March 12, 2019

Less is more

Penelope Rance - RBS

In helping clients deliver projects, Mudano’s holistic approach is cutting through the clutter by combining the right data with the right technology.

“Waste not, want not” could be the motto of data-led consultancy Mudano’s founders. They’ve even named their company for it – Muda is waste in Japanese, hence Muda-no. And one thing they definitely are not wasting is time, having established offices in London, Brazil and Scotland since being established in 2014. “We grew revenue from zero to over £20m in four years,” says founder and CEO Ed Broussard. “We’ve grown a business with 150 people across three locations.”

The company’s actual motto is “waste less, do more”, and they’re enacting it in every IT change project they undertake. With a background at IBM and Ernst & Young, Broussard and Mudano co-founder and chief strategy officer Jonathan Summers moulded themselves into experts in the data consultancy field, then started to question how data was being used in IT change projects.

“We moved from saying ‘let’s use data around change projects to run the project more effectively’ to looking at how we can make, for example, an artificial intelligence (AI) consultant that’s not replacing change professionals, but rather augmenting them with the right information and the right support,” says Broussard. “That was why we started the business. We believed the industry we were a part of in IT and data consultancy was fundamentally broken.”

The Mudano difference, they claim, lies in combining consultancy services, machine learning and data insights to eliminate project delivery inefficiencies. By releasing unrecognised potential, they believe they can save their customers millions.

Founded in London to service their core client base of tier-one banks, the company established an office in Goiâna, Brazil, after discovering a well of talent among local developers. “I’d love to say it’s some strategic cost model,” says Broussard, who in fact admits it was random good fortune.

A more deliberate move was the founding of an Edinburgh branch, which has garnered £6.9m in investment, including a £2.6m R&D grant from the government. As a Scot, Broussard was keen to establish an office north of the border, and having experienced packed commuter flights from Edinburgh to London, believed Mudano could tap into a pool of experienced consultants who wanted to live in Scotland, but couldn’t find strong local consultancies to work for.

“The plan was to work for Scottish clients, such as RBS and Standard Life, who were predominately being serviced by consulting businesses in London. And then we investigated setting up a research facility because Scotland, and Edinburgh specifically, has made a big investment in data science and AI and education over the last few years.”

Meaningful change
Grant funding has made the R&D centre economically competitive. “We’re investing £6.9m, of which a Scottish Enterprise grant makes up a portion. So long as we invest at a certain level and we achieve the things that we’re trying to achieve, then we can recover some of that in grant funding.”

 

“We look for people who believe that they can make an impact on the world. When you get enough of those people together, you can do incredible things”

– Ed Broussard, founder and CEO, Mudano

 

Part of what they’ve promised is to create employment opportunities in the Scottish capital. “The commitment we made was to create 40 jobs in three years – and we’ve hired about 35 people in Edinburgh in less than a year. We’re starting to build our consulting capability there as well, so over three years, I imagine we’ll at least double or triple that.”

There is a forceful optimism in Broussard’s ambitions that defies the caution so typical of British businesses at present. Where does that drive come from? “The whole business exists to change an industry. People join us because they want to do something meaningful in their career. We look for people who believe that they can make an impact on the world. When you get enough of those people together, you can do incredible things.”

The proof, he says, is in the projects. “We’ve delivered incredible stuff for our clients, and that is because we have extremely talented people, we believe we can change the world together, and we’re willing to challenge the way that things were done previously.”

There are no naysayers at Mudano, holding the business back. “Here, when you say you want to do something ridiculously difficult, people get onboard because that’s why they work here. We recruit from big consultancies, and there has to be a reason for them to get out of that cushy lifestyle to come and do something different. I think the thing that we offer is meaningful change.”

Burning ambition
Despite the ingrained can-do attitude of the staff, there are still hurdles to be overcome, including how long it takes to effect real change. “The difficulty with having 150 extremely ambitious people who want to change the world all the time is that doing so takes a bit longer than you’d like. If you told me when we started ‘this is where you’ll be in four years’, I’d have been both delighted and devastated – with how much we’d achieved, but also because we were supposed to have changed the world by then. Our ambition sometimes outstretches reality.”

And even the most ambitious businesses have to adapt to changing circumstances, and processes need to keep up with developing technology. “We use data about projects, but we also help our clients with their own data strategies. And how important data and machine learning are, to our clients and for the economy as a whole, has fundamentally shifted over the four years we’ve existed. I would like to be at the forefront in helping financial services imagine how they can use data to better deliver for their customers.

I’d like us to have a leading impact on helping financial services reinvent itself in the new data economy; helping shape the way all organisations deliver change using data. Where we’re uniquely positioned to make an impact is that we understand this isn’t a data science problem, it’s not an AI problem, it’s not a behavioural change problem, it’s not a technology problem – it’s a combination of all of those things.”

So will they manage to change the world? Broussard believes so. “Undoubtedly we will. We already are in our own way. With our clients, we have fundamentally changed their perception of what can be done with data, their perception of how things can be delivered; and we’ve set new expectations of what’s possible, and what they expect their partners to be doing. That has forced our competition to change, because they are held to that new standard. It might take a little bit longer than I originally hoped, but I think we’ll definitely change the world.”

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