STEP Consulting

STEP Consulting
Business Consulting. Organization development

About Us
Contact Us
Prepared by STEP CONSULTING, Moscow, Russia
Published in "Litza Bisnesa" ("The Faces of Business") 7/1 (124), July 2006

Russian consulting market review

Russian consulting business history

There was no management consulting business in Russia before market reforms: a country with a centralized planning and distribution system needed no professional management advisors. The situation changed dramatically as market transformation began and the responsibility for decision making passed to individual companies. Finding themselves in a totally new economic environment, managers faced a great deal of problems that generated a huge demand for management advice. However, it took years for this potential demand to be transformed into solvent one.

World's top consulting companies came to Russia virtually at the same time, early in the nineties. Generally, their initial goal was to simply follow their multinational customers, which needed qualified advice as to the then perplexed and ever changing post-Soviet economy in transition. Nevertheless, most of consulting fees started to come from numerous technical assistance projects implemented in Russia both as part of bilateral intergovernmental relations and from international organizations. Consulting projects were financed either through loans provided by international organizations and foreign foundations or free grants awarded by Western countries to develop Russian economics. Up until 1996-1997 revenues from technical assistance exceeded 80% of the consultancy fees received by Russian subsidiaries of the Big Five. Such domination of non-profit projects funded with various budgets was one of the specific features at the beginning of the Russian consulting services market.

The majority of projects were intended to develop the infrastructure of market relations (including mass privatization, laying foundations of the stock market and mechanisms of small business support). However, owing to a small part of other projects mainly relating to post-privatization restructuring, a limited number of Russian companies received virtually free access to the services provided by world's leading consulting companies.

Another factor featuring the initial period of the development in the Russian management consulting market was dominance of the largest international consulting companies which faced no competition whatsoever with domestic firms. This factor, however, had a very weak and short-term affect under the circumstances when most of potential Russian customers were initially not prepared to pay overpriced, as they saw it, services offered by foreign advisors. As early as the mid-90s, hundreds of domestic consulting companies entered the Russian market, the largest of which were comparable in terms of manpower with representative offices of international consulting networks.

The 1998 crisis hit both local and foreign participants in the consulting services market. In the face of a drastically aggravating financial situation even the largest industrial companies and banks cut off their external advisors costs first. Not much of a help was international technical assistance, which was reduced largely by 1997. Despite extreme contraction of the consulting market, its basic players managed to retain their positions. Domestic companies responded to such contraction in business conditions by reducing considerably their overhead costs and professional fee rates. Many of the world leading foreign companies (McKinsey & Company, Bein, Boston Consulting Group, Arthur D. Little) chose either to shut down their representative offices or minimize their presence in Russia. The Big Five companies, which were able to manoeuvre through their less affected audit business as well as selling antirecessionary consulting products, reduced some of their consulting units, not many though.

It was the post-crisis period that the Russian consulting market first saw a rapid growth driven by a virtually internal factor free from any external financial support (Diagram 1 is an illustration of post-crisis development in the management consulting segment).

Diagram 1. Growth in revenues generated by Russian companies from management consulting services (USD million)

Source: Managers Association, 2004.

According to a review by Expert RA of the Russian consulting market, in 2000, the market of consulting services provided by Russian advisors increased 60% in volume to reach nearly $200 million. Record-breaking growth rates were reported in 2002 as well, when enterprises fully recovered from the post-crisis shock, and consulting business turned from a survival means into a sort of an element of image. (Expert RA, 2005)

At that time, Russian consulting industry saw, besides the evident growth, the beginning of formation of a series of important parameters thereby getting it closer to the situation in the consulting markets of the major developed countries.

First, the demand for management consulting started to depend upon large national companies and banks rather than foreign customers.

Second, a strong and dynamic sector of domestic consulting companies emerged rapidly along with the "foreign sector" in the Russian consulting industry; domestic companies had got quite a considerable share in the Russian market and competed successfully in some business lines with multinational giants.

Third, the product structure in the Russian consulting market began to approach the parameters of mature markets. While in the mid-90s the market was dominated by operational consulting products related to arrangement of some aspects of financial management, very soon all basic lines of management consulting emerged in the market including strategic and information system consulting and even e-business consulting.

