The Big Five accounting firms' consulting arms are scrambling to hire skilled software developers and technical managers as they remake themselves to face e-commerce.
In the process they are raiding each other's key personnel and offering staff cash incentives to hunt down software architects, engineers, procurement and e-marketplace specialists.
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, the result of the merger of Ernst & Young's consultancy arm with Cap Gemini, has been placing major IT recruitment notices and confirmed it is offering its staff incentives if they find new employees such as software architects and strategists. Computerworld understands these incentives to be worth as much as $6000 to $10,000 for each person they recruit.
In another example of the IT hiring frenzy, Wellington-based Deloitte Consulting headhunted Ernst & Young's three-strong senior customer relationship management (CRM) team in September.
"We've gone looking for good people with e-business skills and there are not that many around," says Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu chief Alasdair MacLeod, who works closely with his consulting arm.
"There's a chronic lack of skills in these areas," says Deloitte Consulting B2B principal Rod Gallagher.
Andersen Consulting, which will change its name to Accenture in January, is planning to launch a local arm of US-based ally Epylon to use Ariba technology in government procurement in Wellington, with up to 50 staff.
Managing partner Jack Percy says it will require specialised skills.
PricewaterhouseCoopers consulting partner Kevin McCaffrey says his firm has not been raiding other players, but needs to hire between 15 and 20 skilled technical consultants around the country.
He says e-commerce has "really whacked the Big Five" and caused a major change in their business models. He says they have had to change their methodology and move from long time frames to "90-day loops" - a major culture shift.
PwC's consulting arm, which Hewlett-Packard decided against acquiring last week, has changed its corporate structure from having separate strategy, process and technology teams to mixed teams.
All IT consultancies confirm the market has slowed down since September last year when Y2K threatened. Wellington-based firm Azimuth, now called Seranova, laid off many of its staff as it turned to e-business. Key to the shift is the slowdown in the consultancies' traditional bread and butter, ERP implementations.
Gallagher says Deloitte Consulting is cross-training its not-so-busy SAP and package-trained staff in technology such as Ariba, Commerce One and WebMethods after reorganising itself into new business units.
PWC has relocated many its ERP-trained staff to other countries, with its SAP team going to Australia.