Blue Down Arrow

What’s new from the CDO Exchange?

So another year down. Another CDO Exchange attended. It was another great event hosted by IPQC and as usual most of it went without a hitch (apart of the accidental coffee spill over our table!).

Many people we met have an increased level of ‘data maturity’ compared to only a year ago. It seems that the initial big investments in some of the technology are now in place and businesses are looking at how they can really exploit the power of their data.

We have always remained focused on helping businesses move beyond the ‘silver bullet’ and look at how real value can be achieved from data and analytics. This year more than before, this was a constant topic of conversation. Tools alone are not enough. The right mix of tech, a clear understanding of your processes and people who can leverage both will get you far. But stalling tech investments in the next ‘data lake’ or automated AI seem to be just as common as the compelling case study that people love to talk about.

That said, whilst many of the people we met weren’t actually CDO’s, the role or responsibilities of the role is growing in importance and awareness. The inimitable ‘data duo’ of Peter Jackson and Caroline Carruthers illustrated the point well when discussing where the role sits, and how still it can be the forgotten member round the board table – but is no less important! How (and whether) the CDO elevates fully onto the board was long debated into the evening.

Overall, we still believe the tech solutions are only part of the puzzle…but it has always been that way – the technology needs to be supported by the right process improvement and a very clear understanding of the problems you’re trying to solve.

We continue to believe that great use of data comes from getting that combination bang on….and that’s not always easy!

We’ve returned to the Oakland hub to focus on exactly that – helping our clients get more from their data and technology investments.
AND to get ready for our own ‘Think Data’ event in June….watch this space for more info!

A tumultuous start to 2019

If the start of this year is anything to go by much change threatens (or promises) to lie ahead. No doubt you have been turning your minds to what 2019 will hold for you and your business.

So what might we expect?

1. Given the latest Brexit bombshell and utter lack of clarity, business leaders are growing increasingly frustrated in trying to make any sense of what is coming out of the government. Supply chain disruption and risk will be a focus for some, as will the possibility of making further cost reductions to mitigate the risk of increased tariffs. In turn, the need (and possible freedom) to explore new markets outside of the EU will stress business models, resources to effect the change, and will require product and service reconfigurations to meet new market needs – all at the speed of light!

2. Technologies are advancing at a pace and many managers are still toying with the idea that the adoption of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will give them competitive advantage or access to new knowledge that could transform the products and services they supply. Indeed, there still seems to be more questions than answers and concerns that big programmes of change will not reap rewards before the technology moves on and becomes out-dated. However, delay could be costly if competitors are taking the plunge and gaining first-mover advantage. If you’d like to read more about our thoughts on how ‘big data’ needs to start to deliver in 2019 please click here.

3. The latest announcement of the future of the NHS will no doubt lead to pressure across all consumers of tax-payers money to innovate in the way that services are designed, delivered and assured. The demands of demographic patterns that face many advanced economies will continue to exert pressure for change.

4. Finally, the confluence of consumer discontent and the demands of an increasingly environmentally aware public has recently yielded the intention for the EU (and the UK, in or out) to set new standards for product reliability and repair. Too many products have wear out timescales that are too short and have little or no way of being repaired. Our “throw-away” mentality is being challenged and a new “repair and reuse” economic cycle is emerging.

At the Oakland Group, we view these factors as real opportunities for managers in operations, quality and data and information management to deliver vital value to their organisations.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the coming year which we’ll share in a new blog piece.

What does advanced data analytics mean for the quality profession?

October’s RQA Annual Conference in Manchester had the theme ‘Data and Quality’ and the big question it answered was, appropriately: ‘Is the tail wagging the dog?’  Based on a ‘technology survey’ the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI) conducted in 2017, their members identified the growth of digital data, robotics and automation and real-time communication as the top three emerging technologies that will most likely impact the quality profession in the next ten years. Many quality professionals are clearly interested in the potential opportunities provided by new technology, but often don’t know where or how to start using it to improve their day-to-day operations.

What do data and analytics mean for quality teams?

