Emerald Solutions Buys Alliance Consulting



E-business integrator Emerald Solutions Inc. today is pumping up its business-strategy consulting muscle with the acquisition of Alliance Consulting Group Inc., a privately held consulting firm. Although the value of the transaction was not disclosed, the acquisition provides greater focus and nearly 50 employees for Emerald's consulting business.

Emerald's buyout of Alliance, which has done business-strategy consulting since its inception in 1986, indicates Emerald is looking to sell its implementation and integration services to a larger variety of customers and avoid the project handoffs necessary when clients hire different services firms for strategy and implementation.

Since first forming in 1997, the $34.7 million Emerald Solutions has concentrated on developing back-end Web applications for its customers, says Martin Wright, Emerald's president, CEO, and director. The challenge now is integrating transactional Web applications to back-end enterprise functions, such as connecting a front-end Web order entry with back-end data warehouses. "To do this successfully, we need to hit true strategy issues," Wright says.

Before the Alliance acquisition, Emerald employed a handful of consultants who concentrated on helping clients develop Web strategies. The acquisition will also help Emerald create more formal services offerings along the lines of interactive media, implementation and integration, and consulting. Michael Norkus, Alliance's former president, becomes the president of Emerald's consulting group.

"Technical-services companies like Emerald Solutions have got to take the approach of building consulting skills," says Steven Lane, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group. Just like when Whittman-Hart and USWeb/CKS merged in March to form MarchFirst, the services industry as a whole needs to offer business-strategy consultants, brand-building specialists, and technology architects within the same firm, according to Lane. He says this transformation will allow these firms to expand relationships with their clients.

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