Big change for Big Consulting
Big Consulting is under pressure everywhere. The global firms, usually grouped under the acronym MBBB for McKinsey, Booz, Bain and Boston, after the names of the international market leaders, are in a state of turbulence as multiple forces such as changing technology and new client expectations buffet them.
Horacio Rozanski, Argentine born and raised, is stepping into one of the biggest jobs in this high-pressure industry. In January, he becomes global chief executive at Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH), a firm with a 100-year lineage and the oldest of the top firms.
“I cherish that history,” he says, pointing to BAH’s reputation as a strategic consultant at the highest level, renowned for its contacts, and contracts, with the United States government and with global corporations of many nationalities.
Mr Rozanski will immediately be under the spotlight for a number of reasons. He is taking over from Ralph Shrader, its legendary chief for the past decade and a half, who he agrees will be a hard act to follow.
There is then the crucial issue of BAH’s plans for global expansion (in which Abu Dhabi plays a central role), and a shift in strategic thinking to cope with new demands on the industry.
There is also the small matter of Edward Snowden, the computer expert turned whistleblower, whom some regard as a traitor for leaking sensitive details of American electronic surveillance. Mr Snowden was a BAH employee immediately before he blew that whistle.
Mr Rozanski does not clam up on mention of the Snowden name.
“Booz is a 100-year-old company, he worked with us a few weeks, and doesn’t represent us in any legal or ethical sense. After his actions became known, we went back and looked at all the processes, and found no faults in our procedures. The clients have been around a long time and they have stuck with us. They’ve been supportive and understanding. We’ve had no significant issue with them,” he says.
Mr Rozanski explains he is in the UAE capital to meet long-standing clients, and to map out BAH’s new direction. It comes against the background of a complicated few years of corporate change at the firm.
In 2008, BAH got a stock market listing and hived off its non-government business to Booz & Co, which was backed by investment group Carlyle. This business, involving strategic consulting for private companies and institutions, was bought by international accounting firm PwC this year, and renamed Strategy&.
Meanwhile, BAH concentrated on the bigger business with the US government, supplying “functional and operational services” worth about $5 billion per year. A non-compete agreement gave Booz & Co a clear run at strategic consulting for a while.
Now, BAH is getting back into the commercial side of the business, and has chosen Abu Dhabi as the market in which to lead that charge. Last month BAH announced it was employing five key executives from the old Booz & Co firm, under experienced team leader Ramez Shehadi, to relaunch its business here. They start work next year.
“This is a reinvestment, a recommitment to the region,” says Mr Rozanski.
BAH has been in the Middle East since the Cairo office was opened in 1950, and has been in Abu Dhabi since the early 1990s. But now the capital is being seen as the hub for a network of offices in the region expanding “concentrically” to Dubai, Riyadh, Beirut and Doha.
“This is not a scattergun approach. We are aiming to become part of the fabric of the region, and we are seeking to help build a culture of innovation. We chose AD as a base because we have a history here,” he says.
The regional team is comparatively small – about 130 employees out of a global workforce of 22,000 – but the model of hub and concentric network will be rolled out to other parts of the world, with Singapore next.
Regional clients are in the fast-growing sectors in which the UAE, and BAH, specialise – health care, financial services, energy, telecoms, aerospace and transport.
“Across these sectors, we bring functionality in digital, cybersecurity, data analytics, human capital, operations and supply chain businesses,” says Mr Rozanski.
The strategy is designed to meet new the challenges in the global consulting industry. Gone are the days of the “12 week” strategy which ended with a PowerPoint presentation to the client, he explains.
“Technology has been the driver of change. Now it’s possible to deliver strategy, data acquisition and delivery all at the same time. A PP presentation is no longer the deliverable, an outcome is the deliverable, whether it’s an app, a product or a new business line. This means we can work with the client, and become their essential partner. It gives a greater degree of professional satisfaction for us, because we work best in partnership with clients,” he says.
How Big Consulting adapts to the new environment remains to be seen. But only one thing is certain, says Mr Rozanski. “The consulting industry of 25 years ago will not be here in another 25 years.”
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Updated: November 25, 2014 04:00 AM