And, finally, the Russian consulting market began to approach mature markets in terms of price parameters.

Current situation in the russian consulting services market

General market performance

According to a survey conducted by 'Kommersant Dengi' (100 largest consulting companies including two companies of the Big Four), the consulting services market almost doubled in growth in 2005 to reach RUB 31.49 billion against RUB 17.72 billion in 2004 (Kommersant Dengi, 2006). Expert RA reports comparable data (the sample included 149 companies, exclusive of the Big Four): RUB 37 billion in 2005 against RUB 24 billion in 2004, a growth of 54%. (Diagram 2)

Diagram 2. Comparative data on annual growth in the consulting services market, RUB billion.


How close are the activities of both surveys to the real sales volume in the Russian consulting services market? In an effort to obtain better estimates, at least the following factors should be taken into account:

1.     Non-participation or occasional participation in surveys (for various reasons) not only of a great number of small and medium-size (Acsion, Verysell-6, etc.) and large players in the Russian consulting market, including such western market participants as BearingPoint, Boston Consulting Group, Roland Berger, Accenture.

2.     Most of the Russian companies tend to underestimate their sales volumes in their official reports.

3.     Rating agencies report deviations in the data given by companies most frequent of which is recognition the results of other business lines as the results of consulting services (in order to get up in the rating).

4.     Many small companies, which are not rated in the list of top 100 or 150 large companies, are normally not included into surveys (according to the data available, a total of about 3 thousand consulting companies are operating in Russia).

According to Alexander Gorin, Accenture Moscow Office Director, international researchers of the Russian consulting market are also facing serious problems, and the market volume figures they publish may differ up to two or three times. However, if absolute values received by analysts are found to be considerably distorted, then their inferences on structural and dynamic characteristics of the market look more reliable.

The Expert RA's data on developments in various sectors of the consulting market over a five-year period (Expert RA, 2006) are shown in Diagram 3; while Diagram 4 provides similar types of data for the last three-year period reported by Kommersant Dengi (Kommersant Dengi, 2006)

Diagram 3

Source: Expert RA

Diagram 4

Source:  Kommersant Dengi, 2006

According to UNIPRAVEX (Finance, 2005), the Russian consulting market had the following regional structure at the end of 2004 year  (Diagram 5)

Diagram 5

Source: Unipravex, 2005.

Speaking about different consulting sectors in the market, the following market structure was formed at 2005 year-end, by the survey conducted by Expert RA agency (Diagram 6)

Diagram 6

Source: Expert RA

Basic change vectors

Growth in the marketing and PR market. The segment of marketing and PR services shows outstripping growth rates in comparison with the consulting market. The top-10 companies in this sector increased their sales volumes almost 2.5 times in 2002, more than 70% in 2003 and almost one third in 2004. In 2005, total volume of the segment (150 largest consulting companies) doubled (Expert RA). It seems that the world market specific trends and laws have emerged in Russia as well: competition has been getting stronger, products of different companies have become less distinguished between each other, and such approach as "price wars" and profit reduction has been proven fruitless. Under the circumstances the fight for customers has increasingly been switching from price and consumer value "battlefields" to the "battlefield" of more sophisticated mind-influencing techniques.

Growth in the HR consulting market. The market of HR management consulting services is one of the most rapidly developing consulting segments. Sales volumes of these services of the Top 10 HR consulting leading companies grew by almost four times in 2002 and by more than 1.5 times in 2003. The demand for HR services provided by the leading advisors slowed downed in 2004 and then grew by almost 2.5 times in 2005 (Expert RA).

Search for top-managers as well as services related to personnel appraisal, selection and training, headcount optimization, personnel reserve training, creation of a system of incentives and retention of valued employees have increasingly been demanding. These processes are well in line with global trends: requirements for personnel qualification and experience have been demanding all over the world in a period of increasing business complexity and escalating competition, especially in Russia, where markets have increasingly been changing thereby demanding for skilled personnel, in particular managers. Business owners have become aware of that personnel, above all managers, are the key resource. The issue is getting more significant, as founders and owners of businesses wish to withdraw as soon as possible from day-to-day management.

