2001, a business strategy

WITH the New Year bringing the Millennium a step closer, Andersen Consulting is seeking to help existing clients and other multinational companies to realise what they must do to prosper in the coming decade and beyond, writes Roger Trapp.

Dubbed "The Third Millennium Forum", the initiative is not the only one of its kind. The consulting arm of the Stanford Research Institute last year announced its own "Business in the Third Millennium" programme. But Andersen is hoping that it can use the information technology expertise it has amassed to guide senior executives through the challenges ahead.

The forum, developed at the firm's Windsor operation and launched this month, will concentrate on management teams from the automotive, electronic and high-tech industries in the UK and Europe. At its heart is a multimedia environment designed to help managers find their way through the specific issues facing them.

Andrew Berger, a partner in the firm and director of "The Third Millennium Forum", says: "It is physically impossible for senior executives to solve their problems by working harder or longer hours. What they must do is work smarter."

The forum creates an environment that enables them to concentrate on what is "vital to the survival and growth of their organisation by helping them navigate through a landscape of relevant knowledge, grouped for easy navigation into knowledge objects", says Mr Berger.

Like the Stanford initiative, a fundamental aim of the project is to create an exclusive club of forward-thinking companies which can steal a march on competitors by gaining access to the latest information and best practice, and to identify other leading companies with whom they can explore strategic alliances.

Among companies that have given their backing to the initiative and contributed state-of-the-art products for use in the workshops are Compaq, Psion, Toshiba, NEC and Tektronics. Mr Berger and his team are also holding discussions with several other companies.

One of the ideas behind the venture is to use the latest information technology to encourage executives to arrive at the right decisions more quickly and more directly. Andersen Consulting says that executives who have had sneak previews of the forum are enthusiastic: one apparently likened it to "a mixture between business school and the Tardis".

The firm has already found increasing evidence of a divide between the best multinationals and the rest. Mr Berger says: "The best are quicker to spot the trigger points of future opportunities."