Blue Chip Consultants Embrace Smart Software: Some Possible But Fanciful Reasons Offered

June 7, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]_thumb_thumbNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

VentureBeat published an interesting essay about the blue-chip consulting firm, McKinsey & Co. Some may associate the firm with its work for the pharmaceutical industry. Others may pull up a memory of a corporate restructuring guided by McKinsey consultants which caused employees to have an opportunity to find their futures elsewhere. A select few can pull up a memory of a McKinsey recruiting pitch at one of the business schools known to produce cheerful Type As who desperately sought the approval of their employer. I recall do a miniscule project related to a mathematical technique productized by a company almost no one remembers. I think the name of the firm was CrossZ. Ah, memories.

McKinsey Says About Half of Its Employees Are Using Generative AI” reports via a quote from Ben Ellencweig (a McKinsey blue chip consultant):

About half of [our employees] are using those services with McKinsey’s permission.

Is this half “regular” McKinsey wizards? That’s ambiguous. McKinsey has set up QuantumBlack, a unit focused on consulting about artificial intelligence.

The article included a statement which reminded me of what I call the “vernacular of the entitled”; to wit:

Ellencweig emphasized that McKinsey had guardrails for employees using generative AI, including “guidelines and principles” about what information the workers could input into these services. “We do not upload confidential information,” Ellencweig said.

6 7 23 mckinsey opioids

A senior consultant from an unknown consulting firm explains how a hypothetical smart fire hydrant disguised as a beverage dispenser can distribute variants of Hydrocodone Bitartrate or an analog to “users.” The illustration was created by the smart bytes at MidJourney.

Yep, guardrails. Guidelines. Principles. I wonder if McKinsey and Google are using the same communications consulting firm. The lingo is designed to reassure, to suggest an ethical compass in good working order.

Another McKinsey expert said, according to the write up:

McKinsey was testing most of the leading generative AI services: “For all the major players, our tech folks have them all in a sandbox, [and are] playing with them every day,” he said.

But what about the “half”? If half means those in Black Quantum, McKinsey is in the Wright Bros. stage of technological application. However, if the half applies to the entire McKinsey work force, that raises a number of interesting questions about what information is where and how those factoids are being used.

If I were not a dinobaby with a few spins in the blue chip consulting machine, I would track down what Bain, BCG, Booz, et al were saying about their AI practice areas. I am a dinobaby.

What catches my attention is the use of smart software in these firms; for example, here are a couple of questions I have:

  1. Will McKinsey and similar firms use the technology to reduce the number of expensive consultants and analysts while maintaining or increasing the costs of projects?
  2. Will McKinsey and similar firms maintain their present staffing levels and boost the requirements for a bonus or promotion as measured by billability and profit?
  3. Will McKinsey and similar firms use the technology, increase the number of staff who can integrate smart software into their work, and force out the Luddites who do not get with the AI program?
  4. Will McKinsey cherry pick ways to use the technology to maximize partner profits and scramble to deal with glitches in the new fabric of being smarter than the average client?

My instinct is that more money will be spent on marketing the use of smart software. Luddites will be allowed to find their future at an azure chip firm (lower tier consulting company) or return to their parents’ home. New hires with AI smarts will ride the leather seats in McKinsey’s carpetland. Decisions will be directed at [a] maximizing revenue, [b] beating out other blue chip outfits for juicy jobs, and [c] chasing terminated high tech professionals who own a suit and don’t eat enhanced gummies during an interview.

And for the clients? Hey, check out the way McKinsey produces payoff for its clients in “When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 7, 2023


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