It has been a while since I checked Accenture Global Services Ltd. patent activity. To be honest, I was intrigued by the mention of them in the current cover story of Fortune, where the author, Allan Sloan, described them as a “never here” company for U.S. taxpaying purposes. It was not a flattering reference.
This week, the usually prolific company was awarded a modest four patents, two of which were related to Cloud processing. Of the remaining two, the one that was most intriguing is Patent 8,781,882 (“Automotive Industry High Performance Capability Assessment.”) A computer-based capabilities assessment tool, it intends to analyze, assess and report on “marketing leading” capabilities of automobile manufacturers. The motivation is to identify and exploit competitive advantage while exposing inefficiencies in a company’s processes.
Let’s keep in mind that Accenture is a consulting company, and such a tool gives it significant advantage when competing for engagements from the auto makers. Accenture, unique among its main competitors, is an aggressive patentee around processes that broadly cover major markets such as automotive, aerospace, city development and healthcare.
According to Patent Buddy, Accenture has, as of July 8th’s awards, been granted 1,014 patents. Accenture is ranked 10 on the 2014 Vault Consulting 50 list. Compare its award record with the nine companies ahead of it in the listing: McKinsey (none), Bain and Co. (none), The Boston Consulting Group (none), Booz and Co. (none), PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) with a total of 20 (!), Oliver Wyman (none), Deloitte Consulting (10), The Parthenon Group (none) and A.T. Kearney (none).
I have taken the time to go through the top 10 because it highlights patenting as a key differentiator for Accenture. In fact, some observers have pointed out its intent to become a software company. Another way to see this is by taking a glance at a recent snapshot of its patent applications, as of June of this year. It is all about processes and technology that can be deployed as software, either for its own use in its consulting services areas, or as applications that can be sold as traditional software.
As recently as Oct. 8, 2013, at Accenture’s Investor & Analyst Conference, held in New York, the senior general and technology management went into great detail around the theme of “Capturing New Waves of Growth”. Reading the transcript it becomes very clear that Accenture sees itself more of a solutions’ design and deployment business for its 40 practice areas (markets). Here is how Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s CTO, described the company’s identity:
“Well, the way I think about it is innovation is really at the core of who we are, of who Accenture is as a company, and it’s really the essence of the Accenture Way of how we operate in our culture. And as technology cycles increase, we talk about digital, we talk about SMAC, the industrial Internet – lots of things changing very fast. The way we innovate is very important, but innovation isn’t just my job or just any one person’s job or any one organization’s job atAccenture. Innovation is part of a lot of what we do and something that permeates a lot of our organization.” (pg. 22)
To my mind, Accenture’s orientation is more in line with GE, which staked a founder’s claim in the Industrial Internet Consortium. Interestingly enough, you will find Accenture in the member’s list. Only one of its top 10 consulting competitors, Deloitte, can be found among the movers and shakers creating the connected industrial infrastructure that will shape our world in the decade ahead.
You can bet that I will be paying closer attention to Accenture going forward.