There is a clear and present danger – quality teams in this industry, as in many others, risk being bypassed in the business led rush to gather and analyse data. The speed of change is increasing at an exponential rate and business innovation is being driven in new data led ways. Many of the traditional quality jobs (‘checking’ and assurance) could be usurped by the ability to monitor automatically ‘everything’ all of the time.

Richard Corderoy and Robert Oakland share their experiences and advice for fellow quality professionals in an attached article in the RQA magazine Quasar. Both of them have worked with large organisations to improve their quality and operational performance. Both Richard and Robert are currently working on a range of projects using data analytics to solve complex quality issues.

To download a full copy of the article click on the Download button below.

Top Management Challenges in the 21st Century

The 21st century has presented many challenges for the leaders and management of private and public-sector organisations. We live in a turbulent world where organisations must continually transform if they are to deliver sustained value to their shareholders and stakeholders. All too easily in this highly-connected world, hard-earned competitive advantages and reputation can slip away.  One such competitive advantage is the sustained delivery of “stand-out” quality products and services. We have all benefited from the improvements in quality that have been achieved over the last 50 years, yet we still live in a world where poor quality in the public and private sectors is reported and, more recently it appears, with increasing frequency.

Failure to manage quality in this fast-moving world is clearly damaging the reputations and financial returns of some major global brands and corporations.  The procurement profession reports increasing concern at the risks to the quality of products and services sourced.  Failure is not just restricted to the delivery of products and services either – the way that some major change is being mismanaged is also damaging the reputations of some high-quality brands.

The Oakland Institute for Business Research and Education, in collaboration with the Leeds University Business School and Valueneer in Germany, have formed a research team to examine these issues. We have carried out an initial on-line survey of over 140 global companies.

What are the issues for top management in the 21st Century?

The on-line survey produced statistically significant results which showed that:

  • CEOs and executive teams are better at demonstrating leadership, commitment and setting strategy than ensuring the implementation of quality management.
  • To reduce high-profile failures and recalls of products, CEOs and executive teams need to demonstrate leadership, commitment and set strategy AND be good at implementing quality management
  • Leadership, commitment, clear quality vision, quality aligned in strategy and continuous improvement are shown, with statistical significance, to help reduce the number of major failures or recalls and the costs of poor quality.
  • Vigilance in promoting risk-based approaches is not enough without effective quality planning and a culture of fact-based decision-making.
  • There is a need to prioritise improvement on standardisation of quality/risk management processes and interfaces with supply chains and procurement.
  • There is better governance of supply chain risk and higher standing of quality, procurement and supply chain management in companies that have quality and supply chain management functions represented in the Boardroom.
  • Interfaces between the CEO, Supply Chain Management and Quality Management at board level are crucial for maintaining quality and reducing supply chain risks.

It is apparent then that top managers in some organisations seem to have lost sight of good quality, reliability, supply chain and procurement practices. However, the research team believe there are exemplar companies out there which know how to create the right cultures and management capabilities to run businesses well. Hence, further study of a sample of exemplar companies should allow us to develop existing and new frameworks that will address the whole set of requirements to assist top management regarding quality and supply chains. The next stage of our research will elicit specific examples or real-life experiences of managing quality and supply chains well in the 21st century, from three different top management perspectives; CEO, head of quality, and head of supply chain.

To get a Pdf copy of the interim report, enter you details below.


Is Outsourcing Worth The Risk?

The last few days have seen the publishing of a damning report from the Commons public administration committee into the failure of large outsourcing contracts to deliver value for money. The report was prompted by the recent collapse of Carillion and the fall-out for Government procurement departments that spend a reported £251.5bn per annum on outsourcing activity. The key findings point towards systemic failures, e.g.:-

  • The processes for contracting and managing this spend are, overall, “unclear and ineffective”
  • The data on which deals have been struck has, in some cases, been flawed
  • The handover of risk has been ineffective and asymmetric
  • Cost has trumped quality, leading to service degradation, affecting the lives of ordinary citizens

But the push for lower overall costs does not have to be at odds with quality; the two go hand-in-hand when quality and operations are well-managed. This ambition can also be achieved when two organisations operate in an outsourcing partnering arrangement. What is required, is a robust method for contract award, preparation and in-flight operation that involves both parties with common strategic aims and objectives, based on end customer satisfaction.

