Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Comparing Accenture to IBM

I have never worked for but have worked with consultants from both firms and figured I would compare/contrast these two organizations...

The primary difference that I have noticed between these two firms is in culture. From my seat, Accenture lets the "best idea" win where IBM seems to be based more on where one falls in the hierarchy. Accenture gives young persons a lot of responsibility and expects them to sink or swim while providing excellent training and resources where as IBM seems to also believe in the sink or swim without always backing it with the right support model and instead relies on consultants to build their own networks for support and learning is more under fire or via online training but almost never through conferences or more effective methods that usually require physical presence.

I also had the opportunity to see the annual review cycle for both firms in that consultants from both had asked me to provide input to their managers. In one firm, it seemed as if they were handed their personal development goals while another allowed them to create their own. It is difficult to determine which model is better as there are times in my own career where I have preferred one over another.

For example, many shops force your boss to participate in HR exercises where it is more of a ritual than anything meaningful. In this situation, I would rather just have it handed to me so as to not waste precious time of me actually thinking about how to improve without of course getting a budget for conferences, training or even purchasing books. For companies I have worked for that did value education and backed it with real tangible dollars, the model of creating your own development plan feels more appropriate.

Another experience that I have had was in encouraging folks from both firms to participate in my local OWASP chapter. The Accenture partner embraced the idea and immediately forwarded the calendar invite to everyone he knew where the IBM partner made less effort. I get the general feeling that to be a partner in Accenture comes with more responsibility, more autonomy and more desire in the way of making the client happy than in IBM.

On the other side, I think the IBM partner model feels more structured which is beneficial to clients who want their interactions to feel more scripted. There are times when you desire waterfall and IBM feels better in delivering against this model where everything is known upfront while Accenture feels more comfortable in an agile environment that is a lot less locked down.

A former co-author of mines, Scott Ambler is currently employed by IBM and is working very hard to encourage the engine to become lighterweight. I wonder what internal struggles he would love to talk about. I wonder if IBM will allow him to be truly successful?

Speaking of Scott, I remember several years ago an interesting debate he had in attempting to convince an Accenture consultant who was based in India that the only thing that proves working software is working software. The concept that comprehensive documentation proves working software is still a concept that is lost on both firms.

Finally, I would say that IBM cares about its employees a little bit more in that they have figured out more in the way of helping us thick headed client types eschew face time and instead work from home. I get the sense that work/life balance is more valued at IBM than it is at Accenture.

If you have any thoughts on Accenture vs IBM, please trackback or leave a comment...

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