How the Leeds-based Oakland Group is using data to speed up the development of life saving projects

Richard Corderoy, managing director of The Oakland Group, is using data to transform lives. He spoke to Deputy Business Editor, Greg Wright, about his mission.

EVERY working day, Richard Corderoy mobilises an army of workers who are proud to be geeky and determined to make the world a better place.

He’s the managing director of The Oakland Group, a Leeds-based company which uses the power of data to save lives and potentially shave vast sums off the cost of major infrastructure projects.

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“Our work can mean that hospitals get built sooner and the railways work better,” he said. “This is about joining up data across the supply chain to make sure projects at scale are done better.”

Richard Corderoy mobilises an army of workers who are proud to be geeky and determined to make the world a better place.

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The study was carried out by the Project Praxis Group, at WMG University of Warwick, led by Professor Naomi Brookes in partnership with The Oakland Group.

PDA involves using data in a more effective way to support decision-making in project delivery. However, PDA is still not understood or widely adopted.

Mr Corderoy would like to change all that.

He said: “Our work with companies across the construction and utility sectors shows that integrating data insight and decision-making into daily operations can be transformational.

“Organisations are often awash with data and just need help to access it in a way that can drive insight and change,” he said.

“Our support of the work with WMG University of Warwick highlights the pressing need to adopt data analytics into project planning and delivery.

“The savings highlighted are significant and just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the wider economy.”

Over the summer, Oakland Group helped to keep visitors to Blenheim Palace safe from Covid-19.

The project provided a real-time view of visitor footfall across the palace to enable staff to limit numbers in particular areas and help maintain social distancing.

Blenheim has been working with an Oxford Brookes University PhD student, Yayoi Teramoto, to apply artificial intelligence (AI) and develop ‘smart tourism’ applications that can predict how many people will come to the site and how long they stay.

“We’re a team of about 50 people and we do work for large and complex clients,’ said Mr Corderoy. “We’re a 35-year old organisation, which for much of its history had been a traditional consultancy.

“Five years ago we realised there was a way to revolutionise the way we went to market by recruiting a team of data engineers and business analysts.

“This was an exciting move for the organisation because it enabled us to become part of the data revolution.”

Today, the Leeds-based business operates at the intersection of process, analytics, and governance, as it works with everyone from venture capital backed start-ups to major figures in the defence and aerospace sector.

“We work very hard at recruiting and retaining the right people,’’ said Mr Corderoy. “And we’re still relatively small which means we are a fun and exciting place to work.

“But it still isn’t easy to find people with the right skills. Our work analyses expenditure on national infrastructure projects and other major projects such as schools and hospitals.

“The unit of spending on these projects can be eye-watering. Railways, for example, can spend tens of millions of pounds every week. Our work can help to avoid delays and shorten the life and costs of a project.”

The company’s workflow has continued to grow over the last 18 months.

Mr Corderoy added: “In infrastructure, work has carried on during the pandemic and is expected to grow further in response to the levelling up agenda.

“We like to think we are a small firm that punches above its weight. Some sectors are very data driven, but construction is one of the sectors still in the foothills.

“Retailers which sell tens of thousands of goods will have plenty of data about their activities, but data on major projects is relatively scarce because there are so few of them.

“We have been growing 20 per cent year on year and we aim to continue with that, although we are very aware of the risk of getting too far ahead of ourselves.

“Leeds is a real centre for the tech sector and there is an opportunity to grow and be an even bigger employer in Leeds. We have done a lot of work with Leeds University Business School to help develop our staff.”

Mr Corderoy is proud of his eclectic band of doers and thinkers, who aim to remove obstacles that stop a host of big organisations from achieving their potential.

“Our strapline is, ‘Genius Ingenious solutions, need brilliant people’,’’ said Mr Corderoy.

“What we do makes the world a better place.

“I’m also passionate about diversity in tech; people in our team have PHDs and some people are entirely self-taught. It’s brilliant to have that mix.

“They are proud to be geeky and really making a difference to the real world.”

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