also helpful to
foster a culture that recognizes
and celebrates resilience, so when
employees proactively bounce
back from setbacks, their recoveries are acknowledged.
In the United States and Western
Europe in particular, the average
middle manager is not old
enough to have experienced
multiple economic slumps or
infrastructure disruptions, so
he has developed few proven
responses to hardship. But his
counterpart in Argentina or
Russia has been through plenty
of crises large and small, and
knows there are more ahead.
Having lived to tell the tale—
and perhaps even thrived—the
Argentine manager has the
confidence of knowing he can
almost certainly surmount the
next crisis.
2. T
hey have a strong stomach
for managed risk
On the whole, managers in
emerging nations are much
more likely to act without waiting for all the relevant data to
confirm their decisions. This
is not necessarily by choice: In
most cases, emerging-market
managers have little or no
detailed historical data or statistical models on markets and
competitors, and what they
do have may be inaccurate or
incomplete. What’s more, long
lead times for testing, modeling
and validation are incompatible
with unpredictable financial
and political climates.
They are more likely than
their Western counterparts to
leverage past experiences to
assume a “go for it” approach.
So the Brazilian manager sees
more risk in not trying, and
believes there is much more
to be learned from rapid realworld experiments.
3. T
hey operate with a sense of
Facing a turbulent economy,
Western managers often simply
try to ride out the storm—slashing
costs and waiting for the situation to return to normal. But
the storm-toughened manager in
Russia or Brazil plans and acts
as if the downturn or disruption
is permanent—as if it is the “new
normal.” She knows from experience that she will still have to
meet volume, market share and
profit targets.
She also realizes that no relevant
outside help will arrive—at
least, not in time to make a
difference. So she takes charge
of the situation, marshaling
the necessary resources and
committing herself and her
team to resolving the issue and
meeting her targets.
So what can business leaders
do to acquire and benefit from a
workaround mindset? We suggest
the following guidelines.
Think “spoke to hub,” not just
“hub to spoke”
Most multinational companies
have sizable footprints in the
emerging world, so they have
immediate access to employees
who are used to dealing with
scarcity and uncertainty. As a
result, those organizations are
well placed to implement “spoketo-hub” and even “spoke-to-spoke”
Emerging Markets
For further reading
“Brazil on the move,” Outlook,
October 2010
“India: The innovation advantage,”
Outlook, October 2009
“Open innovation: How to create
the right new products, the right
way,” Outlook, October 2009
For these and other articles, please
frameworks where the brightest
stars from emerging markets are
able to coach managers in developed countries.
These models are not to be confused
with programs designed to foster
diversity or inclusion; the objective of
disseminating a workaround mindset
is to improve the organization’s allround innovation capabilities. The
emphasis is on the exchange of ideas
on everything from formal advisory
boards to training programs that
involve case studies of best practices
from throughout the worldwide organization. The objective is to enable
Western managers to understand
what their counterparts in developing
nations must deal with, and to help
them appreciate successes other than
their own best-practices bubbles,
which are often underwritten by an
abundance of resources.
Another tactic is to shape participation in leadership development
programs and corporate strategy
development programs with an
overrepresentation of leaders and
up-and-comers from the organization’s operations in the developing
world. Such programs send a clear
signal that it is essential to pay
more attention to the voices from
the new markets.
Nor does a focus on the spokes
diminish in any way the importance
of best practices. Leading companies
will understand how to find the
balance between encouraging an
entrepreneurial workaround mindset
and a mav-erick stance that threatens
to create further silos and lead to its
own disruptions.
Identify the workaround
innovators you already have
In practice, workaround innovation
is happening all the time in almost
all organizations, even if it is not
Outlook 2011, Number 1
recognized as such. In large multinationals, there will likely be a slew
of small, daily examples in most
functions, business units and regions.
It will not take much effort by senior
executives to shortlist the managers
who are masters at delivering strong
and growing profits on minimal
budgets and with tiny staffs.
The next step is to deconstruct
the workaround innovator’s
approaches and see what can be
replicated. And then it is important
to begin to create a workaround
culture without diminishing the
value of more traditional innovation channels. That effort starts
by sharing and publicly celebrating
the achievements of existing workaround managers.
Shoot for the moon
Workaround innovation can begin
with what authors Jim Collins and
Jerry Porras have labeled “Big Hairy
Audacious Goals”—visionary goals
that are strategically and emotionally compelling. Ideally, these goals
should be voiced publicly and enthusiastically by senior leadership.
That was the case at India’s Tata
Motors in 2003 when Ratan Tata,
chairman of parent Tata Group,
challenged the company to develop
a car that would compete with the
country’s ubiquitous motor scooters—
and sell for only $2,000. The result
of this “put-a-man-on-the-moon”
undertaking is the Nano, a lowweight, low-carbon vehicle with
many innovations in production
methods as well as features.
Look for and utilize “leapfrog”
tools and techniques
Workaround innovation calls
for less hesitation about using
cutting-edge technology if that
is what provides compelling
business advantage more quickly.
Banco Azteca is a case in point. The
financial services provider caters
to the 50 percent-plus of Mexico’s
population who earn too little to be
targets of traditional banks. Azteca
opted for fingerprint-scan biometrics
solutions to authenticate the identities of customers, many of whom
lack driver’s licenses or other secure
forms of identification. At launch,
the scanning system, rolled out to
more than 8 million customers, was
the largest biometrics program in the
banking sector. Today, Banco Azteca
is also successfully rolling out a
microfinance business model across
Latin America.