Advanced Service Quality Planning (ASQP™) takes the tried and tested approach used in industries such as Automotive and Aerospace, to build-in service quality from the outset. ASQP™ systematically brings recognised good practice to each of the six main elements that together provide the foundation for successful outsourcing:

In turn, service providers can benefit by getting better prepared for potential contract award and stress-testing the assumptions within their bids to avoid painful and costly ramp ups that were built on shaky operating model designs.

Both client and service provider can reduce risk and cost using this technique. Surely the prize is worth winning with multi-million-pound overruns reported in the press.

For more information on ASQP™ and how you can reduce the risks of outsourcing, contact

How to stop the “race to the bottom” in the Outsourcing market

What’ going wrong?

I watched with interest Serco’s Group Chief Executive, Rupert Soames, on Breakfast News yesterday morning discussing the need for a reformed UK Public Sector Outsourcing market. He expanded on this theme in Serco’s 2017 full year results presentation, warning of “a market for the dumb and desperate” if collective action is not taken.

He’s right that action is needed. Across the industry there is a long history of failed contracts, in terms of service delivery for end customers, and financial and reputational losses for service providers. The recent collapse of Carillion and Capita’s profit warning, almost halving its share price in a day, have brought things into sharp focus for Government and Outsourcers.

The Outsourcing sector is one of the key levers the UK Public Sector has to “deliver more, and better, for less”. It employs 1.2m people in the UK and it’s important to those that fund (UK taxpayers) and receive these services that it functions well. So, why’s it going wrong and how can it be fixed?

Why’s it going wrong?

Customer side

Many Outsourcers talk about “the race to the bottom”. The collective view is that the contracting customer (the Public Sector) no longer differentiates sufficiently on the quality of the services that the supplier promises to deliver and has the capabilities to deliver. In short, let’s assume everyone is as bad/good as each other and go for the lowest price. The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has good intentions and wants a vibrant outsourcing market with genuine competition. However, by the time individual Departments are procuring specific contracts, these good intentions often appear to be lost. The cheapest bidder wins, impacting the quality of service delivery and/or the contract profitability for the provider.

It is natural to expect some issues with first generation outsourced contracts (the first time the work is delivered by the private sector), but by the time contracts are in their 3rd, 4th or 5th generation you expect much better operational maturity on both sides. Sadly, this is a long way from reality, with government broadly procuring what they did last time with minor modification to the requirements. The incumbent providers have great insight into what has worked and what has not worked under the previous generation of the contract, but this seems to be often ignored when the new contractual requirements emerge. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that drive the wrong behaviours remain, and in the desire to push down all risk to service providers there is insufficient incentive for government and outsourcers to work collaboratively to improve delivery over the contract lifetimes.

Supplier side

Outsourcers also carry their fair share of responsibility. Key to the lifeblood of all Outsourcers is bidding, successfully, for new work. Too often the bid teams are separate from the delivery teams, with a somewhat different agenda. Winning a bid is very different from winning a bid with a solution that can be delivered effectively at the forecast levels of profitability. Maturity here is increasing, but it still has a long way to go.

Most of the problems emanate from decisions and commitments made in the bidding process, but there is frequently insufficient improvement of the services during transition and contract delivery. Delivery teams are established and start to make sense of the commitments made during the bid. For ‘messy’ contracts this can take months or years. If clear, pragmatic improvement plans haven’t been established during the bidding phase, it may take years before these are in place, especially when the real improvement capability has been withdrawn from the contracts.

How can it be fixed?

So how can this destructive cycle be stopped, before the outsourcing market is fully broken?

Both government and the Outsourcers, should look to other industries where the need to “deliver more, and better, for less” has been achieved. Across many product-based industries the application of Advanced Quality Planning has helped achieve this goal. Customers, suppliers and their supply chain, working together, using a common language, to ensure that up-front planning results in a product that satisfies the customer. It’s been proven to work, but it needs both the customers and suppliers to participate fully.

