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Consultants materialise in cyberspace

`The recession has been no kinder to the large consulting practices than it has to their clients'
MANAGEMENT consultants are constantly extolling the virtues of information technology, so it is perhaps appropriate to find some stars of the game setting up a virtual practice.

Geoffrey Kitt, immediate past president of the Institute of Management Consultants, is one of the four principals behind Minerva Management Consulting, which has just begun operating in three British cities as well as the cyberspace, as it puts it.

Mr Kitt, who is based in Glasgow, previously worked for the consultancy arm of the large accountancy firm Touche Ross. He and his colleagues between them have 55 years' experience with the regional offices of that firm and KPMG. But they say they believe that the future is in smaller organisations.

"The overheads are so high that clients, particularly out of London, are put off by the fee rates. We're building Minerva on that," said Mr Kitt.

But the new firm is also designed to make the most of the opportunities provided by recent developments in technology. "The next few years are going to be frightening for large, conventionally structured enterprises that are unwilling to em- brace the opportunities offered by information technology and networking," he added.

Pointing out that he and his colleagues were working from "well-equipped home offices with communications between us" in Glasgow, Leeds and London, he said that Minerva was designed to be "a model of what is possible".

Fellow director John Scarisbrick added: "The recession has been no kinder to large consulting practices than it has to their clients. The demand for consulting services is moving towards smaller but experienced and imaginative operations.

"They have always been less expensive than big firms but now, through the medium of electronic networks such as the Internet, they can access the diversity of skills and experience which clients demand."

For instance, it is possible to link up with other small organisations offering such services as occupational psychology to market to a wide variety of people in a cost-effective way.

Although only established earlier this year, Minerva has - says its founders - already won a significant volume of work. Among the assignments is an IT project designed to bring a Leeds-based firm of solicitors into the 21st century.

Drawing on this experience, it is planning a seminar for later this year on running professional businesses.

Mr Kitt said: "Our business is concerned with assisting organisations to achieve dramatically improved performance by helping them to invent the futures they want rather than projecting forward the mistakes and missed opportunities of their pasts."