Share ideas at speed
Workaround innovations that
solve a specific problem at a point
in time are valuable—but not as
valuable as the same innovations
shared quickly and widely around
the organization so that others can
benefit from them as a new best
practice. Ideally, the idea will spread
without the creation of bureaucracy
in its wake; the idea network
should be largely self-managing.
That was the case at a large consumer goods retailer, which had
technicians who were so passionate
about the company’s products
that they devised workarounds
for installing particular systems
in customers’ equipment. The
idea was promulgated via social
media—specifically, wikis—so that
others had a chance to contribute
to the evolving solutions.
To some extent, executives in developed countries have forgotten how
to innovate outside of their codified best-practice models. Weaned on
the virtues of standardized approaches and tight process controls, they
undervalue “folk medicine” like workaround innovation that can be found
along rougher but readier growth paths.
Given the proliferating uncertainties in business today, these leaders owe it to
themselves and their shareholders to explore and establish such new paths to
growth. Resources must not be viewed as entitlements, much less prerequisites
for action; best practices should not be seen as the only route forward.
And listening to the locals is mandatory. Managers in emerging economies know
that instinctively. Managers in the developed world must get to know it soon.
About the authors
Karen Crennan is the managing
director of Geographic Strategy
for Accenture. She is responsible
for identifying opportunities within
Accenture’s geographic portfolio
to accelerate growth, enhance
competitive position and improve
profitability. Ms. Crennan, who
is based in Milan, also serves as
chairman of the board of Accenture
Global Services.
[email protected]
Carola Cruz is the marketing lead
for Accenture in Mexico. For more
than 20 years, she has worked in
numerous leadership positions in
packaged goods, media, advertising
and public affairs in the United
States, Canada and Mexico. In addition to her marketing responsibilities,
Ms. Cruz is responsible for developing
content on emerging market innovation, traditional commerce and
emerging consumers. She is based in
Mexico City.
[email protected]
The authors would like to thank the
following contributors to this article:
Luiz Ferezin, country managing director,
Mexico; Roberto Alvarez Roldan, country
managing director, Argentina; Harsh
Manglik, country managing director,
India; and Pedro Jose Garcia, director
of financial services, Latin America.
Electronics & High Tech
Connecting for
competitive advantage
By Hans Von Lewinski, Armen Ovanessoff and Joshua B. Bellin
Working with others to secure skilled talent and innovative IT will be critical
as electronics and high-tech companies emerge from the recession. That’s why
smart organizations are preparing in advance—forging and strengthening
alliances and partnerships to capture new growth opportunities, fill capability
gaps and get closer to customers. It’s an example every industry should follow.
Electronics & High Tech
Consider this: In developed countries, the average life
expectancy of a computer fell from six years in 1997 to just
two years in 2005. And cell phones in developed nations are
tossed on average after less than two years’ use.
Always a ferociously competitive and fast-moving industry,
the stakes in electronics and high tech are getting even
higher. Being lean and mean will only get you a seat at the
table. To win in this challenging environment, companies
also need exceptionally flexible operating models that
combine global scale and efficiency with outstanding
local execution.
Few are in a position to achieve that difficult balance alone—
and few would attempt to do so. Indeed, thanks no doubt
to its multinational heritage—electronics and high-tech
companies were among the first to globalize—the sector has
long recognized that capitalizing on the strengths of outsiders
can deliver significant benefits. For example, as a result of
Toshiba Corp. outsourcing after-sales support for spare parts,
including repairs and returns, for several countries, the
company cut inventory levels by 10 percent and halved its
scrap costs while increasing spare parts availability from
84 percent to 95 percent, thus boosting customer satisfaction.
The industry’s recent past is filled with similar examples
of partnerships and collaborations designed to secure and
support competitive advantage.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
Small wonder, then, that as they
brace for the challenges of the
upturn, so many electronics and
high-tech companies are looking to
enhance existing business networks—
or build new ones.
Enhancing flexibility
Leveraging the strengths of a variety
of players—technology, content and
service providers, channel partners,
suppliers and even customers—
can significantly enhance the flexibility companies need to compete
effectively in volatile and uncer-
tain markets. And connecting with
a wider network of stakeholders
in tough times has specific advantages too.
Collaboration can strengthen a
company’s chances of fighting
off new, low-cost competitors,
for example, as well as provide
more options in the struggle to
satisfy ever more demanding
consumers. Moreover, companies
that move forward together, rather
than separately, will stand a much
better chance of staying on top
Operational imperatives
When asked which operational imperatives became more important during the downturn, almost 90 percent of electronics
and high-tech executives surveyed recently by Accenture said developing and enhancing alliances and partnerships.
% of total who checked off each imperative
Develop and enhance partnerships and
networks with customers
Control operating costs
Develop and enhance partnerships and
networks with suppliers
Improve the speed to market for
new products and services
Build IT systems that enable efficient
networks within and outside the firm
Develop and enhance partnerships and
networks with channel partners
Find new sources of highly skilled talent
Manage and protect intellectual property
Improve efficiency of tax and legal
Find new locations to source talent
for innovation
Develop and enhance partnerships and
networks with service and content providers
Find new sources of low-cost talent
Source: Accenture analysis
Electronics & High Tech
of change, identifying new opportunities and managing risk.
