Every wise leader seeks council. CEOs, managers and employees must constantly adapt to new forces in the given economic environment. The task at hand today is to deliver more value to customers with lower costs. Consulting firms like Accenture (NYSE:ACN) aim to add value to clients with teams deployed across the globe. Let's look at a couple of consulting and business processing firms for investment ideas.
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What exactly is consulting?
Consulting is the act of providing expert advice towards improving a business process or strategy. Accenture reports revenues across five major segments led by products, communications and high tech, financial services, resources and health and public service while serving many of the Fortune Global 100 among others.

Accenture makes a further distinction by breaking down revenues into consulting services, where a specific deliverable is the end product of an engagement versus outsourcing services, which are longer projects that produce repeatable services.

Accenture reported an 11% decrease in revenues for its first fiscal quarter of 2010 ending November 30, 2009. Accenture cited softening demand as a result of the economic environment for the drop in revenues.

Legal and Economic
FTI Consulting
(NYSE:FCN) emphasizes its global roster of forensic accountants, former political leaders and SEC officials as part of the allure of its consulting practice. FTI Consulting had a strong third quarter ending on September 30, 2009 with strong results being driven by its corporate finance/restructuring segment and record revenues in its economics segment. FTI's revenues overall increased 7.1% for the third quarter over the prior year to $348.6 million.

Technology and Strategy
(NYSE:IBM) also offers consulting services in a wide array of disciplines including strategy and supply chain management. IBM reported a nearly 1% increase in overall revenues for its fourth quarter of 2009 to $27 billion. IBM believes its focus on delivering cost saving solutions like cloud computing, Smarter Planet solutions (using technology to improve the efficiency of daily living) and advanced analytics they will be able to meet the needs of customers in the future.

Business Process and Management
(NYSE:G), a business process outsourcing company, formerly owned by General Electric (NYSE:GE), places a heavy emphasis on Six Sigma and Lean principles. Lean Six Sigma is focused on improving customer satisfaction while lowering costs and required capital. Genpact reported a 5% increase in revenues for its third quarter ending September 30, 2009 to $284.4 million. Genpact reports its fourth quarter earnings on February 5.

Why should I care?
Over the past 12 months ending February 3, 2010, stock prices for Accenture and IBM are each up 26% and 34% while Genpact and FTI Consulting are each up 77% and 106% respectively. Consulting companies benefit from helping their clients become more innovative while focusing on delivering cost-saving measures in today's belt-tightening economic environment. (For more, check out Consulting - Everyone's Doing It, Should You?)

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