E-Government: Ten Lessons Learned from the Best Global Programs

In this Perspective, we offer 10 important lessons—derived from successful e-government programs around the world—that can serve as an implementation guide for a positive outcome.

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Dr. Rainer Bernnat Andrew Johnstone-Burt Dr. Wolfgang Zink Dr. Frank Thomé

E-Government Ten Lessons Learned from the Best Global Programs
This report was originally published before March 31, 2014, when Booz & Company became Strategy&, part of the PwC network of firms. For more information visit www.strategyand.pwc.com.

Contact Information Beirut Ramez Shehadi Partner +961-1-985-655 [email protected] Berlin Dr. Frank Thomé Senior Associate +49-30-88705-895 [email protected] Copenhagen Torsten Moe Partner +45-3318-70-02 [email protected] Delhi Suvojoy Sengupta Partner +44-20-7393-3314 [email protected] Frankfurt Dr. Rainer Bernnat Partner +49-69-97167-0 [email protected] Hong Kong Edward Tse Senior Partner +852-3650-6100 [email protected] London Greg Baxter Partner +44-20-7393-3795 [email protected] Andrew Johnstone-Burt Partner +44-20-7393-3216 [email protected] Madrid David Suarez Partner +34-91-411-8457 [email protected] Milan Pietro Candela Partner +39-02-72-50-91 [email protected] Moscow Dr. Steffen Leistner Partner +7-985-368-7888 [email protected] Munich Dr. Wolfgang Zink Principal +49-89-54525-517 [email protected] New York Gil Irwin Partner +1-212-551-6548 [email protected] Paris Pierre Péladeau Partner +33-1-44-34-3074 [email protected] São Paulo Ivan De Souza Senior Partner +55-11-5501-6368 [email protected] Sydney Peter Burns Partner +61-2-9321-1974 [email protected]

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E-government systems have become prevalent in all parts of the globe, but not all are created equal. Many are limited in scope and missing the types of comprehensive, multichannel approaches necessary for a successful e-government program. In some cases, finances are an issue, and in other cases, the thought of managing an all-encompassing e-government program is daunting, especially to newly developing countries. But, ironically, by trying to minimize expenses and management problems, a government can end up wasting money and resources on a system that doesn’t deliver the services needed by the people and businesses in the country and hence fosters more inefficiency. If the government instead focuses on creating a full-fledged e-government system, the subsequent gains from streamlining bureaucracy and increasing citizen satisfaction will more than make up for any difficulties and costs brought on by the project. In this Perspective, we offer 10 important lessons—derived from successful e-government programs around the world—that can serve as an implementation guide for a positive outcome.

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KEY HIGHLIGHTS • E-government systems have become prevalent around the world and are now an accepted standard of good government. • E-government systems that fail usually are not comprehensive or sufficiently multichannel and do not take advantage of technological scale. • Although perhaps motivated by hopes of cost gains and increased efficiency for residents, businesses, and the government, an unsuccessful e-government system becomes a cost driver, satisfactory to no one. • Taken together, 10 major lessons from the most successful e-government programs around the world can be a powerful guide for any new e-government implementation.


In 1993, then U.S. Vice President Al Gore proposed a vast web of advanced public and private communications networks and interactive services that would link everyday Americans with their government (and one another) on a seamless information superhighway. Now, almost 20 years later, this vision has been realized in virtually every part of the world in dozens and dozens of thriving e-government systems. While some people questioned the value of Gore’s idea at the time, few do now. Indeed, e-government— which, viewed broadly, involves using Web portals, mobile applications, kiosks, interactive TV, and other digital technologies to provide transparent, efficient, and inexpensive interactions with government agencies by individuals, businesses, or other government departments—has in a short period of time become an accepted paradigm of good, modern government and increasingly has an impact on investment decisions and even where companies choose to establish new operations.


