02:57 PM

Consulting & Business Services:
Collaboration Tops Consultants' To-Do Lists

Firms count on technology to make sure knowledge is shared

Ask just about any CIO to list his or her top IT objectives, and you'll likely get an answer that includes improved collaboration. That's especially true at consulting firms and business-services providers where the core assets are knowledge and people.

"Our value to a client is to give them the best advice for solving a problem," says Peter Jessel, managing director and CIO at Towers Perrin, a privately owned global management firm. "The best way for us to do that is to leverage the 8,000-plus employees and their collective wisdom, expertise, and experience." Towers Perrin has built a collaborative network that makes information sharing easier using content management, electronic meetings, shared information repositories, and sophisticated search engines.

Ernst & Young LLP is cultivating collaboration with clients. It has created a single network infrastructure of about 4,000 IP phones that support data, voice, and video conferencing.

Other firms have invested in XML to improve collaboration. Manpower Inc., a global workforce-management services firm with sales last year of $10.5 billion, developed XML-based specifications that describe various transactions. The specs were adopted by the HR-XML industry-standards consortium, a nonprofit group that's developing standards to automate human-resources data exchanges. Manpower developers are incorporating standards into order-entry and fulfillment, Web-ordering, and time-reporting systems. Manpower expects communication with subcontractors to improve. "We do so much subcontracting, and there are opportunities to save a few dollars and make our information flow much more efficiently,'' CIO Peter Stockhausen says.

Information is flowing more freely at Towers Perrin, too. In addition to its collaborative network, it has improved knowledge management by providing groups of its consultants with dashboards that include news of the day culled from internal and external sources, software, and bulletin boards. It plans to build a similar platform for its customers, and by year's end will have an area on its public Web site for the firm's top 100 clients where they can access software tools and databases, information repositories, and electronic team rooms.

Collaborative systems have helped Towers Perrin and other services providers to react more quickly to their clients' needs, Jessel says. "As best as you can leverage knowledge across the globe for a client, the more value you bring."

Rank Company Revenue in millions Income (loss)
in millions
20 Wallace Computer Services Inc. $1,693 $53 275
26 Ernst & Young LLP $4,900 1,400
32 DynCorp $1,960 $61 6,680
54 Adecco $16,218 $418 980
84 Spherion Corp. $2,713 $107 306
90 Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide $1,200 300
128 Gevity HR $3,180 ($16) 58
129 ABM Industries Inc. $1,950 $33 80
137 Towers Perrin 1,000
141 Maritz Inc. $1,500 850
153 Deluxe Corp. $1,278 $186 175
168 Manpower Inc. $10,483 $125 900
214 Hewitt Associates $1,502 $183 2,620
241 Cintas Corp. $2,270 $234 200
244 Wheels Inc. $1,000 -- 78
251 Kelly Services Inc. $4,257 $16,549 600
268 Equity Office Properties Trust $3,130 $2 90
292 Xerox Corp. $17,008 ($71) 800
295 Bowne & Co. Inc. $1,100 ($24) 330
306 KPMG Consulting Inc. $2,368 ($27) 98
319 Administaff Inc. $4,373 $10 127
339 EPIX Corp. $1,800 -- 40
343 Waste Management Inc. $11,300 $1 425
354 Lanier Worldwide $1,067 -- 125
409 CDI Corp. $1,488 ($16) 165
435 Volt Information Sciences Inc. $1,932 $6 200
474 Service Corp. International $2,510 ($1) 230
498 Booz Allen Hamilton $2,100 -- 2,500
Financial data is from public sources and company supplied.
Revenue is for latest fiscal year.
Employee data is from InformationWeek 500 qualifying survey.

Average portion of revenue spent on IT
Companies providing customized solutions to customers
Companies seeking IT patents, trademarks, or copyrights
Hardware purchases
Services or outsourcing
Research and development
Salaries and benefits
Everything else
Average year-over-year revenue change
Average year-over-year net income change
DATA: InformationWeek research
See year-over-year shifts in business-technology practices for this industry. Compare and contrast this year's data with last year's.

Return to the 2002 InformationWeek 500 homepage

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