Achieving these improvements in an outsourced service environment, presents its own challenges:

  • Delivery solutions are developed and commercial commitments made at bid submission, so much of the quality planning work needs to be undertaken during the bidding phase
  • The end customer participates in the delivery of the service, requiring more flexibility and responsiveness from service delivery staff
  • Supply chains are shorter, but bi-directional and more dynamic. This strengthens the need for the end customers (Service Users), the commercial customer (Government) and the supplier(s) to all engage in developing the right delivery solution
  • There’s more variation in the services required and the people delivering the service etc.

However, Oakland has started to apply its Advanced Service Quality Planning (ASQPTM) framework with some early adopters in the outsourcing market, adapting the methods that have worked in product-based industries.

Applying ASQPTM throughout the business lifecycle (pre-bid, bid, transition and delivery) helps as:

  • The cost of fixing problems increases by orders of magnitude as you move from service design, to service delivery, to service recovery (when things have gone wrong)
  • By investing in prevention activities, during service design, the cost of failure and assurance activities in delivery reduces
  • It provides a platform for sensible conversations between customer and supplier.

As product-based industries have discovered, it requires the full participation and commitment from customers, suppliers and their supply chain to gain the full benefits of Advanced Quality Planning. So, everyone will need to “come to the party” to see a real transformation in the outsourcing market.

If you’re interested to hear more about ASQPTM and how it can work in the outsourcing context, then please contact Rod Scott at

Digital transformation and quality – an expert’s view

In the December issue of Quality World, published by the CQI, John Oakland shares the Oakland Institute’s latest research on companies undergoing digital transformation.  The research is particularly focused on how those companies ensure they can manage the quality of their product or service when digital innovation can bring great change.

The opportunities and risks of digital change

Most people in business have seen the changes in customer behaviour, especially when it comes to using technology to improve their buying power. Price comparison sites to find the best deal, retailers offering price matching on the web, click and collect becoming a common delivery channel. Whilst there are great growth opportunities in both B2C and B2B there are challenges for businesses in managing customer interactions across different channels and ensuring the right quality data is used to feed into capable processes. Data quality within digital transformation has become a central component of  major successful organisations’ strategies as we head towards the 2020s.

Information quality Framework

To address the concerns about data quality, the Oakland Institute has developed information quality engineering frameworks that can provide essential support to digital transformation of businesses. It is the use of such tools that allows many organisations to quickly change and adapt business processes yet know that data quality is not being compromised. Our research suggests it is not the lack of skilled staff or resources – it’s the lack of methods, tools and modelling capabilities that can enable organisations to implement changes faster.

Expert uncut advice

The Oakland Institute’s research has shown that many organisations need to gain access to approaches, methods and tools to transform
and innovate better (higher quality) and faster (more efficient) in order to generate new growth opportunities and create a significant competitive advantage.


To download the full article click on the button below.


Building quality into the fabric of your business

“All too often quality is viewed as ‘a thing’ which can be given to an individual (the most senior person with ‘quality’ in their job title) or the Quality Department to own and manage.”


Andy Crossley has recently published an article in Quasar – the in-house magazine of the Research Quality Association (RQA, ), the body focused on the quality of research and development concerning pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, chemicals and medical devices. Andy really challenges this statement. He states quality must be built into the fabric of any business and have a wide ownership. Yet it can still be seen as belonging to those with quality in their job title.

Andy proposes four possible reasons as to why it is so hard to weave quality into the way we work. He also provides some very valuable actions that we can take to ensure it is at the centre of the business.


Why is quality important in your organisation? Your quality strategy delivers value for your customers and to the efficiency and margins of the organisation. Andy provides useful advice on communicating your quality strategy to first-line supervision.


Inconsistent or ineffective communication of your quality strategy can have a negative impact on your organisation and customers. Andy  gives advice on communicating the strategy including a communication model and seven tips to avoid miscommunication.


An apparent lack of capability to deliver continuous improvement (or this capability being concentrated in a relatively small number
of individuals) can have a negative impact on your business. Andy provides two models to help readers understand what is needed to develop an embedded quality culture so that On Quality, On Time, On Cost becomes a real capability.