The challenge for Russian managers is combined with "local specifics" interfering with direct introduction of foreign practice and manager training systems into the domestic practice. To date, no nation-wide educational technologies of manager training have been developed in Russia. In the face of the issue of "non-reproducible resources", the Russian business has increasingly been depending upon services provided by head-hunters and "talents-search-and-train" specialists.

Integration of traditional consulting and IT services into the field of informatization. In Western countries, a boom related to corporate management automation started late in the 1980s, when information consulting became a sort of a locomotive drawing the entire consulting industry. The same processes started in Russia 10-15 years later, where informatization not only led to drastic changes in the structure of the consulting market and the composition of its basic players, but also the scope of advisors business.

In Russia, automation came to large and medium-size businesses in the mid-90s and early in the 2000s respectively. Passing through a period of failed or delayed and ineffective introductions of ERP-systems into companies lacking streamlined management and processes, IT had to expand the range of their services: prior to introduction of management software, based on streamlining and re-engineering they simply put in order their management, formalized the existing processes and document management. It was found out that in order to fully introduce ERP-systems and turn them into a real competitive advantage, it is compulsory to resolve issues related to strategic planning, organizational development, financial management, which used to be quite extraneous for IT industry sectors. Therefore, automation at domestic enterprises came to be only the tip of the iceberg, the final stage of a set of measures aimed at enhancing manageability and transparency of companies. In fact, the entire pool of traditional consulting business lines, which is one way or another related to management (save for legal consulting, tax consulting and valuation), began to introduce automation. Labour consuming, complicated by the necessity to "invert the soil", but fully introduced informatization provides businesses with absolute advantages such as transparency, manageability and power of manoeuvre, high-quality customer service. ERP becomes a sort of a "nervous system" of the company, a leading management vehicle to which all other management aspects are bound. It has become evident that the better informatization, the less management consulting ignores the IT component of management.

It is the year of 2000 that can be considered the beginning of IT companies expansion into the field of "traditional" business-consulting, when IT companies were for the first time rated in the consulting market. At that time a series of leading "system integrators" began to hire "traditional" advisors as full-time staff-members, create in-house "traditional" consulting units and position themselves not only as IT market players but also as management advisors. IT companies foster growth in the consulting market; consulting services began to cover the entire industries which previously never received consulting services. As early as the end of 2003, the list of top-10 leading participants in the consulting market included seven IT companies. By the end of 2004, four of the top-5 leaders in strategic planning and organizational development (Compulink, Razvitie Biznes-Sistem, IBS and IT) were ITs, and four ITs were rated among the top-10 companies providing HR management services (IT, IBS, Razvitie Biznes-Sistem, Borlas). In the period between 2003 and 2005, financial management services of such companies as IBS and Razvitie Biznes-Sistem grew in volumes much faster against the previous "traditional" consulting leaders as well as the consulting market as a whole.

Therefore, we are witnessing integration of IT consulting and traditional consulting, in which case corporate management automation, which is the "crown" of consulting on the one hand, and the most expensive service on the other hand, have been turning into a system-wide component of the entire management consulting.

Is there any expansion of "traditional" advisors to the field of management automation? Indeed, such expansion has been attempted. Meanwhile, IT service revenues of "traditional" advisors are still small in absolute figures against sales volumes of the giants entered the IT industry. It should be noted that it is only those of "traditional" ones, which initially had in-house IT units that attempted to penetrate the growing IT consulting market. There is no evidence that any of consulting companies established "from scratch" in-house IT lines after 2000. It is obvious that the market situation is asymmetric and opposing to "traditional" consulting: the price of penetrating the IT consulting market is too high, and for a system integrator it is much easier to establish a traditional consulting line than for a traditional consulting company, especially a small one, to arrange for introduction and maintenance of management software.

Consulting market in 2005

Expert RA points to the fact that a slow drift towards IT services, which emerged in the consulting market in 2001, gave way to an explosive growth in 2005: in 2005 a share of this sector grew from 45.7% to 54% of the total consulting market volume. Over the same year revenues from IT increased more than 67%, while revenues from other types of consulting grew not more than 19%. It should be noted that the Kommersant Dengi reports even more sensational figures of growth in annual revenues in the IT consulting sector: from RUB 5.48 billion to RUB 12.39 billion (Kommersant Dengi, 2006).

