StrateTalk No. 3: Mark Foster, Group Chief Executive – Global Markets And Management Consulting, Accenture

StrateTalks (Strategy Talks) are summaries of my in-person exchanges with leaders at service and solution providers.

[05/13/10] It was 6:30 a.m. on Thursday morning when I checked out of the hotel and headed to Prudential Tower, where Accenture’s Boston office is located.

On the way there, I saw Mark Foster walking in front of me.

Mark joined Accenture in 1983 and has been the group chief executive for Accenture’s management consulting growth platform (technology and business process outsourcing [BPO] represent the two other growth platforms at Accenture) since 2006. However, Mark not only oversees the management consulting business but is also responsible for the growth, differentiation, and innovation agenda for Accenture overall.

He was also the person I was scheduled to meet at 7:00 a.m. to discuss Accenture’s strategy for innovating itself. Over the course of several meetings with executives of the management consulting leadership team, I identified some interesting ongoing initiatives intended to drive Accenture’s differentiation. I’d been wondering if these initiatives were just brewing in isolation or were really part of an overall strategy. This was the reason I needed to talk with Mark.

I called out to Mark; he turned around and greeted me. Together, we walked to the Prudential Tower, passed security, and took the elevator up to the Accenture floor.

What interests me about Accenture, besides the obvious facts around strategy, service portfolio, and go-to-market approach, is its culture — the true source for innovation and differentiation for any company. Accenture’s culture is in my opinion very consistent. If you talk to a consultant, manager, or an executive such as Mark, all reflect this open and collaborative culture.

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StrateTalk No. 2: Amy Quigley, VP Of Marketing, Continuum

StrateTalks (Strategy Talks) are summaries of my in-person exchanges with leaders at service and solution providers.

[05/11/10] After a long, but interesting, briefing with a service provider on its green IT and sustainability consulting services portfolio at our Cambridge, Mass., office, I jumped in a cab to Harvard Square.

I then met with Amy Quigley, VP of marketing at Continuum, an interesting firm. Why? More on that later. Amy has been with the company for about two years now. Prior to Continuum, she was in leading marketing roles at other firms, including Molecular and ATG.

What is Continuum? This was the overarching question I had had in my mind since contacting Amy about having this more philosophical-flavored chat.

Continuum’s Web site notes that it is an innovation and design consultancy. According to Amy, Continuum has three domains of expertise: brand, design, and strategy. I’m primarily interested in Continuum’s strategy approach, which is truly different. The firm leverages primarily design and creativity, rather than analytical, tools to help clients with their strategy. Some call this approach “design thinking”.

However, I do not like this term, and Amy agreed that it does not perfectly capture how Continuum attempts to position itself at executive levels. This is also one of the reasons why her company is currently undertaking a major repositioning effort. Amy shared some of the company’s early slides with me, and I agreed that the company is going in the right direction; for example, the firm is merging its areas of expertise and is creating research communities focused on business opportunities.

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StrateTalk No. 1: Kevin Bolen, Partner, Innosight

StrateTalks (Strategy Talks) are summaries of my in-person exchanges with leaders at service and solution providers.

[05/11/10] It was a sunny Tuesday morning in Cambridge, Mass., when I met with Kevin Bolen, who is one of the eight partners of Innosight. Before joining Innosight in 2007, Kevin was the chief marketing officer (CMO) of Lionbridge Technologies.

It’s been a while since our last chat and I was eager to get an update from Kevin on Innosight’s business and his perspective on the innovation consulting landscape.

As with most of the innovation consulting services specialist firms, Innosight was born through the innovation of a new paradigm/model. In this case: disruptive innovation, introduced by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. He founded Innosight with Mark Johnson in 2000.

Ten years later, the firm employs about 50 people and is a publication machine. Why? At Innosight, partners/directors aren’t the only employees publishing articles and books such as Mark’s latest book, Seizing the Whitespace: Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal; even analysts (who are entry level at Innosight) are eligible to write.

For more than a year the firm has focused in particular on business model innovation (BMI) in publications and client engagements. BMI is certainly one of those buzz words that is slowly starting to annoy me. Why? All examples mentioned in this context are just a handful and always the same. Certainly, innovating a business model is as easy as grabbing an “Apple” from a tree.

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Let’s Get Beyond The Tired, Out-Of-Date EA Metaphors

The current metaphors for EA can be useful at a conceptual level to help non EAs understand what all the fuss is about. Most people understand the role of the building architect and the city planner and can make at least a rough association to what enterprise architects do. But many architects take these metaphors much too literally and much too seriously. They try to fashion their practice to align with the metaphor instead of taking the metaphor concept and creating a new way to apply it in their IT or business space.

 The enterprise architect as building architect

I use this metaphor myself when I am talking with non architects. Conceptually, it is a very rich metaphor that almost everyone can identify with. Even though most people have never seen a complete set of blueprints, they have seen enough examples to get the point. Unfortunately, this metaphor breaks down pretty fast.

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Einstein And Social Media

Albert EinsteinEven though there's plenty of evidence showing the positive impact many companies are getting from leveraging a social media strategy, there are still companies rigidly refusing to develop a social media strategy. This reminds me of the early days of the Internet: there were those companies looking to embrace the Internet and develop a new kind of "e-business," and the rest, steadfastly refusing to believe the Internet would transform their business. Even as Amazon defined a new online shopping channel in retail it was amazing to see how many large retailers were slow to establish an online presence.

Back in 2000 I wrote a report urging online retailers to embrace “community” as one of three core elements of their customer strategy. Companies such as REI, which already had an online community in 2000, have learned from their experience and are surging ahead into new social media.

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