James Ashton: Consultants upbeat as they spy green shoots

 

Management consultants regard themselves as a canary down a mine shaft for the economy because when companies want to start spending, they’ll call in the experts first.

If they are to be believed, green shoots will be sprouting soon. Clients in a range of industry sectors are exploring entering new markets and product innovation, they say – all good signs of improving confidence.

The old advertising adage is more appropriate when applied to consultancy: half the money spent on it is wasted – the trouble is clients don’t know which half.

But that hasn’t stopped spending haring away, especially for the Big Four accountancy firms, which have grown back consulting arms after most of them were jettisoned following the Enron scandal that hobbled Arthur Andersen. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ pursuit of the German consultancy Roland Berger will up the ante further.

There is plenty of business to spread around. Some consultants report that even the Government is spending more with them. Don’t tell Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister who was meant to be clamping down on this sort of stuff.

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