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.

In our conversation, Mark gave me a comprehensive overview of innovation at Accenture and confirmed my observations. Accenture has been testing several ideas and has now identified a couple of key components of strength and differentiation, which are now shaping its strategy and go-to-market approach. Mark clearly articulated the strategy and value proposition, a rare experience for me.

One component reflects something that I call issue-centric service portfolio management (ICSPM). Rather than aligning services toward functions or industries alone, ICSPM takes client issues as the underlying point of alignment. Accenture now has dedicated cross-functional/industry teams plus leadership in place for key client issues. Each year, the leadership of consulting, technology, and BPO agree on the top issues of their clients. This year these include “driving growth” and “sustainability.”

How does this affect Accenture’s internal structures? An example: Accenture has established a dedicated Sustainability Services Group with a global leadership team, as well as a sustainability services framework comprising 17 discrete service offerings across five main topics such as regulation and strategy and emissions management. In addition, there is a dedicated microsite (https://microsite.accenture.com/sustainability) that includes all relevant information for this client issue from services to thought leadership.

It was a good conversation, and I am curious about how Accenture’s strategy will evolve along topics such as ICSPM moving forward.