Stronger together: why Zag said ‘Yes’ to Accenture
May 4, 2021
In just 9 years, Zag CEO, Nick Mulcahy, led the company from the smallest to the biggest in New Zealand’s SAP market and cross-country into Australia and the US. Every year, he knocked back offers to buy the phenomenal SAP house. Then Accenture turned up on his doorstep.
I was born and bred in New Zealand and I’m currently based in Auckland with my wife, Helen, my teenage daughters, Anastasia and Nikita, and our three dogs. I met Helen at work on an SAP project. She’s an incredibly loving, giving person. Not just an amazing mum but constantly helping out family and friends and working for community organisations like the Guide Dog Foundation.
Anastasia’s my eldest. One year off uni and just like me in looks and personality. Nikita’s like her mum – quirky and full of laughs. People often roll their eyes about teenage girls, but we’ve been lucky. They’re both beautiful girls, inside and out – just really great kids.
Ever since I graduated as a control systems engineer I’ve been helping companies to implement SAP. Eventually, I decided to explore the consulting world and, 18 years ago, I joined the company that eventually became Zag. I started as a senior consultant in 2003. By 2008, I was on the leadership team. Four years later I led a management buy-out and became CEO.
Since then, the business has doubled in size every 2-3 years. Our 80 people have grown to 230 across 3 countries and revenues have tripled. From being the little guys in New Zealand’s SAP world, we’re now the biggest, with a market share north of 70% and a growing footprint in Australia.
I’d love to tell you this success is all down to my stellar leadership, but in fact it’s our passion for hiring great people, fostering an awesome company culture and delivering great customer outcomes. Our talent strategy is to “hire the best and give them the tools to grow”. So we have extremely high calibre people – experts in their field. We’re also famous for going the extra mile and working as one team with our customers. If mistakes happen, we’ll own it and make it right. If you talk to our customers, they’ll tell you: “On a project, you can’t tell who is from Zag and who is from our organisation. Zag’s consultants integrate and work as one team with our people, demonstrating the same high level of dedication and commitment to the project’s success.”
So, by 2020, we were in a great place. But I was aware we were approaching a growth ceiling. As a pure SAP house, we didn’t have the management consulting and change management skills needed to deliver large scale business transformation programs. We found that we needed the support of one of the Big 5 consulting firms – and we didn’t always enjoy those relationships.
The obvious answer was to join forces with someone else. And we certainly weren’t short of offers. Because of our market share, we’ve been getting approached by buyers 15 times a year. We always said we’d never sell to an organisation we weren’t prepared to work with or who wasn’t prepared to preserve our company culture. So, we’ve said a lot of no’s over the years. But then Accenture came along.
What we saw through the due diligence – and what we’re still seeing now – is that we have a great cultural fit here in Australia and New Zealand and real respect from the leadership who are keen to learn from us. The more I got to see, the more Accenture felt like a natural home for Zag and our team. We thought our customers could have the best of both worlds, an intimate local service from SAP experts they trust backed by the power of Accenture’s global network.
We’re already seeing that combo in action – and it’s looking great. It was an exciting moment when we started being able to go after bigger projects, using Accenture’s fantastic strategy, consulting and change management skills – and drawing on their depth of expertise from around the world.
In New Zealand, we often work on projects where it’s a first for the country. But chances are someone in the US or Europe has done it before. Through Accenture, we can find and work with those people. The other day, our team reached out asking for advice. The next morning, we were inundated with blueprints from around the world. It’s pretty cool.
We’re also looking forward to harnessing Accenture’s depth of expertise to help us develop roadmaps for our customers. In the past, it would have been two of us and a whiteboard. Now, Accenture can mobilise a team of 30, using concepts that have already been trialled with five clients. For a mid-sized company like us, that sort of reach is something we’d only dreamt of.
In return, it’s good to see Accenture valuing our people and their skills. Often, when our teams have worked together, I’ll get an email: “I don’t know how we’d have done it without the Zag team.”
Of course, it will take time for us to get used to Accenture’s systems. But I think that’s a small price to pay for the mountain of assets, learning and tools our people will have access to at Accenture. The wealth of information, experience and knowledge here is just incredible. I know our customers and our staff will benefit enormously.
I’m also looking forward to adopting Accenture’s graduate program. We’ve never had the capacity to take on many grads. It’s going to be fantastic to be able to mould the next generation of SAP superstars.