The New Year began with a thud as Bersin & Associates was acquired in a deal by Deloitte, the consulting company. Bersin & Associates becomes Bersin by Deloitte. The apparent thinking behind the acquisition is that Deloitte will enhance its portfolio of product offerings for Human Resources clients.

That remains to be seen, but many aspects of this deal will be considered over the next several months: Is it good for Deloitte’s clients? Is it good for the industry? Who really benefits? From my unique perspective as a former Bersin executive and now CEO of one of the few remaining free-standing research/analyst firms, I offer a few thoughts on the Bersin deal:

  • Many Bersin clients and other companies will be supported differently and, most likely, will be provided new pricing structures.
  • Presently, most of the executive team is staying on, which is nothing unusual for acquisitions. There’s no mention of current key employees that helped build the case for this acquisition.
  • Eventually, the Bersin name and brand will go away – probably within the next 18 months while Deloitte tries to tap into the current brand equity of Bersin.
  • Deloitte, by its nature, is focused on very large, tranformational consulting engagements, so the future research that is developed may be more about supporting the consulting that Deloitte wants to do versus what the market needs.
  • Solution providers who worked with Bersin to help market their products and offerings may not be interested in doing work with a competitor-owned, small subsidiary business.
  • Bersin is no longer a freestanding analyst firm. It had a significant footprint in the vendor community; Deloitte has never been a pay-to-play analyst marketing services firm. It will be interesting to see how well the culture of Deloitte can integrate a small analyst firm into its business as a small subsidiary business.
  • Research analysts like their autonomy and enjoy the flexibility to do what they want to do based on the market needs. How they mesh business models will be interesting, and my guess is that Deloitte is thinking of how it can tap into an installed base of clients, and just raise prices. In our experience with these types of deals, the acquired company always has to produce based upon the buyer’s (Deloitte’s) standards.  That can be extraordinarily difficult for a smaller entrepreneurial type of business and usually hinders significant growth.

As we start the New Year off, Brandon Hall Group’s focus will be on continuing to provide the best independent research in the market. We feel this is a time when the people, performance, and development industries need more voices and more thought leadership. We are on the edge of an amazing shift taking place in how businesses become sustainable and thrive – and it won’t be based on old ideas or a narrow look at the industry.  The future will be driven by those who can adapt and change. Our goal is to help organizations do just that.

Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company's growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company's global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike's tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.