Capgemini Consulting, a specialist in strategy and transformation, is about to transform its own strategy for the second time in two years. To cope with the change, the company plans to recruit up to 1,000 staff this year, predominantly younger workers with social media and "digital transformation" skills, although it expects other staff to leave.
Another French consulting and services company, Atos Origin, has similar designs for a social media transformation: Chairman and CEO Thierry Breton wants to eliminate internal e-mail from the company within three years, replacing it with social platforms, he announced in February. "E-mail is on the way out as the best way to run a company and do business," he said.
It's not just e-mail that's on the way out, in the opinion of Pierre-Yves Cros, global head of Capgemini Consulting.
For much of the last decade, consulting was about "bright people knowing how to do analytics," according to Cros. Selling their services is getting harder, though, as many of Capgemini's clients have recruited similar bright analysts for themselves.
The market has changed in other ways too: A lot of consulting work used to involve collecting data, but, "Now, that can be done in a few minutes searching the Web," said Cros.
If consultants are to cure the growing malaise in their relationships with their clients, then they will have to offer "a new kind of consulting," according to Cros -- one that focuses less on productivity improvements and cost cutting and more on innovation, understanding customers, and risk management.
"A lot of work has been done on efficiency, and not enough on the customer side," he said.
Companies that want to remain competitive can't just go on cutting costs and corners: they need to change the way they learn about their customers' needs, he said. That will involve looking outside the ERP (enterprise resource planning) system and exploiting social media such as Facebook or Twitter, and other new tools.
Cros expects to recruit 800 to 1,000 consultants this year, mostly younger candidates already familiar with the newer technologies. "Younger recruits understand what we mean, we don't have to train them in these new tools -- but we still need experienced people," he said.
The net effect on salaries is hard to call. Moving down the pyramid of ages tends in general to drive average salaries down, but offering new services will allow Capgemini Consulting to charge more, and so better compensate its staff, Cros said.
"We believe that the value perceived is much higher than classical consulting," he said. "It's more about payment for value delivered rather than cost-plus," he said.
Of course, 1,000 new recruits doesn't mean 1,000 new jobs. Cros won't say how many he expects to leave as the division transforms itself, but notes: "Some people will not feel comfortable with this new consulting model."
Capgemini's last big shake-up in its consulting activities was in April 2009, when it brought them all together under Cros' leadership. Previously, they were attached to national or regional business units.
Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at email@example.com.