PwC's notorious and somewhat feeble-minded flub on Oscar night has raised more than the usual questions about consultants and their purpose. Understandably.
A simple transaction, assembling the results from a small number of voters, went horribly awry, and was painful to contemplate as the room-temperature IQ artistes attempted to vamp their way past the obvious blatant error. Compounding the moment, "fail safe" back up processes were not crisply and immediately executed by the source of the error.
It was no help that the guest host for the event, the spectacularly unfunny Jimmy Kimmel, was, like a small boy, pushing and shoving at the back of the crowd, ineffective at any role other than blocking the path of paramedics. It's not clear whether the Oscar winners and losers, the presenters, and/or the PwC "face" were to be triaged on the spot for medical attention.
Meanwhile, the star-struck CPA in charge of this slumgullion was busy channeling our somewhat new President, tweeting some meaningless trivia and (in his dreams) impressing the bejeweled and half-clad actresses whose one cinematic hit is now behind them (sort of like Kim Kardashian's nether parts).
So, why are consultants permitted to live and encouraged to procreate? There are actually a number of very good reasons (but not in the double digits).
Plausible deniability. There is bad news coming, and incumbent management wants no part of announcing that 2,500 human beings will lose their jobs before the next holiday.Or that the tomato factory is getting out of the ketchup business. Or that only a "few" cancer deaths can be positively attributed to their flagship product.
Catastrophic insurance coverage. "I dunno, boss. The ERP shoulda worked from Day One; we brought in the best in the business."
Extra pairs of hands. "OK, they don't know anything about (fill in the blank), but we can double the number of teams assigned to speed up the project."
Reputation. "How can we go wrong? These guys advised Henry Kissinger's cousin, and look at him now!"
Blame. "We were doin' good until those bozos from New York corrupted the team and wrecked the business."
Seat Filler (a staple of awards ceremonies) A stalking horse, or designated loser, used to flesh out the minimum number of competitors required to bid on a service offering.
Confidence. "They've never seen one either, but they sure seem to know the right thing to say—and are ready to get going on fixing it."
Special knowledge. On rare occasions, the consultants actually do know something the others don't. The tough part is figuring out how much of the rant is delusional gobbledegook, and how much is substantive and actionable.
Cognitive acceptance of complexity, internal conflict, sequence and dependency. In short, they many times can structure solutions and relationships that are both effective and sustainable. The good ones can, anyway.
There are whys for the enthusiasm of accountants to give advice or perform peripheral services. The biggest, whether they realize it or not, is the likelihood that vast spreadsheets filled with numbers are going to disappear into the maw of robotic and AI solutions.
Oh, the horror! Oh, the humanity! Streets filled with slowly lurching advances of zombie-like beings clutching iPhones and tablets—and basking in the faded glory of having once met the defrocked Oscar team.
The weight of external pressures tilts to our reasons "for" versus their reasons to "be". So there you have it. The "whys" of having consultants—and the risks associated with all talk and no action, until the time for action has passed.
Just stay away from those who've flown in from La La Land.
Full disclosure. Your 'umble correspondent is an alumnus of the C portion of PwC, a life-long consultant—but not an apologist for terminal stupidity.