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iXL Quits Web Design to Focus on CRM, Tech Clients

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Posted May 10, 2001 By Christopher Saunders     Feedback

Recently appointed CEO Formant's new broom sweeps clean, as the Web shop taps new talent, rejiggers its operations and says it doesn't want to be considered a Web shop any more.

Interactive shop iXL Enterprises is aiming to, well, become less of an interactive shop, by shifting away from site design and more to the nitty-gritty areas of Web consulting.

To accomplish that shift, it's hired a stable of executives with backgrounds ranging from advertising, financial services and technology consulting. Credentials include partner or executive-level stints at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Gemini Consulting (now Cap Gemini Ernst & Young) and similar firms.

Now, these executives are tasked with overseeing iXL's focus on financial services, travel and transportation, manufacturing, retail and consumer goods and enterprise services clients.

Whittled out of the company were its media and entertainment, high technology, healthcare and telecommunications divisions.

iXL also is tweaking exactly what it will do for those clients: No longer will the firm dabble in Web design projects. Instead, it will focus on higher-margin consulting areas, including Web strategy, CRM, business-to-employee, user experience and engineering.

"In the past, iXL primarily provided general, front-end services for clients," said iXL president and chief executive officer Christopher Formant, himself a recent appropriation from PWC's global financial services client practice.

"We are now completing a transformation to a professional services firm that has leading creative talent and deep, sophisticated capabilities in multi-channel distribution, supply/demand chain, CRM, B2E and enterprise Web enablement."

These business areas will be run by executives formerly of Sybase, Deloitte Consulting, and Targetbase Interactive, a unit of ad group Omnicom.

"These are the services our clients want from us and our alliance partners, and we are acquiring the necessary talent and experience to meet those changing needs with custom solutions," Formant added.

Implicit in its new focus is that it has to do away with most of its existing Web design practice. Accordingly, iXL said its new management team's first duty is overseeing a downsizing of about 300 employees to achieve a staffing level of about 1,000.

"Our new organization and industry-specific focus have changed our internal requirements for skills and capabilities," Formant said.

Once that's done, however, iXL said it expects to hire aggressively during the next several months, staffing up in its new practices, and especially in its CRM and supply chain consulting areas.

The moves come as the firm is plotting its path back from disaster -- wrought by the shakeout among dot-com clients, and an overall reduction in demand for its marketing and Web design/technology services.

Under former CEO U. Bertram Ellis (who continues as chairman), iXL closed a number of its offices in an effort to centralize its business structure on practices, rather than regions. In January, following a series of layoffs and office sales, the company brought in Formant, signaling its intent to remake itself in the image of a PWC, Accenture or Deloitte & Touche.

"We are a significantly different company than we were just three months ago," Formant said. "We have upgraded the leadership and experience behind our client service and delivery capabilities, and we have moved the entire enterprise from a city-centric model to an organization focused on developing industry-specific solutions for our clients."

"I believe that we are more efficient, streamlined and effective than at any time in our history," he added.

Reprinted from Internet Advertising Report.

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