Global technology consulting firm Accenture (NYSE:ACN) has had a strong run over the past few years. During its 2012 through 2017 fiscal years, Accenture's stock appreciated 138%, beating both the S&P 500's 95% return and the Information Technology Index's 125% return. In fact, Accenture outperformed its competitor basket for 16 straight quarters.

Accenture is known as what investors call a high-quality compounder, earning a robust 40% return on equity. The high returns on equity have led not only to the strong increase in the share price, but also a steadily rising dividend that has increased 50% over the past five years.

Companies that generate such efficient returns, strong cash generation, and steady growth usually have one or more sustainable competitive advantages. So what's the secret sauce behind Accenture's success?

a woman celebrates sitting at her office desk.

What's made Accenture so successful? Image source: Getty Images.

In the sweet spot

The first thing to appreciate about Accenture is that it's a big player in a really great industry, technology consulting, at a time when the world's largest companies are currently in the midst of huge technological change. Brick-and-mortar companies are focused on improving or establishing a digital presence, companies are moving important data from internal data centers to the cloud, and enterprises are also investing heavily in cyber-security defenses as hackers become more sophisticated and dangerous.

These three huge shifts -- digital, cloud, and security -- are what Accenture's management calls "The New," and Accenture has been able to transition its core IT consulting and business process outsourcing businesses to these new growth sectors seamlessly. In the 2017 fiscal year, Accenture grew revenue from "The New" by 30% to $18 billion, encompassing more than half of the company's $34.9 billion in total revenue and growing much faster than the company's overall 7% revenue growth rate (in local currency).

A comprehensive portfolio

Accenture is extremely diversified across the types of services it offers, the types of industries it serves, and the locations it operates in. The company's five service areas are Accenture Strategy, Accenture Consulting, Accenture Digital, Accenture Technology, and Accenture Operations.

Accenture Service

Description

Strategy

Helps clients achieve specific business outcomes through technology-based strategy.

Consulting

More generalized consulting across the entire organization with the aid of in-house industry experts.

Digital

Helps companies with digital marketing and mobility through advanced analytics.

Technology

Systems integration, application outsourcing, and implementation of leading tech infrastructure, platforms, and software vendors.

Operations

Provides outsourced services for business clients and management of client IT infrastructure.

Source: Accenture. Table by author.

Accenture also operates across just about every type of industry, with revenue relatively evenly dispersed across its five industry categories, allowing the company to combine industry expertise with cross-industry insights.

Industry Group

Percentage of Overall Revenue (2Q 2018)

Communications, Media, & Technology

20%

Financial Services

21%

Health & Public Service

17%

Products (Consumer, Industrial, Life Sciences)

28%

Resources

14%

Source: Accenture Second Quarter 2018 10Q. Table by author.

Accenture is also geographically diversified, with offices in 200 different cities across 53 countries around the world, relatively evenly distributed across its three main regions.

Geographic Region

Percentage of Overall Revenue (2Q 2018)

North America

45%

Europe

36%

Growth Markets

19%

Data source: Accenture Second Quarter 2018 10Q. Table by author.

Comprehensive service offerings, combined with global reach and expertise, make Accenture a convenient one-stop shop for international companies. It's no wonder that Accenture counts more than three quarters of the Fortune Global 500 as clients, including an impressive 95 of the top 100. It's also impressive that all of Accenture's top 100 clients have been clients for more than five years, and 98 out of the top 100 have been clients for 10 years or more.

A matter of trust

Accenture is a premier technology brand with highly diversified operations. And there's one final piece of the puzzle: It's a pure-play consulting firm that doesn't sell hardware. In other words, it only serves as a consultant, it doesn't sell its own technology, so there's no potential conflict of interest. While some of its competitors are also pure-plays, its competitors include consulting arms of large tech companies, such as IBM (NYSE: IBM) and HP Enterprise (NYSE: HPE), which sell their own technology.

With the advent of cloud computing and more commoditized equipment vendors, enterprises have more choices for their IT needs than ever, and it's perhaps for this reason that clients continue to flock to unbiased, vendor-agnostic consultants like Accenture.

A winning combo

Accenture's unique position as a leading technology expert, combined with its highly diversified business and vendor-neutral orientation, has allowed it to succeed over competitors. I expect the good times to continue, as the need for tech expertise should only accelerate in the coming years.

Billy Duberstein owns shares of IBM. His clients may own shares of some of  the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Accenture. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.