December 2020 | Q&A Spotlight

One on one with West Monroe's Marc Tanowitz

IT Strategy & BPO Managing Director Marc Tanowitz discusses his experience, challenges and opportunities for the practice, and how it will help clients

This article originally appeared in Consulting Magazine.

Business and technology consulting firm West Monroe recently acquired Washington, D.C.- based IT and business services transformation and outsourcing advisory firm Pace Harmon, the biggest acquisition for the firm in its 18-year history. Joining West Monroe from Pace Harmon is Managing Director, IT Strategy & BPO Marc Tanowitz, a 26-year veteran whose experience runs the gamut from consumer business, travel, life sciences, aerospace, and defense. He’s also led a number of successful technology and business transformation projects across the globe. We caught up with Tanowitz to talk about his transition from Pace Harmon to West Monroe, clients’ biggest ongoing IT & BPO challenges, and plans for growth of the practice.

Consulting: What in your background and career led to your new position as managing director at West Monroe?

Tanowitz: I started my career at Deloitte in the late 1990s and spent an enjoyable six-plus years there. When they decided not to separate their audit and consulting business it created an opportunity: Deloitte’s outsourcing advisory services were very focused on the transactional piece and didn’t often take the high-level strategic view and incorporate a perspective on the business objectives that needed to be solved. We knew we could create more value for enterprises by bringing deep IT and functional expertise along with a strategic sourcing competency. This approach provided the right content and structure to make the sourcing transactions successful—in a way that sets up companies for success, not surprises. I never thought I’d leave Deloitte, but instead did just that in 2003 when I helped start Pace Harmon. We grew to a 75-plus person firm and in November 2020, West Monroe acquired us. Now I lead the consulting areas that are new to West Monroe including IT and business process strategy, transformation, and outsourcing

Consulting: What will you be doing in the early days of your new role? 

Tanowitz: The most important task for me during these early days is to help legacy Pace Harmon employees understand our part in this organization. That can be as tactical as how we forecast and track our time in a new system, making sure people are making the right benefits decision, and making sure they understand their new career possibilities. The other important task is to very quickly help the rest of West Monroe get to know our capabilities and the value we drive to our clients. West Monroe has many services and serves many sectors—cross-selling these new services to existing clients is going to be key to our success. We’ve had a great deal of success initially: Past clients have reached out to West Monroe speaking fondly of Pace Harmon and we are able to offer a whole suite of new services—this is opening new doors for us all. 

Consulting: How will the practice fit into West Monroe’s overall consulting strategy?

Tanowitz: West Monroe takes a multidisciplinary approach to consulting, bringing together three primary groups of people to form an engagement team: industry experts, functional experts, and technologists. This multidisciplinary approach matched very well with our delivery model. We focus on the same industries—and we both take an issues-led approach to consulting, meaning we devise incredibly unique solutions that address the heart of the business issues our clients are facing. The practice also gets to play a role in a key development area for West Monroe: The firm wants to grow and harden its brand among CIOs and the rest of the C-suite, and our services are almost always purchased by that group. We’re providing another doorway for the firm. 

Consulting: What are your plans to grow the practice? Will you be staffing up or is headcount about where you want it to be?

Tanowitz: We have a hiring plan. Pace Harmon historically operated at a higher level of utilization than West Monroe does, and it was always a limiter to our growth. Spending all our time delivering for clients meant we didn’t have the time to invest in growth or develop people and their careers. Now being a part of the firm, we’re thrilled to reduce utilization just enough to allow for more senior people to focus on business development and not just client delivery. We’ll hire about 10 new people in the next year to support that transition. For our practice, longer-term growth is going to be based on cross-selling into existing West Monroe clients while increasing business with our own clients. We’re planning to grow our revenue by at least 10% as a practice from 2020 to 2021.

Consulting: What sort of IT Strategy/BPO challenges do you expect clients will be asking for the most help for in this climate?

Tanowitz: Clients are going to continue to ask us to drive more productivity through their operations and savings to their bottom line. They love long-term savings and transformation—and put a lot of pressure on us to fund those transformations with near-term savings.  We’re really good at this. The near-term savings are typically driven by projects such as IT infrastructure and application health checks. Our clients count on us to ensure that their vendor agreements are structured to match their consumption. For instance, are telecom data services properly architected to enable capacity and costs to scale with the business? We can typically drive 10% to 20% savings within 8 weeks. Then, the long-term work begins with migrations to the cloud, replatforming technologies, and changing the way IT business services functions support end-users, among other areas. This pandemic has required near-term savings and long-term digital transformation of nearly all companies, so we’re really well-positioned to serve the market. 

Consulting: How large of a practice area will yours be compared to some of West Monroe’s other areas? Any headcount or revenue goals you can share?

Tanowitz: Our practice has about 75 people today, but we’re also a part of a larger Operations Excellence practice that has more than 250 consultants. The entire firm is aiming to grow 30% in 2021. We’re excited to be a part of that.

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