Alliances, after all, don’t just help
deliver integrated services and
solutions at lower price points.
Partnering with others can open
up new growth possibilities—a
significant advantage in an industry that thrives on innovation and
change. Witness, for example, how
Cisco Systems has teamed with a
private real estate developer and
other technology providers to
build a new smart city near Seoul
(see sidebar, below).
There is, to be sure, a considerable
disconnect between the capabilities
that electronics and high-tech
companies identify as essential to
building a successful collaborative
operating model and how close
most of them are to having those
capabilities in place.
Key differentiators
Consider specialist skills and talent,
and innovative IT. These two capabilities were deemed critical to
efficient and effective networking
by respondents to a recent Accenture
survey of 30 industry executives
from both developed and emerging
nations—a broad sample of electronics and high-tech companies
with annual revenues ranging
from less than $4 billion to more
than $10 billion.
Moreover, these capabilities are
also key competitive differentiators
for electronics and high-tech companies. And alliances that provide
Cisco Systems: Partnering for sustainable growth
Making connections comes naturally to Cisco Systems.
The electronics powerhouse was among the pioneers of the
multi-protocol routers that first enabled computers to
communicate across network boundaries.
But Cisco’s commitment to connectivity transcends its role
as a facilitator of the World Wide Web. The California-based
company is also a leading example of how joining forces
with other businesses can support future growth ambitions—
a key goal for electronics and high-tech companies as they
prepare for the economic upturn (see story).
In Cisco’s case, those ambitions are bold indeed. The company
aims to become a major player in what it calls “transformational solutions”—systems and services that address the growing
global need for sustainable urbanization. And partnerships, along
with acquisitions of innovative technologies and talent management initiatives, play a major role in the Smart+Connected
Communities strategy that Cisco launched back in 2009.
Cisco’s Smart Connected Buildings solution, for example,
connects buildings over an IP network to enhance their energy
efficiency by allowing building managers to remotely monitor
energy consumption and adjust it by using automated demandresponse programs and tapping renewable technologies. The
solution is being put to work in a number of “smart” cities
Outlook 2011, Number 1
that Cisco is building in partnership with governments, property
developers and other technology providers across Asia and
the Middle East.
In South Korea, for instance, Cisco is collaborating with Gale
International, a New York City–based real estate company,
to build New Songdo on 1,500 acres of land close to Seoul’s
Incheon International Airport. Hailed as a prototype for the
city of tomorrow, Songdo is smart, green and sustainable.
Its buildings have been designed to minimize greenhouse gas
emissions—they have already earned Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the US Green
Building Council—and when finished in 2015, the city will
boast a digital infrastructure, provided by Cisco. The system
will integrate Songdo’s water, power, traffic and telephony in
a single Internet-enabled utility, thereby facilitating operational
efficiencies and enhancing environmental sustainability
through better resource management.
Building on its collaboration with Gale, Cisco plans to take the
smart city concept into China. The two companies will be working together, for example, to develop a smart city project in
Hunan Province. And in partnership with Saudi and Malaysian
developers, Cisco is also providing networked information and
communications technology solutions for Jazan Economic City,
a 100-million-square-meter smart city project in Saudi Arabia.
access to specialist skills, technologies and know-how—wherever
they may reside or originate—position companies for competitive
These capabilities in turn rely on
human capital, which more than
half of our survey respondents
single out as having become more
important during the downturn.
Yet only 17 percent strongly believe that they are currently well
positioned to attract and retain
the best global talent. A third of
them are still not going abroad for
new sources of either innovation
or highly skilled talent. In addition,
only 15 percent of those that
leverage outsourcing are finding
access to specialized global talent
a top benefit.
The findings with regard to IT
are equally concerning. Effective,
interoperable IT infrastructures
are essential to efficient flows of
information, knowledge transfer
and collaborative working both
within and between organizations.
Sixty percent of COOs said that
building flexible and efficient IT
systems to enable relationships,
both internal and external, had
grown in importance since the
downturn—yet only 7 percent said
it was a top focus driving operating
model decisions.
What’s more, the use of information
and communications technologies
that support more flexible operations,
data mobility and global interconnectedness is remarkably limited.
Only 24 percent of respondents use
EMC: Collaborating in the cloud
One of the hottest stocks in the 1990s—EMC Corp., the world’s
largest provider of enterprise data storage platforms—fell from
grace when the dot-com bubble burst. Today, however, EMC is
back, reaching for the stars.
Thanks to the company’s 2001 decision to abandon its go-italone approach in favor of collaboration and partnership,
EMC has not only dramatically broadened its product portfolio.
It has also become a leader in the provision of cloud computing technologies—what CEO Joe Tucci calls “the biggest
wave in the history of information technology.”
Since 2002, EMC has bought more than 40 software, hardware
and IT services companies, at the same time expanding its
business network of channel and technology partnerships—and
leveraging synergies between the two.
One of the company’s key acquisitions was an 80 percent
stake in California-based VMware, which specializes in
virtualization software that offers flexibility and cost savings
by running multiple computer systems on one physical
Meanwhile, a joint venture with Cisco, dubbed VCE, bundles
EMC storage gear, VMware management tools, and Cisco
networking and computing products with dedicated Internet
hosting services. Yet another partnership, this one with
Dell, helps provide the data center servers to support
EMC’s Atmos cloud platform. EMC has also developed its
own cloud technology, VPLEX, which allows organizations
to combine storage within their data centers into a single,
virtualized storage pool.