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The top 20 countries on the U.N.’s 2010 E-Government Index are mostly high-income nations, which is not surprising, since they are best able to create an environment for active citizen engagement. Furthermore, the U.N. index itself is weighted toward a strong telecommunications infrastructure and excellent development of human capital through education and other types of training. Both of these attributes require substantial resources spent over a long period of time. Nonetheless, some developing countries are overcoming these obstacles and closing in on higher-income nations. For example, in two years Bahrain has climbed from 42nd to 13th place on the U.N. index on the wings of a new e-government campaign that emphasizes citizen engagement and electronic services delivery. Given the ubiquity and rapidly falling prices of mobile technology, it is likely that tapping into cellular communications could enable emerging countries to close the e-government gap between themselves and more developed nations.

But although the importance of e-government is clear, many attempts to implement it fall short of anticipated outcomes. That typically happens for a single reason: The system is not sufficiently comprehensive. Some governments, fearful of doing too much and not being able to manage a full-fledged e-government system well enough, implement only small-scale, somewhat uncoordinated activities. Though valuable, these limited and isolated applications fail to produce the desired efficiency precisely because they are not end-to-end and do not take advantage of technological scale by blending databases, networks, architecture, and interfaces. In other words, many would-be large-scale e-government programs fray into a motley group of unfinished Internet “construction sites.” And though the e-government initiative may be initially inspired by innovation, modernization, cost gains, and improved relationships between residents and their government, these minimalist approaches become expensive and

unwieldy cost drivers that satisfy no one and hence lack acceptance and usage. Mistakes are made precisely because many governments don’t heed—or perhaps don’t know—the key aspects of successful e-government programs. Leveraging Booz & Company’s extensive experience in developing and managing e-government ventures, we have derived a series of 10 major lessons from thriving e-government programs around the world that can serve as a road map for a successful e-government implementation. Lesson 1: Ensure clear senior leader sponsorship and strategic aims In virtually all cases, successful e-government programs depend on strong support from the very top ranks of the government. For example, one of the earliest e-government programs was started in Australia in 1998, an effort spearheaded by then Prime Minister John Howard, who set a goal of having all services online. Russia is

Many attempts to implement e-government fall short of anticipated outcomes. That typically happens for a single reason: The system is not sufficiently comprehensive.

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hoping for a similar outcome: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev began a campaign in 2009 to digitize all Russian government services by 2015, with a strong emphasis on transactional activities. Lesson 2: Develop a comprehensive e-government strategy from the start To make the greatest impact, a comprehensive e-government program should include four attributes: (1) end-user–driven modernization, offering individuals and businesses consistent interactions and efficiency improvements when dealing with the government, improvements designed to make customer interaction with the government less cumbersome, and end-to-end services; (2) an approach that targets the entire portfolio of government services; (3) a crossgovernment design that cuts across agency and organizational boundaries; and (4) an efficiency-driven program using state-of-the-art technology.

A good illustration of the significant value of such a system can be seen in Singapore, where the government recently implemented an Internetbased one-stop application system for business licenses. On a single Web page, individuals can fill out a single form to immediately apply for any number of licenses, even across multiple agencies; they then receive status updates about their applications via text or e-mail. This streamlined system not only is popular with businesspeople, who are happy to sidestep Singapore’s well-known and oft-criticized bureaucracy, but also has had some tangible returns for the government: as much as a 90 percent reduction in processing time, a 50 percent reduction in data entry, and— because redundancy is minimized—a 10 percent reduction in licenses issued. Similarly, France’s Internet portal is one of the most vibrant sites, with online forms, audio streams, latest alerts, all manner of applications,

and special user pages for individuals, businesses, and associations (see Exhibit 1). Though the four attributes of a comprehensive program are noble ideals and should be used as guideposts for any e-government implementation, the hands-on activity of actually achieving these goals requires a diligent development process of its own. This process is built on what we call an environment/readiness/usage (ERU) modernization framework (see Exhibit 2). Booz & Company has used this framework successfully to assess and refine global and regional e-government programs. Environment These are the extant country-wide social, cultural, and political conditions for establishing an e-government system. As part of this dimension, a comprehensive set of laws must be passed to allow the government to

Exhibit 1 France’s E-Government Portal

Customization option


Link to government call center Key user groups: - Individuals - Businesses - Associations

Government function finder

RSS feed/ subscription

Audio streams for people with special needs

Latest alerts Statistics, November 2009 (portal refresh): - 15.2M visits - 4.7M unique visits - 6.9K e-mails, 48% answered within 3 days

