KPMG Tries Bottom-Up Approach in I T Consulting

KPMG Peat Marwick attempts to raise the stakes in high-tech-management consulting with a high-profile offering

A program designed by KPMG Peat Marwick to track corporate infotech expenditures and determine what value technology investment brings to their bottom line is becoming one of the consulting firm's fastest-growing service offerings, KPMG executives said.

By rough estimate, KPMG's new consulting program, known as World Class IT, has already seen a 300 percent growth in revenue and personnel since the program was unveiled last June. While KPMG executives refused to disclose any of the program's revenue numbers, the program's growth rate is now more than twice what had been anticipated by the consulting firm, KPMG executives said.

"We saw a fundamental divergence between business and technology functions in the marketplace," explained Steven Hill, a partner in the consulting practice. "And that lack of convergence is causing a great deal of pain to corporations worldwide. So we put together a set of services that are tailored toward helping them figure out how to manage the technology in terms of its function, as well as how the business should interact with the IT function."

Given the currently tight fiscal environment, KPMG is focusing on taking a decidedly tactical, bottom-up approach to the problem, rather than a top-down, strategic view. And while other consulting firms such as Andersen Consulting, DeLoitte and Touche, and other boutique shops offer the same approach, KPMG has raised the stakes by packaging its services into a more high-profile offering.

"KPMG is really picking up on this hot button and the frustration that exists with business people today over this issue," explained Mike Kennedy, vice president of the Meta Group, a research firm based in Stamford, Conn.

This bottom-up approach begins with a frank assessment of IT assets whether each component is effective and efficient and what it contributes to the business goal.

In each area, recommendations are made in an expeditious manner. "Our style is very pragmatic," noted Hill. "We try to establish value as soon as possible, and it could be something as simple as stopping a practice that doesn't contribute to the business or making easy changes that can be done in a week but offer tremendous value. So we don't perform a large, three-month evaluation and then present a plan."

Kennedy added that the company's approach fits in smoothly with its existing client base.

One of those existing clients was Brinker International, a restaurant operator and developer based in Dallas that was looking to develop a strategic technology plan that could be married with its existing business plan. After failing to find a firm that could focus on the issue from both perspectives, the company called in World Class IT.

"The executives were most impressed with how easily the consultants were able to grasp the company's business intent and how everything was discussed first from the standpoint of business strategy," explained Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President Debra Smithart. Positive feedback can only enhance KPMG's already well-positioned hold on a market need that Kennedy predicts will be undertaken by every international business within the next 10 years. "We believe that there [will] be a deficit of supply in the next 10 or 15 years, so our growth is constrained not by market barrier but by our own ability to manage that growth," said Hill.

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