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Sapient

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Yale School of Management
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Although Sapient was categorized as a marketing, business, and technology consulting company, employees insisted that they never sold consulting or provided mere deliverables. Instead, Sapient promised "client success" and to this end had articulated a model with three principles that the company perceived as central to its value proposition. For Sapient, "client success" was not a rhetorical gesture or a marketing slogan but a philosophy that permeated the way the company approached every client.

Maintaining a client focus was one of the core values that the co-founders of Sapient, Jerry Greenberg and Stuart Moore, articulated soon after they started their technology consulting company in 1990. The other values (creativity, leadership, openness, people growth, and relationships) all melded together to form a culture that the founders identified as being a critical factor in Sapient's growth. Working from its core values, Sapient created numerous processes that allowed the company to identify a client's core business needs; to align its team with the client's various constituencies; and to create whatever business, technical, or marketing solution was required to improve the client's bottom line. As Jerry Greenberg insisted, "Sapient needs to be focused on our clients' success like no one else. And our desire for our clients' success has to be unparalleled."

While maintaining its client focus, Sapient found that it had to adapt some of its internal processes to stay afloat following the burst of the Internet bubble. Before the client success model had been articulated, it had made “right results, on time, on budget? supported by fixed-price/fixed-time contracts its value proposition. However, in the early 2000s a change in business mix and client preferences meant that nearly half of Sapient's business came through more traditional time-and-materials contracts. In addition, Sapient's delivery system underwent a major overhaul as the company now located over half of its employees in India in order to remain competitive. By rethinking the traditional offshoring model, Sapient managed to integrate this new workforce into its culture and work flow.

By 2006 Sapient was facing challenges with external constituencies as well. Sapient's approach was difficult to explain to new clients, but the company resisted being put into a box that would limit its ability to innovate. Also, some clients proved resistant to Sapient's methods of gaining alignment and working for success. And the United States government, the world's largest consumer of IT services, continued to present some challenges. Nonetheless, Sapient's leaders remained convinced that if the company remained true to its core values and its relentless pursuit of client success, it would adapt whatever behaviors were necessary to thrive and grow.

Published Date: 17/11/2006

Suggested Citation: Andrea Nagy, Jaan Elias, and Joel Podolny, "Sapient," Yale SOM Case 06-017, November 17, 2006

Keywords: Clients, Success, Women in Leadership