The company owes much of its success in cloud computing to work carried out by RSA Laboratories, which
became part of the EMC Innovation Network when EMC
acquired RSA Security in 2006. Since then, EMC Research
China, which also works on cloud technologies, has been
established. And in keeping with the Innovation Network’s
motto—“Expand knowledge locally; transfer it globally”—
the company ensures that the work of local researchers,
who are often located near leading universities, is shared
(via teleconferencing and social media) with colleagues
globally, and especially with those responsible for product
Electronics & High Tech
“crowdsourcing” or open-source
innovation, for example; less than
a quarter take advantage of virtual
or mobile platforms; and a mere
14 percent use cloud technologies.
Most striking of all, almost a
third have failed to implement
any of these critically important
IT innovations.
Boosting market position
The exceptions, however, are
showing a clear way forward.
Leading companies know that the
development of alliances, partnerships and networks is not just
about strategic agreements and
common objectives. Realizing the
full value of such arrangements
demands operational changes—
changes in the way processes
and structures, as well as people
and technologies, are organized,
It’s crucially important to ensure
that new organizational and governance structures are well designed,
of course. But our survey reveals
that the industry recognizes talent
and technology as the truly critical
components of an optimized global
operating model. And leading
companies have focused their
network-building efforts on developing these key capabilities.
When it comes to talent, they are
reaching out globally. Nokia, for
example, has been working on
deepening potential global talent
pools by running an annual competition, “Calling All Innovators,”
which challenges young application
Acer: Leveraging channel partnerships
Already one of the world’s largest computer makers, Acer aims
to overtake Hewlett-Packard Development Co. in 2011 as the
leading global seller of portable computers. If it succeeds, the
Taiwan-based company will owe much of its accomplishment
to an innovative approach to collaboration that leverages
channel partnerships to expand global reach.
Over the past decade, Acer has reinvented—and reinvigorated—
its business model by pioneering an indirect go-to-market
approach in which it develops complementary strategic
alliances with key resellers and distributors. In addition,
having spun off manufacturing operations in 2000, it
focuses instead on selling its own desktop and notebook
systems as well as those of its acquisitions (Gateway,
e-Machines and Packard Bell).
Acer’s partnerships—such as the Acer Channel Excellence
Program, which rewards resellers who do a minimum of
$100,000 in calendar-year sales with enhanced sales support
to them—helped sustain the company’s strongest profit
growth in nearly three years in the first quarter of 2010:
up 63 percent on the same period in 2009. And as Acer
positions itself to sell more mobile devices in China and
other emerging markets, its multi-brand, multi-partner
approach promises to pay off yet again.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
In May 2010, for example, Acer signed an agreement with
Founder Technology Group Corp., the second-largest PC
vendor in China, to jointly develop IT products for the world’s
most populous nation. The agreement, which leaves Founder
in charge of production and after-sales service but gives
Acer control over the Chinese company’s planning, marketing
and supply chain management, is expected to boost Acer’s
business in China significantly.
The company reckons that sales in China will account for 25
percent of total revenues in 2011—up from 5 percent in 2009.
Thanks to its collaboration with Founder, Acer expects to
become the second-biggest player in China’s PC market in the
next few years, posing a challenge to Lenovo, the homegrown
market leader.
Acer also plans to partner with companies in the Malaysian
market, where it already ranks No. 1 in notebook and PC sales.
As in China, the plan is to strengthen its position by forming
collaborations to sell new products like the LumiRead, an
e-reader that can accommodate up to 1,500 books, as well as
smart phones, mobile devices and a new line of servers targeted
at small and medium-size businesses. Indeed, as Acer looks to
widen its interest in software and content, still more localized
collaborations across key emerging markets seem likely.
developers for mobile use and the
Web to submit entries for locally
relevant content in four categories—
eco/being green, entertainment,
productivity and life improvement.
Cash prizes range from $5,000 to
$50,000. (Since the competition was
launched, a fifth category was added:
the Economy Venture Challenge.
Developers compete for a $1 million
prize for the best idea for a new
mobile product or solution designed
to improve the lives of people in
the developing world.) Winners
get the chance to promote their
applications through Nokia outlets
and other channels. And all winning
entries are reviewed for possible
preloading on future Nokia devices.
It’s a similar story with the search
for technological innovation. Net-
working with technology partners
to fill capability gaps has put EMC
Corp. on the leading edge of new
cloud computing technologies, for
example (see sidebar, page 75).
Leading companies have also
boosted their market positioning
by partnering with others to expand
the range of their offerings. For
example, Apple’s all-inclusive
ecosystem of products and services
owes its success in large part to
a strategy of leveraging what the
company calls “Apple Developer
Connections” with both large and
small-scale product developers. And
Acer’s closely integrated relationships
with channel partners support the
Taiwan-headquartered company’s
strategy as it competes globally on
volume (see sidebar, opposite).
By broadening their options and making them more flexible, collaborations
of all kinds are helping these leading companies adapt their global operating
models to the uncertainties of the upturn. Alliance partners have brought
them closer to consumers, especially at the local level, sharpening their market
intelligence and deepening their customer connections. Partnerships have
also contributed key capabilities that they would otherwise have to build
themselves, from scratch.
