Many of the major consultancies do not have the necessary internal strucutures in place to focus on ebusiness and as a result are ill placed to articulate an ebusiness vision to their customers.
According to Forrester Research, which plans to issue a report on consultancies' readiness to advise and help customers next February, some of the leading firms simply see ebusiness as something to add to existing strategy groups despite mounting pressure in key verticals such as banking and the high tech sector to adopt electronic methods of conducting business.
Andrew Parker, a Forrester analyst said: "There's a lot of ill directed thinking."
Deloitte & Touche for example, he claimed: "expressed a notion of a time limited exercise where ebusiness is something the individual groups are taught".
And he believes that the consulting sector should be looking at the problem in precisely the opposite way.
"The old stove pipes need to be built together in some way," Parker said, because ebusiness will become the defining technology hub around which enterprise applications will be constructed.
An earlier Forrester report also categorised the role of consultancies and systems integrators as portfolio assemblers.
But, according to Parker, the Big Five in particular, are faced with structural difficulties. With the exception of Andersen Consulting, which is divorced from parent company, Arthur Anderson, they have close links with their accounting and audit divisions - a position that Forrester believes is unsustainable into the long term.
"PriceWaterhouseCoopers is wrestling with this at the moment and examining a broad range of options," Parker claimed.
He added: "The other dominoes will fall in short order. KPMG (which has already made moves to float its consulting wing), Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and the rest will run to the nearest bankers to get their IPO plans in place."
But to tackle the root problem will require changing from a partnership model to one more closely resembling a corporation, he warned.
Elsewhere, Larry Lipide, an analyst at AMR Research, notes that Deloitte's supply chain organisation: "remains true to its heritage by concentrating on clients' bottom lines".
Its supply chain division is run: "as a cost centre since profits and losses are tracked primarily by geography - a holdover from Big Five accounting roots", he added.
But some supply chain vendors have found this to be a barrier to creating substantive partnerships because they find that offices in different geographies are effectively competing against each other.
Steve Weller, i2's Northern European marketing director, said: "Threading your way through the large consultancy organisation structure is pretty hard work."
Chris Elliott, Manugistics' European marketing director, agreed: "Establishing the right contact that adds mutual value to the partnership is extraordinarily difficult."
This presents such vendors with problems as they attempt to reposition themselves in the ebusiness market because it is unclear with whom they should deal and how the relationship should be conducted. And this does not bode well for customers seeking strategic advice from their traditional consulting partners.
"A few, like Cap Gemini and IBM Global Services, do get it and elsewhere there are individuals who are trying to make ebusiness central. But there's a long way to go," concluded Parker.
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