Keeping Up With Clients

BearingPoint CEO Blazer educates himself on his customers to help them grow their businesses

In his free time, rather than picking up a novel, Rand Blazer enjoys reading nonfiction. Not books, but magazine, newspaper, and other articles about his company's clients. As chairman and CEO of IT services and consulting firm BearingPoint Inc., Blazer is hungry to learn about clients and their business goals. "I grew up a consultant. I like to figure out the business," he says.

Clients will continue to be ROI-minded this year with a focus on smaller projects, Blazer predicts. These projects, he says, will try to optimize worker productivity, improve products and services, and grow revenue. This marks a change from the darkest days of the economic slump when the main focus for many clients was initiatives that cut costs.

Rand Blazer

Smaller projects will be the focus for clients this year, Blazer says

Photo by Darren Gygi
"There are no companies doing $100 million projects," Blazer says. Still, companies may break down that $100 million project into smaller, more digestible projects that could eventually add up to $100 million. "It's stop and start, which is healthy spending," he says, compared with the late 1990s when companies often "chased technology rather than try to capture ROI as they went."

Blazer is cautiously optimistic that the economy will continue to recover. Because BearingPoint is a global company, Blazer watches global trends carefully. There are small, promising pockets of improvement such as upticks in consumer and retail and in Latin America and China, he says. Still, potentially troublesome areas remain, including the exchange rate in Europe, Blazer says. And while Wall Street is hailing the stock markets' ongoing climb, he wonders if some stocks are overheating, which retrospectively was an ominous sign in the late 1990s before the economy took a nosedive.

Despite recent economic improvements, Blazer says the U.S. economy is still fragile, and an unexpectedly weak retail quarter or a terrorist attack could spark another setback. "I worry about the general pace of improvement. Slow and steady is good, but I don't want to see a step backward."

For companies like BearingPoint, a bigger threat than the trend toward offshore outsourcing is the one-stop shopping--software, hardware, integration, and services--that large vendors, particularly IBM, are able to offer, Blazer says. Still, he believes BearingPoint is well positioned. "At the end of the day, clients come to us for our business experience, not just for technology implementations for technology's sake."

That's why Blazer finds it invigorating to learn as much as possible about BearingPoint's clients and help them achieve their business goals. "It's like going through a novel with many chapters," he says. "I know what the first 10 chapters were about, and I know what I'd like the next 10 chapters to be about. But it's an evolution."

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