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The company which I'm going to discuss about now is one of the world's largest consulting firms when measured by revenues. This company is a part of the Fortune Global 500 list and has over 257,000 employees across more than 120 countries. 96 out of the 100 companies included in the Fortune Global 100 list are clients of this company. The company I'm talking about is none other than 'Accenture'.
History and Ownership
Accenture was originally the business and technology consulting division of accounting firmÂ Arthur Andersen. The division originated as a feasibility study forÂ General Electric in 1953. Through the 1990s, Increasing tensions between Andersen Consulting andÂ Arthur Andersen eventually lead to the split between the two entities. The fact that Andersen Consulting was paying Arthur Andersen up to 15% of its profits each year was upsetting Andersen Consulting. At the same time Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting were competing through its own newly established business consulting service line called Arthur Andersen Business Consulting. Â In 1998 Andersen Consulting claimed breach of contract against Andersen Worldwide Société Coopérative (AWSC) and Arthur Andersen.
Resulting from the conclusion of arbitration with theÂ International Chamber of Commerce, Andersen Consulting broke all contractual ties with AWSC and Arthur Andersen In August 2001 and as part of the arbitration settlement, Andersen Consulting paid $1.2Â billion to Arthur Andersen, and was required to change its name, resulting in the entity being renamed Accenture.
Andersen Consulting adopted its current name, "Accenture" on January 1, 2001. The phrase "Accent on the future" was supposedly shortened to "Accenture". The name was coined by Kim Petersen, a Danish employee from the company's Oslo, Norway office through an internal competition. This change of name proved an excellent move for Andersen Consulting as it avoided the taint that Arthur Andersen picked up because of its involvement in the later Enron Scandal.
As of September 2012, the company's headcount is over 257,000 employees across 120 countries. India currently has the single largest number of employees, with a headcount of almost 80,000 in August 2012. In the US, it has about 40,000 employees and in the Philippines 35,000.
Organizational Structure and Businesses
Accenture as a company is organized into 3 cross functional groups, namely Workforces, Operating Groups and Growth platforms.
There are 4 workforces that serve clients in the areas of consulting, technology, and outsourcing, and the company itself. These 4 workforces are summarized in the table below
Management Consulting, Process Design and Applying technologies to Business
Sales, Delivery and Leading Majority of Accenture's project based work
Outsourcing Engagements in Business Operations and IT
Applications Development, Helpdesk services and HR
Specific Technology skills required for project deliveries and Outsourcing engagements.
Accounts for most of Accenture's employees in Delivery Centers across Developing Countries
Managing and supporting all activities across Accenture's business
Legal, facilities, security, marketing, and client financial management.
Accenture operates in a matrix structure like most other firms do. The first axis accounts for the operating groups, or industries of its clients. There are five Operating Groups
Media & Technology
Health & Public Service.
The above five groups account for approximately 20 industry subgroups that are responsible for industry evolution, business issues, and applied technologies.
The second axis comprises of the growth platforms. They refers to the functional or technical domains where the company's frontline people specialize their skills, develop and use the company created methodology, and create and deliver solutions to Accenture's clients. The table below summarizes 'Growth Platforms'
development and delivery of Accenture's strategic, industry, functional, operational, process and change consulting capabilities.
Accenture's systems integration, technology consulting, and IT outsourcing capabilities
Business Process Outsourcing
Specific business processes and functions for clients. For ex: Procurement, HR, finance and accounting
Having worked in Accenture for 14 months, I was able to get more than a glimpse of how the leadership functioned in the company. To start off with, my immediate team lead never looked like he was actually leading the team. He was always working alongside us, and was as much a part of us, as colleagues in the same level would be. He led from the front, but was always alongside us. The same qualities were visible in our project lead, who was higher in authority than our immediate lead. Although he was in a higher level in the hierarchy, he always took time to spend time with everyone. Blessed with one of the best senses of humour, he was usually responsible for lightening up the mood on the entire floor. But when things got serious, he was always a step ahead. He made sure he communicated with everyone, giving constructive feedback and acknowledging everyone's efforts.
In my tenure I also got to interact with 2 senior executives, one of whom was the account manager and the other being responsible for 4 other processes apart from our process. Needless to say, these were really busy men on a very high rung of Accenture's hierarchal ladder. But every time they visited the floor, they made sure to speak to everyone and discuss the process' happenings with them. I realized all the leaders here were really approachable, for any issue. Accenture was a company where leaders lead from right alongside everyone in the organization through a very informal and open door culture.