As a result, they have the talent and technologies that empower them to
exploit opportunities earlier and faster than their competitors. In tomorrow’s
hyper-competitive and capricious markets, such assets are likely to prove
valuable indeed.
About the authors
Hans Von Lewinski heads Accenture
Electronics & High Tech in Asia Pacific.
In addition, he is the global lead for
Accenture’s Communications & High
Tech/Supply Chain group. With more than
19 years’ experience with Accenture,
he previously led the company’s supply
chain value transformation group in
Europe and oversaw Accenture’s supply
chain work in the electronics and hightech industry in the United Kingdom and
Ireland. Mr. Von Lewinski participates
regularly in conferences and has
published a number of articles on
high-performance businesses.
[email protected]
Armen Ovanessoff is a senior research
fellow and senior manager at the Accenture Institute for High Performance,
where his focus is on macroeconomic,
geopolitical and business trends in
emerging markets. Mr. Ovanessoff
launched the Institute’s bureau in India
and is regularly involved with its research
on region-specific trends, as well as
India’s position in the global economy.
Most recently, he has been overseeing Accenture’s research on the future operating
models of multinational organizations.
Mr. Ovanessoff, who manages Accenture’s
strategic partnership with the World
Economic Forum, is based in London.
[email protected]
For further reading
“Open innovation: How to create the right new products, the right way,”
Outlook, October 2009
For these and other articles, please visit
Joshua B. Bellin is a Boston-based
research fellow at the Accenture
Institute for High Performance. He has
researched international operating
models in a diverse set of industries,
including electronics and high tech,
retail, oil and gas, and telecommunications. His insights have been published
in the Wall Street Journal, MIT’s Sloan
Management Review and Strategy and
Leadership, among other publications.
[email protected]
By David A. Wilson, Michael Henry, Daniel J. McClure and Jason B. Wolenik
Outlook 2011, Number 1
Collaboration is the key to effective government in an era of fiscal austerity—
and not just because it cuts costs. By reaching out across jurisdictions
and involving all stakeholders, leading state, regional and local authorities
are actually improving the way they deliver services.
From parks and libraries to sewers and cemeteries, there
are few aspects of civic life that local governments do not
touch. People have been relying on them to provide these
and many other services for hundreds of years. And until
recently, local governments had been remarkably resilient,
weathering economic cycles better, in most instances,
than private-sector organizations.
Today, however, the ravages of the Great Recession have left
municipalities from Waco, Texas, to Wellington, New Zealand,
awash in red ink—and struggling to stanch the flow.
The dimensions of the current funding crisis are dramatic. In the United
States, for example, declining property values and chronic joblessness
shrank state government revenues by
18 percent between 2007 and 2008.
Meanwhile, at a time when demand
for public assistance programs is
mounting, state funding for local
government in the United States is
predicted to fall by between 10 percent and 15 percent annually between
2010 and 2012; that’s significantly
more than the 9 percent drop in the
period from 2001 to 2003, following
the collapse of the dot-com bubble.
Expenses, meanwhile, are soaring,
driven by underfunded pension entitlements as an aging public-sector
workforce approaches retirement.
Still, funding the pensions of publicsector workers may well be only
the tip of the iceberg. For example,
according to a report released in
October 2010, the cities, counties
and government authorities in the
state of New York have set aside
virtually nothing to pay for more
than $200 billion worth of health
benefits promised their retirees.
The situation is not unique to the
United States. Madrid will be carrying a debt burden equivalent to
between 115 percent and 170 percent
Outlook 2011, Number 1
of expected revenues through 2012.
In Venice, battered public finances
have persuaded a reluctant city council to sell off several historic palazzi.
Even North Rhine-Westphalia, one of
Germany’s richest states, was forced
to borrow record amounts in 2010.
But selling assets and borrowing
are only stopgap measures for a
problem likely to endure for many
years to come. In the United States,
for instance, state revenues are
expected to remain stagnant or
sluggish through fiscal year 2012—
just as demand for core government
services accelerates. With cashstrapped national governments
unlikely to come to the rescue and
citizens’ resistance to tax increases
intensifying, tough times for state,
regional and local governments
are the new normal. They have
little choice but to find new ways
of delivering essential services.
Joining forces
The good news is that they have
begun to do so. Indeed, when
Accenture recently investigated
government responses to the crisis,
we discovered that more and more
jurisdictions worldwide are joining
forces to tackle it. By merging,
coordinating or consolidating
services such as police, fire and
transportation, for example, city
councils in California have significantly reduced wasteful duplication.
And some jurisdictions have reached
outside the public realm, seeking
efficiencies by partnering with
private entities—or by outsourcing
services to them.
Cross-jurisdictional models come
in all shapes and sizes.
Some forms of collaboration are
well established, originally as
money-saving measures. Local
governments in New Zealand,
for instance, have been working
successfully together for decades—
spurred by successive pieces of
legislation designed to create more
efficient and cost-effective service
provision (see sidebar, page 82).
However, our research, which was
conducted in the summer of 2010 and
included in-depth interviews with
more than 30 public-sector leaders
in the United States and experts
in government, and from which
we developed more than 70 case
studies, also revealed newer models
of collaboration. Such collaboration
is reinventing the provision of
public services so radically that
local government may well never
look the same again.
