Ajax hires BCG to review its youth football academy

29 August 2014 Consultancy.uk

Dutch football team Ajax Amsterdam has hired consulting firm The Boston Consulting Group to review the performance of its youth academy. The strategy consultants will in the coming months take the operations of the academy under scrutiny and provide financial and technical recommendations to the club’s Board of Directors.

Ajax Amsterdam, the largest football club of The Netherlands in terms of fan base, currently invests €7 million per year in its youth academy. In line with its objective to boost the quality of its academy – the club relies on young talent as its best players are regularly poached by foreign clubs* – Ajax has announced that it wants to enhance its annual academy spending. With the additional budget, it aims at for instance improving the infrastructure of its training complex (known as ‘de Toekomst’) and attracting high-quality youth trainers. Wim Jonk, head of Ajax’s Youth Academy (and a former Dutch international and Sheffield Wednesday player), asked for an additional budget of €1,8 million per year, yet the Board of Directors declined the request, arguing that €900.000 would be a more realistic figure.

Boston Consulting Group and Ajax

Following criticism by Ajax and Dutch football icon Johan Cruijff, the Board has decided to bring in external expertise to conduct an independent assessment. The football club choose for the services of The Boston Consulting Group, the globe’s second largest strategy consulting firm. The consultants have been given the task to review the performance of the youth academy and provide financial and technical recommendations to Jonk and the Board. The engagement is being led by BCG’s Dutch office, based in the country’s capital Amsterdam.

Although both Ajax and BCG have declined to comment on the project, the choice for BCG does not come as a real surprise according to insiders. Hans Wijers, who sits on the supervisory board of Ajax Amsterdam, has a history at BCG: between 1999 and 2003 he fulfilled the role of Managing Partner at BCG in The Netherlands.

* Recent examples include the transfer of former Ajax captain Siem de Jong to Newcastle, Jan Vertonghen to Tottenham and in 2011 the move of Luis Suarez to Liverpool (currently at FC Barcelona).


How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.