The culture at Accenture was a fantastic mix of Professional ethics and informal relationships between people. While the work everyone did was expected to be of the highest professional standards, the same was not the case with the broader picture of work culture itself. Fridays were dress casual days to enable people to choose against the usual formals. The work culture in Accenture was more of a Collaborative work culture. Cubicles were not fully enclosed. This enabled people to interact with fellow colleagues. In the process where I worked, our leaders made sure once every week to order in a meal for everyone to as to encourage a casual session of eating together, which I noticed was a great stress buster and really helped in bonding people. Also, on the last Friday of every month birthdays of all employees who had their birthday in that month would be celebrated, thereby bringing together everyone on the floor for an informal get-together. When people are comfortable and informal with each other in the workplace, collaborations increase therefore resulting in increased productivity.
The overall productivity of teams, and therefore the company they make up depends a lot on how the teams function. The relationships between people in a team or those in a functional group play a big role on the successes the team or group achieves. During my tenure in Accenture, I noticed how much importance the leadership lay on group dynamics. Apart from trying to motivate people to individually excel in their work, they also motivated teams and encouraged better levels of collaborations. One way they did so was by maintaining a competitive spirit between the teams. They also organized team outings once a quarter to enhance group dynamics and organized team building games in these outings so as to facilitate in everyone understanding each other's strengths and weaknesses.
Apart from encouraging a competitive spirit between the teams, they also inculcated a competitive spirit within teams too by having an RnR (Rewards and Recognitions) policy. The best performer from each team was identified monthly and their efforts were openly appreciated and rewarded through credit of redeemable reward points.
Change Management Initiatives
For a company who offered Change Management Programs and Solutions to its clients, it wouldn't come as a surprise that they were really good themselves at managing changes and making sure that transitions are smooth and seamless. During my tenure there I was not only able to witness this process from start to end, but also be a part of it. 6 months into my job at Accenture, we were informed that out project had acquired another process from UK and we would be supporting them in addition to our current client. They planned this entire big change in a step by step process. They gave us a heads up about this 3 months prior to the 'Go Live' day. They communicated the reason and the vision to everyone. They assigned specific roles to a few select people including me regarding transition and stabilization of the new process. They were updating us regularly regarding all the functional aspects of the new process alongside training the selected few people. Overall this resulted in a smooth transition of the new process and sustained performance after the 'Go Live' date.
Politics & Conflict Management
Politics and Conflicts were pretty much at a minimum due to the open culture and the emphasis Accenture laid on group dynamics and team bonding. However politics and conflicts cannot be removed completely. The management was quick in dealing with conflicts because they were well aware what effect it can potentially have on the total productivity. They always made it a point to resolve conflicts as soon as possible. The open door policy facilitated this in a great way. Problems would be kept confidential and they would give constructive feedback to people who needed it. They also made sure politics was at bay by being fair to everyone. From what I could see group dynamics and culture played a big role in keeping the floor relatively free from politics.
Critique and Recommendations
All in all, from my tenure in Accenture I have gained a fair idea about how an organization should function. The points below summarize my observations and my opinions on what makes a company a 'Futuristic' or a 'Visionary' Firm of Endearment.
Accenture was a company with a neatly defined organizational structure. Everyone had clearly defined roles. There was clear differentiation between roles in different hierarchal level. A clearly defined corporate hierarchy facilitates in employees clearly knowing their roles which in turn inculcates accountability in people.
My leaders in Accenture led from the front, but they never made me feel uncomfortable to approach them for any issue. They always kept me motivated, recognized my efforts and gave me feedback when I needed it. In a new age firm, leaders need to communicate with everyone under them and leave no stone unturned in motivating, appreciating and providing constructive feedback to their employees.
A Futuristic Firm of Endearment knows that the 'Culture' at the workplace is one of the key factors that decides the overall success of the company. Leaders at Accenture recognized this and made sure, that there was a culture underlying all the professional ethics and delivery standards.
Accenture knew that overall output from people counted a lot more than individual efforts. The leaders lay a lot of emphasis on improving team dynamics and bonding between people under the same team or functional group. Every futuristic firm must make efforts to improve team dynamics as it helps in increasing overall employee productivity and keeps all the employees motivated.
Accenture showed that it's a company for the future by proving that it can handle change and make smooth and seamless transitions; an important characteristic for a futuristic firm of Endearment.
The leadership of Accenture made sure that they kept Office Politics and Conflicts to a bare minimum which in turn facilitated a positive and open work culture thereby increasing total productivity and maintaining motivation levels of its employees. Politics and Conflicts have negative effects in an office and always push a company backwards. Any firm that wishes to be a Visionary Firm of Endearment should make efforts to keep Office Politics and Conflicts at bay.
R. Prateek Pissay