Accenture Canada ready to increase its headcount

Business has been picking up lately for Accenture Canada, which is why the services firm plans to hire 550 people — most of them IT professionals — by September 2005, its fiscal year-end.

The Canadian arm of the New York-based company currently employs about 4,800 people, said Martin Chalifoux, a Montreal-based partner with Accenture, which has offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver. He said he expects 80 per cent of the new hires will fill technology-related positions, many of which will require ERP skills. Accenture has an ERP support practice and is an Elite partner for SAP’s Global Business Solutions.

“We will need to probably hire more people than what we predicted,” Chalifoux said. “I have 50 open positions (in ERP) right now but (because of all the work we have) I could double that tomorrow morning.” Accenture has mapped out how many people it wants to recruit each month. At press time, Chalifoux said the firm would need 30 more people over the next six to eight weeks.

Other sought-after tech skills include Java, .Net and systems integration, he said.

The other 20 per cent of new hires will include financial analysts and human performance management specialists who deal with leadership, stewardship and cultural issues in companies going through change, he added. These people will support the IT project teams.

To find the right people, Accenture is using several sources, including its own internal recruiting department, as well as seven search firms. “We also have people in India going through Canadian (employment) Web sites looking at posted CVs.”

He said that so far, Accenture has hired every qualified candidate that has sent in a resume — but “qualified” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. “When people are sending in their CVs, they claim they have three years of SAP, but after we do a phone interview with them, we find that what was written (on the resume) is a little different (from reality).”

Chalifoux said Accenture needs to bring its Canadian head count up to more than 5,300 in order to be in the position to address the needs of both new and long-standing clients across all of the firm’s service lines and business offerings: outsourcing, technology and management consulting.

“We have been seeing lot more growth over what we projected, way over what we were aiming for,” he said. “In Canada…over the last two years (our revenue growth was) more than 50 per cent each year.”

According to Accenture spokesperson Sarah Thompson, government is a big growth engine, and the firm expects to find more opportunities in the health and life sciences arenas, as well as with big banks. “We also have a solid client base that continues to grow,” she said. Accenture’s most recently announced Canadian customer win was in August 2004: a contract with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to design and deploy a global case management system.

Jason Bremner, director, Canadian outsourcing services at Toronto-based research firm IDC Canada, said Accenture ramped up its staff over the last several years through outsourcing contracts. Keeping those numbers low was fine in the flat consulting market in which the firm was playing a few years ago. But now that things have started to pick up, the timing is right for Accenture to start looking for new people.

“It’s a stable and growing business and Accenture can afford to get those people now while the market is ideally situated for hiring. A year from now if the market heats up, it will be more difficult to find top-notch talent and the (salaries) will go up.”

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