Building a company’s future through innovative cost control

16th September 2022

Building a company’s future through innovative cost control

Our client had a familiar problem, but wanted and needed an atypical solution. Arca Blanca helped them implement improved cost controls at the same time as increasing staff engagement and satisfaction.

A familiar cost challenge?

Revenues were rising, but costs were rising a lot faster. Inflation was a factor, but other things were contributing. And with each branch manager empowered, the autonomy meant internal data didn’t support like-for-like comparison for informed, centralised decision-making.

Empowering people, not disempowering staff

The traditional options were unattractive: they’d crash staff morale and hurt long-term prospects.

Standardising the local operating models would disempower employees, and likely wouldn’t make sense in local market conditions. Centrally imposed cost cuts would alienate branch managers. And the sale of underperforming branches would hand market share to well-capitalised competitors.

Rapid results, delivered

Together, we chose the option of providing local decision-makers with quality insight. They had the context, but lacked the detail to understand which decisions to make. So, by supporting these key people to make and own the necessary choices, this would drive results and build engagement.

Delivering results at speed required an innovative use of data. Reforming in-house data would take time that wasn’t available. So instead we supplemented internal data with several publicly available external sources. This new ‘bespoke big data set’ allowed us to:

  1. Understand branch performance relative to local market conditions: including competitor footprint, population demographics, and internal factors such as staffing model. Statistically relevant clustering allowed new insights across the existing portfolio – unlocking new choices in stocking and targeted customer offers.
  2. Make sense of internal data: by providing 'outside in' context, we could quickly show which parts of internal data made sense and which related to data quality problems. This didn’t fix internal data, but meant we could start to rely on key elements. It also demonstrated why data was valuable: helping local teams value data entry and process software. This has started a 'virtuous circle' towards improved data quality, without big central investment.
  3. Put power back in the hands of those needing to act: simple, intuitive insights delivered to branch and regional management helped people make local decisions. This worked with the culture of delegation and empowerment.

The results?

Cost is under better control. Teams are much clearer on what they need to do, and why. People across the company are better aligned, pulling together across functions and silos to deliver results. A new vocabulary has emerged: much deeper insight over local market conditions and customer needs.

This is helping the company to become more data-led: thinking through new operational improvements, growth opportunities, and (at senior level) working out how to increase the company’s valuation as part of exit planning with their private equity owner.

And this provides a unique big data set to power the company’s first use of Artificial Intelligence – using the dataset to segment customers and forecast pricing.

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