Life stages/needs from a user’s perspective

Online procedures/ forms

Source: Official website for the French civil service (www.service-public.fr)


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leverage the full potential of automation and online service provision while ensuring consumer protection, privacy, and security. Specifically, legislation is needed to create a favorable environment for promoting trusted government, business, and individual activities over the Internet. Additionally, these laws are required to remove barriers to e-government and e-commerce raised by outdated laws and regulations. Additional goals for this dimension include enhancing information and communications technology adoption rates by individuals, businesses, and government entities; using technology to support collaboration, promote knowledge sharing within government, and conduct awareness campaigns to increase adoption; and providing the e-government strategy owner with the right mandate to effectuate change.

Readiness In this dimension the capabilities of a government to deliver best-inclass services to users and to leverage technology to tap internal efficiency gains are assessed and weaknesses are ameliorated. Both the flexibility of the organizational culture and the sophistication of the information and communications technology infrastructure are addressed. From a transformation management perspective, technological readiness involves building key enablers to deploy services, which include components that are provided centrally as well as decentralized components— that is, components provided by individual government entities but shared across multiple government entities. Organizational readiness focuses on coordination and deployment of skills across the government. The interplay of technological and

organizational readiness is necessary to ensure a broad-based e-government program that eliminates “silos,” which exist in many government bodies today. The silos are replaced with collaboration and knowledge sharing, as well as the development of appropriate capabilities—such as high-level, crossfunctional IT skills—needed to manage a full-fledged e-government system. The targeted capabilities that foster e-government modernization include supporting standardization of processes to improve quality and increase predictability; attracting, retaining, and developing talented individuals who can deliver IT excellence; backing design and delivery of standardsbased, shared, resilient, and secure architecture, infrastructure, and applications; and establishing governance, interaction models, and processes to support the development of the IT strategy.

Exhibit 2 ERU Framework

ENVIRONMENT (E) Cross-cutting

- Political leadership - Local and central collaboration - Demographics and nuances - Legislation and regulation


- Underlying technology and infrastructure - Capabilities and organizational culture



- Service portfolio - Service channels - Direct usage experience



Source: INSEAD; Booz & Company analysis

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Usage This dimension emphasizes citizencentric services and providing these services via multiple access channels. Whereas the environment and readiness dimensions address requirements that are most effective across government entities, the usage dimension exclusively deals with service-specific requirements for each government entity. With this service orientation, the usage dimension is at the heart of the ERU framework and determines and drives the requirements and needs of both the environment and readiness dimensions. End-user–focused interaction models and service delivery channels are defined and adopted for implementation. Separate e-enabled applications must be developed to interact with the discretely different constituencies for which governments must provide services: citizens, businesses, other governments, and government employees. Online services are always available, with service delivery across all access channels automated in the back office. To that end, an access model that offers multiple channels with a con-

sistent customer experience in quality, design, and usability is necessary. Areas covered by this dimension include delivering clear service portfolios, often bundled from different organizations, according to users’ needs, and providing a consistently highquality customer experience through automation, user-focused processes, and advanced staff capabilities. Lesson 3: Rethink government as a service provider and focus on service modernization Consider government interaction with individuals and businesses from a customer perspective, and then generate a comprehensive catalog of end-user– focused services—prioritized by their attractiveness to the intended audience—to include in the e-government system. Top services will vary from country to country, but typically the most popular are employment opportunities, grant applications, ID card applications, vehicle registration, tax payments, and driver’s and business licenses. The next step is to evaluate each set of applications against these three criteria: highly attractive and easy to implement; highly attractive

but difficult to implement; and less attractive and difficult to implement. Based on this analysis, the overall structure of the e-government system and the implementation schedule for specific services can be designed. In addition, government services should be revisited regularly to ensure that the e-government system addresses current customer needs. Bahrain’s e-government system, which debuted a couple of years ago, is an excellent model for how a government can transform itself into a service delivery organization. Citizens were continually involved—from formulating the strategy through providing feedback—as the program was being set up. Ministers and senior government officials have established an open-door policy for interacting with citizens, and the e-government program is ubiquitous on social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube. In addition, the national portal and ministry websites provide features such as open forums, blogs, live chats, online polls, e-newsletters, and other interactive services that involve citizens in government decision making. The outcome: an 85 percent customer satisfaction rate as of May 2009.


