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Be Careful You’re Not ‘Big 5’d’

There is a saying in the consulting industry that clients need to be careful they are not “Big 5’d”. This relates to clients succumbing to the allure of the cachet and brand name of the Big 5 firms and the reality that they are subjected to an entourage of junior consultants in numbers on site, all undertaking (essentially) unsupervised, templated work and being focused on their billable hours rather than the outcomes delivered. 

Talk about being Big 5’d …. I lost an opportunity with a prospect recently to a competitor made up of ex-Big 5 consultants because of the bold and grandiose claims they made. I know this sounds like sour grapes but it’s important to understand what you are getting in the ERP industry. Their pitch to the prospect was full of generic uses of all the current buzz words – digital transformation, big data, AI, the fact they were data driven, “we have a large team” etc. 

Having worked with these guys before I went out on my own, I know what’s behind the curtain. What this really means is they have downloaded a spreadsheet of requirements from the internet, had the vendors respond to these requirements, scored them, and added these to the spreadsheet and totalled them, rather than speaking with the client and identifying the key differences in the business. You are really dealing with staff who are learning their trade and following instructions rather than having experienced hands and brains analysing your business in a broader and more strategic context.

I was interested to see a quote from an international ex-Big 5 consultant when they said, “It wasn’t the long hours themselves that bothered me – it was that I didn’t feel like I needed to be billing the client 12-13 hours per day. I probably had about 3-4 hours of actual work on any given day, so I spent a lot of time finding other work to do. Since I was working with a team of about 40 consultants on this one client project, there wasn’t enough work to go around – yet I was still expected to bill the client as much as possible.” And then said … “The Big 5 bias toward SAP was also in conflict with my personal values. For example, my first ERP software evaluation process was rigged to point to an SAP recommendation from day 1.”

Like I said this isn’t sour grapes; there is a more important point to be made here. Remember I have equated the ERP selection and purchase process to sending your 14 year old child down to a used car lot with a blank cheque and asking them to buy a car. What sort of vehicle will they come back with? Be careful where you get your supposedly “independent” advice from.

If you’re an executive or owner of a mid-sized or large company and want to discuss ideas on how you can use systems and technology to dramatically improve efficiency, decrease costs, and increase profits and enhance scalability, give me a call


© David Ogilvie

AI, digital transformation, ERP software

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