Why Tiger Woods Can Never Come Back to Accenture
By now we all know what Tiger Woods had systematically cheated on his (then) wife, ever since before their wedding. This was a repeated behavior by Woods. Within two weeks of the breaking news back in November 2009, Accenture announced that it cancels its sponsorship of Tiger Woods.
Accenture was the first sponsor to completely cancel its sponsorship with Tiger Woods, even though Gillette one day before said it would “phase out its advertisements with Woods” while he repairs his personal life. Nike, Gatorade, AT&T, and EA Sports were not so fast.
Why did Accenture drop Tiger like a hot potato?
There are three main reasons Accenture was the sponsor most sensitive to be associated with Tiger Woods even though, ironically, it could be more fitting than ever.
If we compare the consulting client to a "wife" it becomes apparent.
1. Overcharging is Cheating
Most people who have worked in Accenture has seen the overcharging that is taking place on almost all client projects. This normally happens in any of a number of ways.
The best way, from Accenture’s perspective (though not its employees’ perspective) is to simply over-analyze the clients “problems”. Collecting endless data on a client’s IT systems, "blue-printing" processes, or management practices can take 3-4 months of consulting and generally renders little or no value to the client.
It is however, difficult for even the most carefully controlling clients to discover this kind of “fraud”, and even if they did realize Accenture “cheated” when the project was over, they have already paid for it. By then it is very difficult to do anything about it, as it is normally agreed what to do in Accenture’s contracts.
Accenture can simply say "well, it is too bad it turned out useless, that discretionary IT spend analysis we did, but it was agreed in our contract, signed by you."
Tiger Woods must have known what he was doing was morally very wrong. Accenture, who does these analyses often, also knows very well when these analyses are not needed, which makes it morally doubtful.
With the tremendous work pressure put on managers within Accenture some of them add a few hours that were never delivered to the invoice. The firm is infamous for its negative work pressure which burns out many of its employees.
Another creative way Accenture has of overcharging is to have consultants present in the client office but working on something else, for example having them work on a proposal for the next client, who might be a competitor to the current client. Then the current client is billed for the time worked on the proposal. This tactic has its advantage that the client can actually see the consultant working hard, typing away on his keyboard.
Junior consultants, straight out of university, are encouraged to think creatively to find ways to overcharge the clients. Accenture Senior Executives, continuously pressure employees lower down in the hierarchy to try to either stay on longer on their projects than initially planned or find more work to do for the client than was initially agreed upon.
2. Giving Harmful Recommendations is Cheating
Another way for Accenture to cheat its clients is to give them bad recommendations.
Let’s look into this. When Accenture is hired to choose an IT system vendor (for ERP, CRM, HRM, etc.) they often do an extensive analysis including data collection, like for example employee attitude towards current systems. There are two strong incentives for Accenture to give “bad” recommendations in terms of what system to choose to implement.
First, some IT system vendors give higher kick-back fees to Accenture than others. SAP is known for giving higher commissions to consulting firms who sell one of their systems than Microsoft or PeopleSoft do, for example.
The second incentive is the number of consulting man-days needed to implement the system. Of course, Accenture charges thousands of dollars per day when implementing a system. The actual difference between SAP and another system can be in the range of USD 5 million for a mid-sized company with two or three divisions. That is profit to Accenture and loss to the client. And a pretty good reason for Accenture to recommend one system over another.
Curiously, the official cost estimation (number of man-days to be spent on an implementation) made by Accenture for these IT System often comes from nothing else than the “professional opinion” of a Senior Manager or a Senior Executive at Accenture. Quite different from the detailed data collection made for other, less relevant information, which is purely done to charge many consulting man-days.
So, the recipe for billing is to spend lots of days analyzing employee attitudes towards IT systems, and not so much efforts on keeping costs down for the client of their next implementation project.
3. Spreading Confidential Information is Cheating
Some clients appreciate the “best practices” they are taught by Accenture, for example, a certain process in a bank. What they don’t realize is that that “best practice” comes from the last bank who hired Accenture. And that their own competitive advantage will soon be documented in Accenture’s so called Knowledge Exchange (or “KX”) on Accenture’s intranet.
The Knowledge Exchange is – ironically – an IT mess. There is little categorization and little classification based on confidentiality. Literally any of the more than 270.000 Accenture employees can at any time go in and download the former clients’ business information. Attrition is high in Accenture – twice as many people leave Accenture each year compared to other consulting firms, which is already twice as many as in “industry” companies – and what many of these employees do just before leaving is to download all information useful in their next job. The next job is often a competitor to the client.
Just like Tiger Woods might have whispered fantasies or telling a little story of what he did in bed with the previous mistress to the next one, Accenture is whispering its clients’ secrets to the next potential client, often already in the proposal stage.
Other Similarities of Tiger Woods and Accenture
When the scandal had been known for a few days, Accenture posted an ad showing Tiger Woods and the text “It is what you do next that counts”. Basically what Accenture is saying, is “we are in fact the good guys, don’t associate us with cheating, it’s all Tiger’s fault”. Tiger Woods tried to get sympathies in a similar way by stating that he would take an “indefinite break from Golf”. Read: “I leave now until you beg me to come back”. Both Accenture and Tiger Woods tried to manipulate to become the martyr instead of the cheater.
In conclusion, there are many negative aspects for Accenture to be associated with cheating and that was the real reason it no longer wants Tiger Woods as its symbol.
Go on Accenture, be a Tiger
This article and some comments were adapted with permission from Accenture Cheats’ blog.