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Lesson 4: Do not focus on Web services only; follow a multichannel approach The precise channels to use for specific e-government services should be tailored to the needs of individuals (based on demographics and other factors) and the business community. Possible channels include online, phone (landline and mobile), fax, e-mail, regular mail, and interactive TV, as well as onsite service desks and kiosks. Service Canada provides a good illustration of a full panoply of channels and offerings. This service has achieved a consistently high satisfaction rate (83 percent) among its customers across all regions and program areas (see Exhibit 3). In all e-government implementations, the decisive factors

behind customer satisfaction are first and foremost the protection of personal information, followed by how well the system responds to the needs of individuals; knowledgeable, competent, and consistent information; and the time it takes for people to receive the service they are seeking. As information quality, accessibility, and timeliness are not limited to “e”-channels, it’s not surprising that there are still many e-government systems accessed via phone (by far the dominant platform used), by fax, and in person. All of these channels, including computerized ones, should be considered complementary, with each tailored to user preferences. Service Canada has implemented this

almost perfectly: Despite the many remote ways to access the e-government system, Service Canada also offers all Canadians the opportunity for in-person contacts within a maximum of 31 miles. In fact, the articulation and emphasis of access channels should reflect the behavior of the country—for example, with 80 percent mobile phone penetration in Algeria but just 15 percent Internet usage, the e-government system in that nation must be tilted to ensure that the mobile channel is robust and operating at peak performance. By contrast, the Web portal should duplicate the mobile application but can be a lower maintenance priority. Similar levels of usage can

Exhibit 3 Service Canada’s Multichannel Approach

Footprint & Channels

Contact Channels Over Past 5 Months (2008 vs. 2006)

By phone Service Canada website By mail or fax 37% 38% 31% 21% 28% 39% 3% 2% 0% Service Canada Points of service Administrative office Service Canada Centre Scheduled outreach site Service Canada community office - Online: www.servicecanada.gc.ca - Phone: 1-800-O-Canada - Onsite: 587 points of service: 327 full-service SC centers, 260 scheduled outreach locations and community offices (95% of Canadians live within 50 km of a point of service) 2008 2006 20% 40%

59% 63%

In person





n = 4,001

- Total of 77 services - Phone remains the dominant channel used, followed by online access - Significant rise in mail and fax access and in-person service - Seniors (64%) and those with disabilities (73%) are most likely to use the phone channel and least likely to access services either in person or online

Source: Service Canada (2007-09); EKOS Research: Service Canada 2008 Client Satisfaction Survey

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be found in most Gulf Cooperation Council countries, in which mobile phone penetration generally ranges between 150 and 200 percent—the United Arab Emirates has 200 percent penetration, while Saudi Arabia has 180 percent. Regardless of which channels are chosen, the customer experience should be the same—consistently high quality—across all channels, and the customer interface should be similar. A creative multichannel system debuted recently in California. The state’s Web portal serves as a site for interactive communications with residents, handling such activities as reserving a campsite in state parks, applying for licenses, employment applications, registering complaints against a business, and requesting a government loan. At the same time, iPhone apps are available for finding government offices, traffic and smog reports, and public transportation

information. In terms of popularity, New York’s 311 contact center, a website and phone number for quick access to New York City government services and information, ranks extremely high. Overall, the system covers more than 2,000 services, the website handles hundreds of thousands of unique visitors a month, and the phone center receives 40,000 calls daily, responding to 80 percent of calls within 30 seconds. Lesson 5: Build a solid technology platform with a set of core components across entities For most e-government systems, the Web-based portal is the heart of the infrastructure—the public face for a complex variety of interconnected technology components operating behind the scenes that may include government data centers, government networks, and enterprise architecture. To keep the system up-to-date, it’s important to constantly reassess the

status of the technology, adding new layers as they are developed: Web 2.0 applications like peer-to-peer discussions, wikis, and social networking, as well as more advanced integration technologies like XML, Flash, and open API. In addition, information security safeguards and privacy controls—with roles and responsibilities to manage these policies—must be built into the system at the technology platform level, accompanied by detailed instructions on how to implement management and functional control processes. To get the underlying infrastructure components in place for service modernization, it’s best to structure them along an IT-architecture model. In our view, the optimum approach is a seven-layer architecture, which begins with an access and presentation layer (that is, the part of the e-government system that interacts with individuals) and burrows down until it reaches