Quality will never become embedded in the business if there is a perception that the CEO and senior managers are not fully supportive.  This perception may be due to the lack of visible personal engagement, lack of adequate resource being released and unrealistic expectations of the timescales involved. Of the four Cs discussed, by far the most important is that of the commitment of the CEO to engage. Andy provides several case studies that show a real-life approach to commitment and the other three Cs.


To get the full article please click the button below.


5 lessons I’ve learnt from Big Data LDN

I attended my latest ‘data’ conference last week, getting a pass from the team to go to ‘Big Data London’.

Given this was my first time at Big Data LDN (not London!) I didn’t really know what to expect, so the things I walked away with are perhaps not news to some, but they are a reflection of what I heard from speakers, observed at stands and took from chats with several folk.

Lesson 1 – There are so many vendors in this data space, for anyone coming into it can be mind boggling. How can someone who is responsible for data in their business (let alone a business manager who does not have the time to be a dedicated expert) decipher all of this? It’s a mine field! The answer to potential confusion is get back to basics and focus on making steady progress and capturing the quick wins.  It was a repeated message I heard several times so I think it has a ring to truth.

Lesson 2 – In spite of all the shiny tech….it’s NOT all about the shiny tech. A session that seemed to resonate with a large following was the CDO Playbook. This presentation talked about the real-world considerations that are required if businesses are to exploit their data.  As always, making sustained change comes back to a complex mix of people, culture, processes and (lastly) tools.  People who are equally comfortable in the Boardroom and in the Tech Project Team are going to become increasingly valuable.

Lesson 3 – This is a community that is worth being part of! Everybody from Analysts to Data Scientists, CDOs to Operations Directors, entrepreneurs to students. There was such a buzz and sense of being part of the future. Definitely a world of people that seem to be in it together and can find a combination of skills and technology to solve real world problems.

Lesson 4 – In spite of the above excitement, I did come away thinking that the cool dashboards, whizzy graphs, terabytes of data are only worth so much to the people on the ground making the key decisions in a business. They have to put a lot of trust in all that data, and if there’s even a small part of it that’s not accurate, incorrectly matched or error strewn, then that new dashboard isn’t going to help you make the right decisions! There’s a lot of people out there still using pretty raw data sources!

Lesson 5 – It does not all have to be BIG.  In my day job I still find the majority of business ‘run on excel’.  I suspect that much could be achieved with smaller, tactical improvements, that are focused on the most critical data. There were a number of firms doing things that would be much more accessible to the mainstream business community.

Attendance at events such as this should be mandatory for all business managers – definitely not just the preserve of the ‘data geeks’ (as great as they are) or the IT zealots! Sign up for one now. In fact, you can sign up for Big Data LDN 2018.

Many thanks to Bill Hammond, Matt Stubbs and team for organising and promoting the event.

Total Construction Management

Lean Quality in Construction Project Delivery

The coming together of lean management and quality management thinking has taken place in organizations across many industries, including construction. Practices in procurement, design management and construction management are all evolving constantly. Managers need to understand these changes and how to react to them if they want to be successful. This book provides valuable insights for owners, designers and constructors in the construction sector.

The reader is initially introduced to the language of total quality, lean and operational excellence. Next, they are taken right up to the latest industry practice in this sector.  Importantly, the book demonstrates the best way to manage change. John Oakland and his co-author Marton Marosszeky are two of the world’s leading experts in this subject. Total Construction Management: Lean quality in construction project delivery offers a clearly structured introduction to the most important management concepts and practices used in the global construction industry today.

This authoritative book covers issues such as procurement, BIM, all forms of waste, construction safety, and design and construction management, all explained with international case studies. It is a perfect guide for managers in all parts of the industry. Equally, it is ideal for those preparing to enter the industry.

Case studies and reviews

The book is full of really useful case studies that should help the construction practitioner apply the learning in their own organisation. Some of the UK-based case studies include the largest high-profile projects we have seen in many decades. These include the Crossrail project in London, the development of Heathrow airport and the work of Highways England in managing our motorways.

The case studies carry through the transport theme to two of the book reviews. Ian Mitchell, Quality Director at Network Rail in the UK and Carlos Vazquez Travieso, Head of Quality at Transport for London have provided expert feedback. Thanks to Ian and Carlos for their kind comments.