In Suffolk, England, for instance,
the county council plans to act as
a virtual authority, outsourcing
all but a handful of services to
private companies or to so-called
social enterprises (businesses and
nonprofits with primarily social or
environmental objectives—environ-
Building the right model
To decide which implementation method is best for a cross-jurisdictional collaboration model,
start with the desired outcome and work toward the beginning.
Key questions to ask when designing the cross-jurisdictional collaboration model
What are the desired
outcomes and
what is feasible?
What services/
functions should
be targeted?
Who are
the likely
What is the
• Assemble key
• Determine which
• Determine who
• Assess where
decision makers
• Identify key areas
of opportunity as
well as obstacles
• Determine potential
outcome for each
opportunity and
• Prioritize based
on feasibility
services and/or
functions can best
address specific
• Prioritize based
on feasibility
• Identify additional
• Determine
available data
offers services
and/or functions
• Create decision
criteria for
selecting partners
• Perform analysis
• Select partners
to partner along
the value chain
• Identify which
services and/or
functions will
be affected
What is the
best implementation
• Create decision
criteria for selecting
• Evaluate all relevant
models based on
decision criteria
• Select implementation
Source: Accenture analysis
mental protection, for instance, or
support for specific minority interests). The idea could save substantial
sums of money, shaving some 30
percent off Suffolk’s £1.1 billion
budget. Transforming councils from
direct providers into service enablers
represents a philosophical paradigm
change in the way public services
are delivered.
Such a dramatic shift would be
politically unacceptable to many,
of course. In fact, the plan has
already run into opposition from
UK labor unions and other critics
who warn that at a time of rising
unemployment, thousands of publicsector jobs could be at risk.
Indeed, for all its success, the Suffolk
model highlights the difficulties
involved in implementing almost
any kind of collaboration initiative—
whether coordinating services
across jurisdictions, merging or
creating new entities to provide
those services, or contracting
them out to external providers.
Labor union opposition can be
particularly powerful. In the United
States and many other developed
countries, public-sector workers
have negotiated contracts over the
years that ensure them tenure and
guarantee multiple benefits, from
health insurance to pensions. If crossjurisdictional collaboration leads
to the creation of shared services
organizations at which benefits are
reduced, organizations will have to
work through necessary changes
with their labor partners.
New Zealand: A nationwide approach
New Zealand first started reviewing the role of the state back
in 1984. In subsequent decades, this small Pacific nation has
introduced some of the world’s most radical and far-reaching
government reforms.
Successive legislation designed to improve the efficiency,
effectiveness and accountability of government has not only
dramatically shrunken the number and size of jurisdictions—
it has also encouraged collaboration among city, district
and regional councils across the country.
In 2002, the Local Government Act required local authorities
to collaborate with the community and outside agencies on
strategic planning, contracting or tendering out services.
It also called for the establishment of council-controlled organizations, or CCOs—companies or organizations in which one
or more local authorities (or their appointees) control at least
50 percent of the votes. A CCO pays taxes and is accountable
to its local authorities for its performance, and the local
authorities, in turn, are accountable to the community for
both their involvement with the CCO and the performance
of the CCO itself—to deliver services from water and forestry to
car parks and property management.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
The results have been encouraging indeed. One district
council, for example, has achieved cost savings of 30 percent
to 40 percent by contracting out the bulk of its work and
services. And when New Zealand’s Department of Internal
Affairs recently surveyed the country’s 86 councils—down
from about 830 in 1989—7 out of 10 said that the benefits
of collaboration, in terms of both better value for money
and better outcomes, were so significant that they would
be intensifying their efforts in the coming year.
As a small, highly centralized, unitary state with a unicameral
parliament and no single document for a constitution,
New Zealand, to be sure, enjoys some unique advantages as
a pioneer of radical government reform. But support for reform
has been strong because citizens—including labor union
members—have accepted the need for change.
Organized labor isn’t the only stumbling block. Plans to consolidate
jurisdictions in the United States,
for instance, have often floundered
because citizens accustomed to their
own school districts and municipal
boundaries have made it clear they
would vote against attempts to
change them. People may not be
entirely delighted with the current
quality of public services, but
persuading them that radical new
collaboration models will do a better
job promises to be a struggle.
A collaborative approach doesn’t
have to alienate large sections of the
electorate, however, or labor unions
fearful for their jobs. On the contrary: Some leading organizations
have managed to enlist the support
of all stakeholders by creating
innovative collaboration models that,
besides cutting costs and boosting
efficiencies, actually improve
services, simplify interactions with
citizens and even reduce inequities.
Take Sacramento, the capital of
California, which has contracted
out the provision of health and
human services information,
planning and training to a specialized nonprofit organization,
and coordinated with a local
employment and training agency
to jointly deliver child, family and
job-seeker services. Consider, too,
the 2009 merger of the cities of
Preston and Weston with Webster
County, Georgia, which has resulted
in an entirely new (and leaner)
local government entity, eliminated
the duplication of services and
A joint venture in Silicon Valley: A platform for post-recession imperatives
The Great Recession has taken a heavy toll on California’s
Silicon Valley—the 30-mile-long strip of real estate south
of San Francisco that’s home to such iconic companies as
Google, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo. Between 2008 and
2009, about 90,000 jobs were lost. Indeed, hovering around
11 percent, unemployment in the region is above the US national
average. And a combination of California’s legislative gridlock
and the rise of high-tech rivals from China and India casts
a long shadow over the area’s legendary status as the world’s
innovation hub.