The experts (Expert RA) point to recession in the sectors of strategic and financial consulting against an explosive growth in ITs' revenues: annual revenues of strategic advisors grew not more than 9.9% (against 48% in 2004); annual growth in the financial management services sector was 12.5% (Diagram 7).

Diagram 7

Source: Expert RA, 2006

Growth rates in legal and tax consulting slowed down as well. Revenues of legal advisors increased mere 25%, which is 18 p.p. less year on year. Annual revenues of tax advisors increased 29%.

Rapid growth in the IT sector and sluggish development in other consulting sectors began to provide serious changes in the market structure. What is the reason behind it? According to the experts, the foregoing growth is caused by reorganization of industries and large enterprises in an effort to penetrate international capital markets: investors require that they bring their internal control and financial accounting systems to the level which can't be reached unless ERP-systems are introduced. The demand for multipurpose consulting projects with compulsory IT component (Expert RA) increased sharply.

Meanwhile, in 2005, multipurpose, which means "IT-intensive", projects were growing increasingly in scale at large enterprises with a large share of state participation, such as Gazprom, Svyazinvest, etc. (IBS). Banks demanded more IT advisors services as well: until recently only a few large Russian banks had modern western information systems. Today IT solutions based on the universally applied technology platforms have increasingly been in demand. This enhances operating efficiency of banks.

According to the experts (Expert RA, 2006), reduction in a share of strategic and financial sectors in the total structure of the consulting market is a flat tendency of the last few years, which was accelerated as early as 2005. One of the reasons behind it is qualified personnel shortfall, which is not least due to transfer of specialists to western consulting companies operating in Russia. Therefore, western competitors also obtain market shares in these sectors of consulting services. Investment companies and banks with newly established in-house consulting departments started to seriously compete with consulting companies.

The analysts (Expert RA) explain that such polar market sectors as legal and tax consulting sectors show losses in their development and reduction in their market share due to competitive pressure by international legal firms, which is getting heavier in the field of both struggle for customers and skilled specialists. It should be noted that in 2005, driven by the demand, legal advisors endeavoured to meet western standards to satisfy business efforts in improving transparency and effectiveness as these terms are defined by western countries (which couldn't but require extra resources). Another reason was reinforcement of large Russian corporations with full-time tax specialists.

According to the researchers (Expert RA), besides a rapid growth in production consulting, marketing and PR services doubled their growth against 37% in 2004 and HR management services grew almost 90%, after two years of inactivity.

The demand for marketing and PR consulting services increased due to stabilization in most of customer markets, growing competition at industries, increased customer demands, decreased turnover growth rates and profitability of enterprises. It is mostly medium-size businesses that demand for such services, as well as in other segments of the consulting market. According to the experts, the key clients of marketing and PR services are financial sector, oil production industry, chemical sector, food production industry. The range of services has widened considerably as well: besides market surveys, advisors often have to implement international image projects, provide information support and PR-support of events, develop communication strategies. With regard to changes in priorities in the structure of services provided by marketing specialists, the key issue is focused on brand-management irrespective of customer's industrial specialization. A share of branding-related projects has been increased. Over the last five years a number of domestic companies have managed to bring to and fix absolutely independent Russian brands in the market. These companies are now facing new issues on the future of the brands in the course of mergers and diversifications of businesses.

Commenting on rapidly increased demand for HR consulting services, the researches point to the facts as follows. Large corporations have increasingly been aware of the need to establish in-house personnel training systems (Expert RA, 2006). Unlike the previous years, when personnel training used to be regarded as important but not prioritized element, today managers of Russian companies realize the relationship between training standards and labour productivity and business efficiency. HR management services have increasingly been requested by top-managers and business owners, and not just HR directors and HR service specialists, which makes the current situation quite different from what was two years ago. Today, Russian companies (not only western companies), as well as medium-size businesses (not only large companies and holding-companies), which require services from HR management advisors, have increasingly been growing in number. Personnel leasing and provision of seasonal personnel have becoming popular in the field of HR consulting due to qualified personnel shortfall in general.