How GHD gathered its data to tell a tale of risk management
GHD is a global professional services company delivering engineering, construction, and architectural expertise. Established in 1928, they remain wholly owned by their people. They are a 10,000+ team spanning over 200 offices, across five continents – Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America, and the Pacific region.
GHD has undertaken a concerted effort since 2010 to standardise how they operate around the globe. After decades of successful growth, they had evolved into a deeply decentralised organisation with strong regional and geographic expertise.
This key strength of having decision making closest to the customer presented a challenge in standardising processes and systems to leverage fundamental strengths across the organisation and be able to work across geographies. One such element was a disperse and disparate way of assessing risk across the business.
John Gersekowski, Executive General Manager – Risk at GHD led the aptly named Insurance Solution project. An engineer by training, John’s instinct was to look at facts and data first to form an opinion. He is inspired by famed American engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant, W Edwards Deming’s insight:
“Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.”
Denning helped develop the sampling techniques that are still used by the U.S. Department of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. John and the team, led by Enterprise Data and Analytics Manager, Ravi Sanikommu gathered historic data from across multiple locations and redundant platforms, and combined it with data collected through new platforms and new systems that are standardising GHD processes across regions.
“We had data in legacy systems such as Workbench (back to 2000), Lotus Notes (back to 2007) and spreadsheets that were dated back to 2002. There were so many spreadsheets!” says John. “We want to understand our risk profile so that we can better manage risk. The natural flow on from this is that we will be able to positively impact the bottom line. It will potentially allow us to better price projects and give more transparency to our clients. We will be able to make more informed decisions about the risks that we take on, and potentially avoid large cost fluctuations, and client disappointment.”
“Together with Ignite, we developed a vision of how our various systems would interact; TM1 – finance, BWise- governance, risk & compliance and our legacy systems,”
“This project highlighted just how complex the interactions are between all the systems. People are often nervous about showing reports when they know that the data is poor. The work that we did with Ignite showed us that not all data is equal. You have to look at this as a long-term issue, if you don’t collect the data in a structured manner, you can never get to the sexy analytics which is where all the good stuff is!” says John.
“We decided to show the gaps in the data rather than hide them. This way, issues could be remediated. Everyone knows now that they need to add this data so that we can create long term benefits.”
“The ability of the Ignite team to listen to what we were actually trying to achieve and understand our objectives rather than focus on what graph to create was central to the project’s success.”
A key part of the success of this project was the team. From day one, GHD engaged their subject matter experts –the people, globally, who are passionate about this. The people with skin in the game. They will get the benefits from the new platform; they will use it daily. The team spanned North America and Australia, risk, finance and legal as well as the Enterprise Data and Analytics team.
And the team has favourite reports. There is now the ‘Alert Development History’ that spans over the years of an insurance matter. Using legacy data, the team can see a snapshot of how the case changed every 3 months. They have insights into when and how crucial decisions played out – giving so much potential to understand current and future cases.
There is also a Total Incurred and Total Cost of Risk Report – bringing together insurance premiums, what was spent on settling and defending claims and compares these against revenue. This report is particularly useful when working with insurers and reporting risk costs and risk profile to management.
The beauty of this risk analytics project is that it allowed GHD and Ignite to bring all the data together and present something meaningful through Microsoft PowerBI. They started to tell a story rather than just looking at numbers. Instead of having data to manage the business day by day –the team at GHD could understand the data holistically and gather insights.
Historic data from across the global organisation – often stored in spreadsheets – has been integrated with strategic applications into the SAP HANA Data Warehouse to create one source of truth. This gives GHD an informed view of the effectiveness of risk controls and how they should design them moving forwards. They are better able to understand their loss records, enabling informed discussions with insurers and significantly more constructive negotiations.
At a more granular level, the GHD team are regularly asked by insurers to provide a history of their loss records– now these records are more accurate, enabling better relationships between the two parties.
This is just the beginning for the team at GHD. Where to next? Predictive analytics.
The team will be working to develop insights into what causes project overruns. This will allow them to better price proposals and allow for early intervention in projects that demonstrate characteristics.
GHD is acutely aware of the difference between a project and a program. The Insurance Solution is part of a greater program of work to hardwire data and business analytics into the firm. To always look to tell a story with their data.
“This is the best project since I wrote FORTRAN as a wee lad,” ends John. Really, what can you add to that?
We believe the best results come when data enables people
Let's put data at the heart of improving your business and communities you serve.