Sustaining that status has been the core mission of the
eponymous nonprofit Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network
ever since its formation, back in 1993.
A public–private partnership, its current co-chairs are the
mayor of San Jose and Accenture’s managing director for
California. And since the onset of the recession, the organization’s collaborative approach to local challenges has
come into its own.
Recently completed initiatives include the Alliance for Teaching,
which set out to boost flagging educational achievement in
the region’s schools by partnering with Stanford University
and the Resource Area for Teachers to motivate and improve
the training of teachers, especially in math. A related workforce
development program brought together private businesses,
local government, labor and community organizations in an
effort to improve skills among job seekers.
Most innovative of all, however, is a renewable energy
procurement project, which claims to be the largest such
multijurisdiction initiative in the United States—70 publicsector sites, from bus depots and health centers to prisons and
police stations from nine local government jurisdictions under the
umbrella of a single regional power purchase agreement. Local
authorities are working to reduce the upfront costs of purchasing
and installing renewable energy technologies.
What’s more, thanks to an emphasis on local vendors and
technologies, they are encouraging the creation of the carbonneutral jobs and businesses that could reignite Silicon Valley’s
innovation engine. While overall patent registrations in
the region have been in decline, those for green technologies
surged between 2006 and 2008, and Silicon Valley now accounts
for a growing proportion of green patents nationwide.
is expected to save more than
$100,000 in property taxes.
A new social contract
These organizations are not only
saving money for themselves and
the electorate. Leading local authorities also recognize that times, and
citizens, have changed.
The traditional social contract,
the administration of which has
become sclerotic with bureaucracy,
is evolving. Local voters, now
accustomed to high levels of accessible, accountable and transparent
service from the private sector, have
started to demand the same of
City Hall. By collaborating across
internal jurisdictions to create
efficiencies and by partnering
with specialized providers outside
the organization, governments
stand a better chance of meeting
those demands.
What’s more, they will be much
better positioned to respond to
new and potentially costly longerterm imperatives, such as climate
change, traffic congestion and air
quality. In California, for example,
one of the initiatives of the Joint
Venture: Silicon Valley Network,
a public–private partnership, is a
renewable energy project funded
Ohio Shared Services: A pioneering partnership
With shrinking taxes, slumping revenues and soaring expenses—
all at a time when a high proportion of its workforce approaches
retirement—Ohio’s challenges are no different from those facing
state governments across recession-mired America. Its response
to these challenges, however, has been groundbreaking.
In fact, Ohio Shared Services, which the Buckeye State set up in
2009 as the first statewide shared services center for back-office
functions in the United States, could provide a model for more
efficient and cost-effective government worldwide.
By processing a number of key financial tasks—accounts payable,
invoice processing, travel expense reimbursements, and vendor
maintenance and management—that were previously siloed
among individual state agencies, Ohio Shared Services is
reducing duplication, freeing agencies to focus on their core
functions and driving significant cost efficiencies.
The state has already realized 15 percent to 20 percent
improvements in productivity, while its costs for processing
travel and expense reports have been cut by two-thirds,
from $37 to $12 per transaction. In time, Ohio expects to
achieve about $26 million in average annual savings, or
about $500 million over 20 years.
Perhaps most significant of all, in light of the labor union
resistance that has proven to be one of the biggest stumbling
blocks to cross-jurisdictional collaboration initiatives (see
story), Ohio Shared Services enjoys the support of the state’s
Outlook 2011, Number 1
largest employee labor union, the Ohio Civil Service Employees
Association. In fact, labor leadership was intimately involved in
the design of its operations. And all employees working at the
center transferred voluntarily from other state agencies—fully
aware that work in their new environment would be metricsbased and that performance would be closely monitored.
It plainly helps that the shared services center, which is housed
in a former aircraft facility, was designed to encourage close,
collaborative working practices and boasts state-of-the-art,
virtualized IT that can be shifted seamlessly to different
workplaces as needed. Moreover, employees are provided with
incentives to be trained in four different functions, or “skill blocks”:
accounts payable, travel and expense, vendor maintenance and
contact center. The greater the number of skill blocks employees
are certified for, the higher their compensation will be.
The result? A more flexible and knowledgeable workforce
that can move within the organization, depending on work
volume, staff changes and other variables that can have
an impact on productivity.
Plans call for the center to expand. Human resources may
soon be added. Thanks to a scalable IT platform, Ohio Shared
Services could eventually double in size. With one exception—
travel reimbursement and expense reporting—agency participation in the center remains voluntary. But as the benefits
of its single, standardized approach to common transactions
become increasingly apparent, more and more agencies are
likely to take full advantage.
with pooled resources (see sidebar,
page 83).
Avoiding the pitfalls
There are, to be sure, plenty of pitfalls on the path to more collaborative government. It’s crucial,
for example, to clearly define roles
and responsibilities within the new
power-sharing structure. And best
practice requires strong leadership
and a structured process to evaluate
collaboration opportunities—especially as these may expand over time.
The most successful efforts have
achieved consolidation by following a
systematic methodology, prioritizing
desired outcomes and working backward from there (see chart, page 81).
