Huh, Really? Accenture Claims Its Digital Services Unit Is Worth About $7 Billion

BobBarrAccentureAccenture’s digital services group Accenture Interactive “never set out to disrupt the agency relationship,” said Bob Barr, its managing director and global B2B commerce lead, but that’s pretty much what’s happening.

“Just from a digital perspective, we’re a [roughly $7] billion agency,” Barr said. “When I tell that to people, they just stop and go, ‘Huh. Really?’”

Like a hub with spokes, Accenture comprises five business groups: strategy, technology, operations and digital, with consulting at the core.

The consulting practice is populated by vertical industry experts, whether that’s financial services, the food industry, the public sector, CPG, automotive, manufacturing or what have you.

Client leads take charge of specific accounts and call on the other units as needed, whether that’s enterprise IT solutions from the strategy group, implementing management software for the likes of Oracle and Microsoft via the technology crew, hosting websites through the operations crowd or providing end-to-end agency services and analytics as part of its digital offering.

Digital within Accenture includes everything from crafting digital strategy plans, designing and delivering websites and developing mobile apps to SEM, social media, affiliate marketing, media buying, hosting and operating backend infrastructure.

“About the only things we don’t do are print and television,” Barr said.

Barr claims that’s how Accenture sets itself apart, by getting paid on a rev share basis tied back to sales and ROI.

“It’s very transparent, and that’s fairly atypical in the agency world,” Barr said.

AdExchanger caught up with Barr for a peek inside Accenture Interactive.

AdExchanger: What should people know about you guys?

BOB BARR: Most people know us because they see signage in airports when they’re traveling. But we’re a $31 billion global company with almost 400,000 employees.

The consulting practice has deep industry experts who really understand what’s going on in particular businesses, and they can bring in other experts from our various business units to help with whatever the client needs, whether that’s someone who knows about digital strategy or someone who knows about back-office systems.

Like an agency?

We’re different from a digital agency because our account leads can call on more than just digital agency resources. They have access to enterprise architecture planning, logistics, IT, technology strategy, campaign management, et cetera. Each business unit is a service organization that can be called upon for individual engagements and client relationships as part of the primary PNL.

You’re focusing on the B2B space. How do you advise clients to approach it?

If we’re talking about small and medium-sized businesses, then they need to be treated like consumers. They’re extremely busy running their businesses by day, and by the time they get around to researching and buying from you at night, they’re probably sitting on the couch after putting the kids to bed. They’re also probably using a mobile device. A lot of them are millennials, and they’re not usually sitting at desks in offices from 9 to 5.

Speaking of mobile, are discrete apps on the way out? People just aren’t downloading as many apps as they used to, and what they do download often sits unused in the proverbial app graveyard.

Beyond that, we’re also increasingly seeing individuals actively cleaning up that app graveyard because they don’t know what those apps are doing in the background.

What it often still comes down to is a question of app versus responsive design and what makes sense for whoever your customers are. There are also cases where the best thing to do is partner with an existing app rather than make one of your own.

Regardless, I see the smartphone as a way to facilitate the present-day impulse buy, whether that’s through an app or not. It used to be racks of candy bars and magazines when you were standing in line at the grocery store, and now in the digital world, it’s about reaching people in the moment, on the only device they’re almost guaranteed to have on them at all times.

Update 8/21: Accenture said its digital services unit is in the $7 billion range. The article has been edited to reflect that correction.

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