Exhibit 4 E-Government IT Architecture

ILLUSTRATIVE Access and Presentation Layer Application Layer Payment Platform Finance and HR Systems Procurement Business Intelligence Spatial Data Infrastructure Citizen Relationship Management Green IT Document and Records Management Web Content Management Collaboration Management
Source: Booz & Company analysis

Data Layer Business Intelligence Central Data Center

Integration Layer Government Portal Government Interoperability Framework

Infrastructure Layer Central Data Center Government Network Business Continuity Program Green IT

Security Layer Government Portal Public Key Infrastructure Security Information Security Governance Business Continuity Program

Operations Layer Contact Center Telecenter IT Planning and Management Tool Kits

Contact Center
Government Portal Website Kit m-Services Platform Kiosks Telecenter Accessibility Framework


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the operations layer, which manages the contact center, the telecenter, and IT planning (see Exhibit 4). From a functional perspective, some components will lie in several layers of the model. For example, the government portal can be found in the access and presentation layer, the integration layer, and the security layer. The specific framework of the IT architecture will differ depending on prioritization and customization of functions and components based on customer needs. Lesson 6: Define an interaction model between centralized and decentralized responsibilities There should be a dual-tiered coordination and delivery system. Under this approach, the overall management of strategy, master plan, programs, design, consistency, end-to-end applications, and the like is centralized, handled by a dedicated e-government agency. The decentralization aspect relates to the role of individual

government agencies to help design the applications and services involving their specific activities and to operate these programs, alerting the e-government unit of problems and potential improvements. The challenge is then to create an interaction and engagement model to disseminate the knowledge and leverage the momentum from the e-government agency to the decentralized government bodies involved in the program. This drive should lead to a change agenda in each ministry, with top management commitment and an agenda that overcomes obstacles to establishing an e-government system and mobilizes the entire governmental organization with appropriate learning and training programs. Lesson 7: Engage in tireless and unwavering program management E-government programs fail when they are not managed diligently and steps are not taken to avoid such

common mistakes as inadequate staffing, supplier conflicts, technical problems, project planning weaknesses, and lack of clearly defined objectives (see Exhibit 5). To avoid these problems, project management must be tireless and unwavering. Each project in an e-government system must be coordinated and monitored along nine separate dimensions that encompass everything from implementation to ongoing maintenance: • Project initialization: Includes setup and facilitating buy-in of stakeholders • Progress tracking and reporting: Includes status reports and identification of problems and risks • Risk management: Includes action plans to minimize risks

Exhibit 5 Active Program Management Is Key to Success

REASONS FOR MAJOR PROJECT FAILURE 11% 36% 71% of failure causes can be addressed by thorough project management (i.e., an efficient PMO) Other Technical problems Problems with suppliers Not enough staff Project planning deficiencies Lack of clearly defined project objectives 15% Organizational/operational project management deficiencies

4% 4%



Source: Survey of 2,500 participants in project management training; Booz & Company analysis

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• Issue management: Includes action plans to mitigate potential problems • Project changes: Includes integrating project alterations into the overall program plan • Communications management: Includes developing and harmonizing program statements and public documents • Resource management: Includes identifying resource requirements and ensuring that onboard resources match needs throughout the program • Quality assurance: Includes ensuring that expected quality levels are achieved • Business and technology alignment: Includes matching IT needs to the business model and plan and vice versa

