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Analytical Services Reach Full Flower

One of the most astounding developments in analytics over the past several decades is the rise of analytical professional services. Until a couple of years ago, organizations wanting to build and execute analytical applications were largely on their own. Now they’ve got plenty of help. The availability of consultants and integrators with quantitative skills, business acumen, and technological expertise will undoubtedly speed the arrival of what might be called “the age of analytics.”

I’ll mention the Big 3 of analytical services first, in the order in which they announced their practices. Last year IBM Global Services launched its Business Analytics and Optimization (BAO) services, and claims to have over 6000 professionals in the unit. Certainly some of these people are more BI-oriented than analytical, but there is an “Advanced Analytics” subgroup within BAO. It’s probably too early to tell how independent BAO consultants will be from IBM’s growing collection of analytical software offerings, but they claim full objectivity.

Earlier this year Accenture announced Accenture Analytics, a group of consultants who focus on analytical consulting and systems. Like IBM, Accenture has both consolidated existing analytical professionals and hired new ones, both here and offshore. Accenture has announced a close partnership with SAS, and I’m looking forward to hearing Bill Green, Accenture’s CEO (and a two-degree Babson alum!), talk at SAS’s Premier Business Leadership Series in Vegas later this month.

Last week I was happy to be present at the coming-out party for Deloitte Analytics. Deloitte—which announced at the Florida gathering that it’s now the world’s largest professional services firm—is the first of the “Big Four” to make a “Big Push” into analytics. All of the firm’s businesses—consulting, tax, audit, and financial advisory—have analytical initiatives underway, and given its heritage, it seems likely that Deloitte will blaze new ground in such financial domains as “forensic analytics,” fraud reduction, and analytics for the CFO.

In addition to these services behemoths, there are a variety of competent niche players. Cognizant, for example, seems to be the first of the India-centered IT services firms to embrace analytics. Mu Sigma is a growing analytics-only offshore player. Fico (formerly known as Fair Isaac) is doing considerable services work in credit analytics and fraud. Data providers such as Nielsen, Equifax, and IMS Health have also become analytical services providers.

There are undoubtedly some advantages to having lots of analytical folks as your own employees, but they’re also expensive and hard to find. The very rapid rise of professional analytical services providers will make it much easier for any organization with some spare change to get moving with analytics.