The Advisory LoS of PwC seems to have the most diversity of service offerings. The LoS is made up of two sub LoS namely Deals and Performance Improvement. The Deals sub LoS also has two divisions – Corporate Finance/ Transaction and Business Recovery. Performance Improvement also maintains three divisions namely Human Resource Management, Performance Improvement and Training & Development. The structure and services offered have been presented in Figure 4.2 below.
Figure 4.2: Overview of Advisory Line of Service
The advisory LoS, unlike assurance and tax, does not have Standards or Laws that guide their approach to work. In view of this, every project is considered complex such that the process of accepting assignments from clients even goes through quite some rigorous reviews involving senior management personnel. Projects handled by this LoS may also be undertaken for a long period of time except Human resource and Training sub LoS, which are usually completed within shorter periods. It must be mentioned that with the exception of planning, which PwC has certain requirements that need to be followed, each project in this LoS is considered unique and planned, executed and completed as the team deems appropriate; of course, with a lot of guidance from senior team leadership.
Planning of these assignments follow PwC requirements and include initial research to understand the nature and scope of the assignment through a process called ‘scoping’. Having understood the nature of the assignment and scope, the expertise needed to execute is mobilised, which may involve collaborating with individuals and at times other organisations outside PwC considered as associates. The planning process also includes breaking down the project into various deliverables with different teams managing sizeable deliverables according to their expertise. Based on the estimated time that each project team budgets and the areas to be covered for the sub projects, the whole assignment is costed and a planning document prepared for the whole team.
Some projects are considered less complex to the extent that the team or PwC might have performed previous assignments in the past. To this end, those projects may be ‘structured’ in line with procedures that were applied on previous assignments. Others may also be considered more complex to the extent that the such assignments have never been performed, time needed to execute is long, the risks involved is very high, the value is high and the stakeholders (including expertise) are several. These may be described as ‘unstructured projects’ and the approach to implementation would be very much project-specific, though trends can be drawn. For less complex assignments, execution may involve the team that undertook the previous assignment but the procedures followed would still be reviewed and assessed against the current scope and client requirements. However, execution of more complex assignments may involve an initial process described as ‘situation analyses’. This process is required to confirm the understanding that the team had and confirm that the scope is exactly what is described in the contract document.
The planning of such assignments may involve several interactions with other experts and the client. In fact, for some of those more complex assignments, the processes of planning and execution may not be so distinct and therefore it becomes difficult to identify where planning ends and where execution begins.
The completion process of advisory projects involves reporting on outcomes and work done based on terms of reference agreed at the beginning of the assignment with the client and shared with the team. Generally, most advisory projects are less structured but as the same assignment is performed for a number of times, a structure develops, which may be accepted as the norm for similar undertaking similar projects, with some modifications.
The team of consultants involved in most advisory projects, are considered experts in their professions. This is because the nature of assignments involves a lot of reliance on experience, deep knowledge of the area and interactions with high profile personnel of the client and contracting organisation. The team structure and roles are similar to that presented in Table 4.1 for assurance projects except that different designations are used as in Table 4.2 below:
This structure emphasises the project nature of Advisory assignments, where the leader has a role to steer the project to a successful end. Teams for advisory projects have several meetings during the planning and execution stages. In fact, some projects demand weekly progress meetings, where extent of work done, work needed to be done and challenges among others are discussed. There is also an almost daily interaction among team members in order to share experiences, whilst ensuring that all aspects of the project are being addressed. All these progress meetings involve leadership of the projects. The completion stage also includes a meeting where experiences are shared. Such a meeting may lead to trainings for team members when some key skills of some of the expertise are identified as necessary for other team members.
Project leadership for advisory assignments are so interactive such that it may be difficult to identify leaders from team members during the period of the project. This is because client solutions are constantly being sought for various areas of the project and it is done through interaction of various expertises. Unlike assurance and some tax projects, Project leadership for advisory are very much involved in the tasks execution by constantly reviewing the work to ensure that the right solutions are being given to clients. They are involved in the weekly progress meetings aside some number of hours allocated for them to review each project on a weekly basis. They are also constantly engaged with senior client staff giving them progress of the assignment and managing any expectation gaps to ensure the outcomes, at least, meet their expectations.
Client involvement in advisory projects is quite like that of tax unstructured projects, except that complexities in some of the assignments may limit the extent of involvement of the clients. During planning, the team vigorously engages the client in defining the scope of the assignment, which will help estimate the time input and fee charged. It is known that some clients may only have a faint idea of what they are asking from the consultants, it is important to involve the client at the initial stage in order to appropriately define the scope and ensure that resources needed to execute the project are made available as and when needed. For instance, forensic services may involve several inquiries with different stakeholders and therefore the client needs to make the relevant personnel available as and when needed. Involvement of client in execution of advisory projects also takes different forms. Ideally, the teams would like to engage the client constantly to ensure that objectives have not changed and outcomes are in line with client expectations. However, there are occasions where clients are only interested in outcomes of the project and may not even have the expertise to understand the work being undertaken. In such situations, the clients are considered as information sources. On the other hand, clients that are interested in the process are included as members of progress meetings in order to ensure that the extent of work is likely to meet their expectations. Generally, Advisory projects involve a lot of interactions with the client and their involvement is sought when possible.
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