Lesson 8: Present success stories rapidly; share some quick wins Implementing an e-government program can take four years or more. As a result, quick, early successes are essential to build momentum and maintain support for the overall project (see Exhibit 6). In Abu Dhabi, for example, the government’s goal was to launch a single, unified Web platform that would cover all government activities. To get the project off the ground, the government developed an initial version with a restricted set of entities and services, but at the same time it installed an “enterprise service bus,” the backbone for the much larger planned system. In so doing, Abu Dhabi was able to quickly generate strong public awareness and interest in the e-government project—critical for attracting continued internal support for the program—and install a technology architecture to support additional

access channels and applications that would further enrich interactive and transactional services over time. Also, Abu Dhabi’s initial quick win was able to serve as a laboratory in which the management team could evaluate usage patterns and online activities. Lesson 9: Communicate the program and benefits of e-government This phase may seem obvious, but many governments neglect it. It is vital to promote the e-government system with attractive communications and marketing materials that present the program in an appealing light. The critical goal is to excite individuals and companies and attract them to the website and other channels in hopes of creating a virtuous circle of usage and support among users and government agencies. Both of these outcomes can mean the difference between a constantly improving e-government system that, in turn, propels greater government and economic performance, and

Exhibit 6 Quick Wins Are Fundamental to Ensuring Program Momentum


1. Acquire the list of IT initiatives

3. Use filtering results to identify the quick wins

Environment initiatives Readiness initiatives Usage initiatives


Higher impact, complex delivery

Quick wins


Lower urgency Low Difficult 2. Filter initiatives on two criteria: impact & ease of implementation

Ease of Implementation

Easy 4. Develop detailed charters for the quick-win initiatives

Source: Booz & Company analysis


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a system that is barely noticed and never delivers the intended value or a payback on the investment in cost and effort. The U.S. Social Security Administration portal has gotten great notice because the government continues to tout its significant virtues in mailings and other promotional materials. As a result, the site receives a high number of repeat customers and has become one of the primary resources for information on social services in the country. Not surprisingly, the American Customer Satisfaction Index ranked the SSA portal number one in citizen satisfaction in the third quarter of 2009.

Lesson 10: Build in-house capacity, and don’t underestimate change management E-government programs require significant organizational change to be successful (see Exhibit 7). The project completely alters the way the government does business with residents and other governments, and such a wide-spread shift in culture and behavior cannot be achieved without a commitment to change management. Led by the upper tiers of the government, a change agenda must be driven throughout each ministry and agency. In addition, the technology arm of the government should evolve into a full-fledged organization, led by a chief information officer, to

help manage, oversee, expand, and promote the continuous evolution of the e-government program. Such substantial transformation can only be accomplished with the right blend of oversight and commitment to change. To drive this, governments must (1) lead from the top by requiring high-level managers in the organization to champion the initiative; (2) demand a change agenda from each ministry or agency, approved by the heads of the departments; and (3) make sure that the change agendas cascade down through the ministries with the support of appropriate learning and training programs that mobilize lower-level employees to embrace the goals of e-government.

Exhibit 7 E-Government Organizational Change Approach


Engage the Top & Lead the Change


Cascade Down & Break Barriers


Mobilize the Organization & Create Ownership

Source: Booz & Company analysis

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Clearly, an e-government initiative demands a full, long-term commitment and will encounter many obstacles and challenges, but it is well worth undertaking. In fact, more and more governments will not have the option to lag behind because automating transactional and informational activities both within

and outside the country will be so commonplace that an e-government system will be required to maintain efficiency levels, economic performance, policy implementation, and a place in a globalized world. Given that, our list of 10 e-government lessons can serve as a valuable road map to successful implementation.

An e-government initiative demands a full, long-term commitment and will encounter many obstacles and challenges, but it is well worth undertaking.


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About the Authors Dr. Rainer Bernnat is a partner in Booz & Company’s Frankfurt office. As part of the IT team, he advises international clients on innovation, modernization, and restructuring initiatives, primarily at the interface between information and communication technology. Andrew Johnstone-Burt is a Booz & Company partner based in London. He leads the firm’s global public-sector business and specializes in providing strategic advice and leading major transformation engagements with private- and public-sector clients. Dr. Wolfgang Zink is a principal with Booz & Company who has led many e-government and government-IT assignments across Europe, the Middle East, and the Commonwealth of Independent States. He has helped governments define their e-strategy, drive implementation, and assess results. Dr. Frank Thomé is a Booz & Company senior associate based in Berlin. As part of the public-sector and IT teams, he specializes in e-government and public reform agendas, focusing on IT-related questions. He is the author of numerous publications on e-government and IT strategy.

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