In Oregon, for example, Metro is a
directly elected cross-jurisdictional
regional government serving 25 cities
in the Portland metropolitan area
with a council president and an auditor elected regionwide, six councilors
elected by district and a COO appointed by the council. The authority
was originally responsible for managing urban growth, transportation,
waste disposal and the Oregon Zoo in
Portland, but it now has a much wider
environmental and cultural mandate.
As its portfolio has grown, Metro
has been careful to ensure that it isn’t
viewed as just another mushrooming
layer of government. Its more than
1,600 employees include specialists
across all its areas of responsibility,
from park rangers to stagehands.
What’s more, the regional authority’s
financial strength—only 18 percent
of its operating budget derives from
property taxes; 54 percent comes
from current revenues (with enterprise activities, such as solid waste
disposal, providing the largest
amount of fee-generated revenues,
at 49 percent), and the rest comes
from excise taxes paid by users
of Metro services—has bolstered
public perceptions that the authority
is efficient as well as effective.
One roadblock to consolidation is
the fact that many governments
simply don’t know what their business processes cost, or how their
costs compare with those of similar organizations. That can be a
significant handicap in developing
a business case that justifies crossjurisdictional collaboration. Which
is why, when Ohio moved to a
statewide shared services model in
2008, it brought in outside help to
conduct a thorough benchmarking
analysis before moving forward.
Ohio’s public-sector unions also
participated in the operations design
process (see sidebar, opposite)—a
move that secured the support of
this key group of stakeholders.
About the authors
David A. Wilson is the managing director
for Accenture’s Canada and US State &
Local Government group. In his 26 years
with the company, he has worked with
numerous governments and universities
to help them operate more effectively
and efficiently, with a focus on backoffice transformation and shared services.
Mr. Wilson is the co-lead for Accenture’s
Minneapolis, Minnesota, office.
[email protected]
Michael Henry is a New York-based
senior executive in Accenture Strategy.
Mr. Henry works with clients in North
America, Europe and the Asia Pacific
region, helping them develop innovative
growth strategies, improve operational
performance and redesign their organizations to better suit their business
[email protected]
Daniel J. McClure, a senior manager
in Accenture’s Health & Public Service
group, has extensive experience working
with government agencies on organizational design, human capital development, strategic planning, performance
management and project leadership.
Based in San Francisco, Mr. McClure
has authored several articles for leading
military and defense journals.
[email protected]
Making the leap to cross-jurisdictional collaboration can be challenging, to
be sure. But it is, increasingly, a necessity—and not just because governments
urgently need to be able to do more with less as the global economic downturn
moves into year four and high unemployment continues to weigh heavily
on state and municipal services.
A more sophisticated citizenry, advances in technology and transportation,
and a growing awareness of environmental threats have rendered the old,
bureaucratic government structures, with their multiple levels of service
provision, obsolete. By embracing new, cooperative models of public-service
provision, organizations can find new efficiencies, generate new sources of
revenue and deliver better programs, products and services. Cross-jurisdictional
government, in other words, is good government.
Jason B. Wolenik is a San Franciscobased manager in Accenture Strategy.
Mr. Wolenik, who develops innovative
operating models for public-sector clients,
led Accenture’s cross-jurisdiction
collaboration research effort in partnership with Joint Venture Silicon Valley
Network and designed cross-jurisdiction
collaboration models for organizations
across the United States.
[email protected]
Company Index
The following companies and organizations are referenced in this issue.
76, 77
Advanced Micro Devices
24, 26, 49
5, 21, 77, 83
Banco Azteca
Best Buy
18, 26, 27
Boeing Co.
28, 30
Cisco Systems
74, 75
Danaher Corp.
26, 27, 75
Dunkin’ Donuts
Eli Lilly & Co.
EMC Corp.
75, 77
EMC Innovation Network
EMC Research China
Energy Brands (Glacèau)
24, 25, 26, 28, 30, 83
Fairchild Semiconductor
Food and Drug Administration (US) 12
Ford Motor Co.
Founder Technology Group Corp.
Outlook 2011, Number 1
Gale International
General Electric Co.
Grupo Bimbo
Harrah’s Entertainment
Hewlett-Packard Development Co.
Hollywood Video
IDEX Corp.
Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
The London School of Economics and Political Science
Metro, Oregon (regional government of)
Microsoft Corp.
National Grid
National Labor Relations Board (US)
National Semiconductor Corp.
New Zealand (government of)
Novo Nordisk
Ohio (state government of)
Ohio Civil Service Employees Association
Ohio Shared Services
83, 84–85
21, 27, 29
13, 24, 30
81, 82
26, 76–77
19, 20
84, 85
84, 85
Oregon Zoo
Packard Bell
21, 58–60
PepsiCo Finance University
Polaris Industries
Preston, Georgia (city government of)
Procter & Gamble (P&G)
16–17, 21, 65
Resource Area for Teachers
RSA Laboratories
RSA Security
Sacramento, California (city government of)
27, 49
Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory
16, 21
Southwest Airlines Co.
Stanford University
Suffolk, England
Tata Group
Tata Motors
Toshiba Corp.
Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College
24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 37
United Airlines
25, 27
17, 19, 20
US Green Building Council
Webster, Georgia (county government of)
Weston, Georgia (city government of)
24, 25, 27, 28
2011, No. 1