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ACN vs PA (Strategy)

 
#1 ACN vs PA (Strategy)
25/11/2010 22:49

Human Printer

I would appreciate insights concerning the quality of PA's Strategy & Decision practice, and whether or not a stint there (joining at consultant level) would hold someone in good stead for exit opportunities in other strategy firms, PE firms, in-house strategy teams.

I have read the abundance of derisory comments on the firm in general, and my purpose is not to trigger another of those threads. I am only interested in the prestige of the strategy team.

It would help if you could benchmark comments against ACN's strategy practice, for example, as I see them as similar - both probably lower-tier 2, and part of organisations that focus mainly on other areas of consulting.

Thanks in advance

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#2 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
26/11/2010 07:35

Parro to Human Printer (#1)

You are correct that the level of prestige is similar across the two firms. Overall, the range of work and projects the two get involved in is similar. The ACN group is larger and there is more specialisation available/required. PA has more capability/more projects in operations research (similar to IBM), while ACN does more IT strategy work (although PA has a decent group, the capability is mainly in the IT practices).

In both firms, if you excel there can be good exit opportunities. Moves into other strategy firms (particularly boutiques) and in-house teams are common. Moves into PE have always been rare and right now, there are limited opportunities in that industry for anyone. PA's VC role has historically given it good connections and reputation with firms like 3i, although arguably the firm has backed off from this area in recent years and the group isn't very accessible to new hires.

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#3 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
26/11/2010 09:33

Human Printer to Parro (#2)

Thx Parro!

It was my understanding that IT Strategy (outlining where and how IT could improve an org's performance, and help achieve its objectives - if my undertanding of the term is accurate) sat with IT Consulting, as one of the more value-adding aspects of their work.

Descriptions of the strategy practices on both firms' website lead to the belief they do "pure" strategy (M&A, market strategy, etc.).

I always imagined strategy mandates in these firms, where appropriate, would look to make recommendations involving IT solutions (cross selling), but I thought the strategy teams' involvement would end there.

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#4 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
26/11/2010 11:45

TiV to Human Printer (#3)

Yes, you can believe everything you read on management consultancies' websites. In related news, Porcine Airways launched yesterday with its first flight from London City to Milan Linate.

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#5 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
26/11/2010 11:53

Parro to Human Printer (#3)

That would be a very naive understanding. Nobody (including MBB) does pure corporate strategy consulting - although that may be the focal point and ultimate objective, it makes up a small proportion of projects. There simply isn't a market to sustain it, and the idea it is more a marketing device for the industry (dating back to the MBA boom days) than it has ever been a reality.

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#6 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
26/11/2010 12:08

anon to Parro (#5)

Thought PA merged their SMP practice into the ill-fated BOP (now called POO) some years ago?

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#7 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
26/11/2010 14:33

Human Printer to Parro (#5)

I suppose if you were to ask 3 strategy professionals what the term "pure strategy" meant to them, you would likely get 3 pretty different responses. Sorry for the poor attempt to define what I was trying to get at.

Non "pure" strategic projects, for me, would be along the lines of "find 50m cost savings, through process efficiency, from our European manufacturing division over the next 5 years". Non-strategic in the sense that your work has no direct influence over the direction the client should take in commercial terms, either on a corporate or business level.

So summing up, from the above comments it seems there may be little real difference between strategy consulting and, for example, performance improvement in a firm like ACN...?

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#8 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
27/11/2010 08:37

weekend worker to Human Printer (#7)

Human,

The main difference between PA and ACN is that PA are an independent outfit with no outsourcing arm.

You are right that cross selling may be high on the agenda at ACN, but in PA there is no incentive to act in the interests of the outsourcing dept (because there isn't one).

In terms of pure strategy, I agree with the comments of others - I'd go for the firm where you think you will get the most variety of interesting projects.

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#9 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
09/12/2010 00:48

Annnnnon to weekend worker (#8)

PA's Strategy & Marketing Practice was restructured into the Decision Sciences Practice two years ago. Hence, the name.

I can only assume that was because it wasn't hugely successful.

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#10 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
09/12/2010 02:17

SConsultant to Human Printer (#1)

How strange- I just came her to search for any entry on exactly the same team within PA. My interview is tomorrow and I wonder what your impression was - I assume you have an offer?

I don't have that choice yet, but I also asked myself the same question..

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#11 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
09/12/2010 09:31

Human Printer to SConsultant (#10)

Hi SC,

My impression was quite positive. Friendly people. They talk up their "flat" org. culture and the "freedom through responsibility for consultants" thing in a big way. However, there is often a caveat with what recruiters tell you at interview VS the reality as lived by those working there (nothing new here).

FYI, I just saw there is a related question in the "Leaving PA" thread.

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#12 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
11/12/2010 18:57

ex-PA to Human Printer (#11)

Nice people - but not very successful.

There use to be two partners in the old SMP. One is now PA's Minister Without Portfolio, going around the UK trying to flog a book called Zombie Economy. The other is very operations focussed, and used to run many BOP type jobs.

Neither of them are real strategists.

As for the "flat structure" remarks, that is code for no-one getting promoted to partner in years.

ACN are in a completely different league

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#13 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
12/12/2010 02:22

Human Printer to ex-PA (#12)

Obviously, everybody will have his/her own opinion based on personal experiences. However, if I try to sum up by aggregating insights from this and other threads, I get the following:

- a few ppl say ACN prestige > PA

- a few say they are about the same

- nobody claims PA > ACN

- many ppl lay into PA for being crap

- criticism towards ACN tends to target culture and working hrs. moreso than quality/prestige

Conclusion: ACN > PA

Any holes in my methodology?

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#14 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
12/12/2010 10:47

The Squirrel to Human Printer (#13)

I would just be careful about making career decisions based on perceived quality/prestige. We are not talking about about a choice between ACN/PA and the MBB firms here.

If you're concerned about future prospects, then I would say interviewers are going to be far more interested in what YOU have done, not your firms reputation.

ACN is considerably bigger and will pay you well. PA will probably provide earlier opportunities to get in front of clients and show what you can do. Both firms have their fair share of detractors.

Go to the interviews and make up your own mind about which firm suits you best.

Good Luck!

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#15 RE: ACN vs PA (Strategy)
12/12/2010 12:05

Human Printer to The Squirrel (#14)

Thanks Squirrel. I appreciate your comments.

My problem is that, having interviewed with both, I have come to the following conclusion:

PA people seem more collaborative, suppportive and friendly. It also seems I would have more exposure sooner.

ACN seems to work with bigger, more diverse clients, with more of a focus on "pure" strategy: M&A, divestments, Growth initiatives, etc. than PA.

(I am aware all the above may be false - they are simply my perceptions)

What I am finding hard to figure out is which firm's advantages, as I perceive them, outweigh the other's. I figured if I could gauge which is more respected in the strategy world, in general, then that would sway it for me.

So are we saying that if a recruiter for a nice corporate development role in a large company, for example, gets 2 CVs: ACN Strategy and PA Strategy, respectively, on average neither would win initial brownie points over the other based solely on brand/prestige?

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