Taking the “big bang” approach to business transformation
by Molly Rose Teuke, August 2008
Eric Tirlemont’s mission statement for his company’s consulting focus is as brief as it is lofty: transformation. “We want to be the largest independent transformation consulting company,” he says. Not long ago, he might have added “in France,” where Ineum Consulting was launched in 2002. But in 2007, Ineum opened offices in Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and New York City, with five more opening in new locations by year-end 2008. The company grew by 15 percent last year, reaching US$160 million in consulting revenue, with internal growth of more than 10 percent projected for each of the next three years.
Ask Tirlemont, one of Ineum’s founding partners, what a focus on transformation means and how it differs from strategy, and he says it depends on the client. “Most of our clients have two cycles of evolution. They want to either grow or reduce costs, and most of them want to do both at the same time. They want to grow organically or internationally, and they want to launch more products and at the same time keep their HR or payroll costs under control. They always need to prioritize and define what’s most important for them at a given moment. What we do is help them make the right decision in this process.
“Let’s say you want to get into a particular market in a particular country. That’s strategy, and that’s done by the client or a strategy shop. Then the transformation comes: In order to go into this market, what do you do? Do you create a subsidiary? Do you create a joint venture? Do you start with an alliance with a potential partner or a potential competitor to mutualize investments going into this country? We help clients identify the right approach and go through the legal, finance, IT, and management processes, and we project-manage it until it’s done.”
Another strategy might be the restructuring of a significant business process, says Tirlemont. When Ineum customer TGV (Train á Grande Vitesse), the French rail operator that runs France’s high-speed rail, set out to revamp their finance structure, it chose Oracle’s PeopleSoft. That meant revisiting its chart of accounts and the methods it had in place for budgeting and reporting, which in turn had a significant impact on personnel.
“You have thousands of accountants, and now PeopleSoft is live and you don’t need those accountants anymore. What do you do with them? You need to transform your organization to either make them redundant or turn them into controllers. So we need to train them, to coach them, to define new jobs, to look at the retirement plan and see if it’s compliant with the project plan, and so on and so forth. That is transformation. The larger the organization, the longer it’s going to take.”
Applying Lessons Learned
Ineum’s strong growth and comprehensive view of transformation would suggest that the company is very good at what it does. But when Ineum itself set out on a course of transformation, management learned just how much it did—and didn’t—know.
Ineum was created as a spin-off of Deloitte Consulting in 2002, when post-Enron regulatory changes in France prohibited Deloitte from continuing its consulting services in that country. Within four years, it had become France’s largest professional services firm. Ineum continued to rely on Deloitte for hosting its information systems until, in late summer 2005, further regulation prohibited even that connection. By June 2006, Ineum had to be completely independent from Deloitte. Ineum faced a pressing opportunity to transform processes and organizational structure around its growing leadership position as a consulting-only professional services firm. That meant choosing a new ERP system, implementing it, and transforming the company around it, all in record time. The other driver for transformation was its path in an international market. It had momentum and didn’t want to lose it.