To help customers achieve their goals, Rabobank needs to ensure it’s creating an environment to support, motivate and inspire its workforce. But without clear employee data across the bank’s complex structure, this was a tough challenge. We worked with Rabobank to establish a new data and analytics capability for HR. This has equipped the function to deliver smarter people insights for the business. It has also allowed HR to provide better support for the bank’s 37,000 employees – from understanding whether teams are appropriately staffed to identifying new opportunities for career development for individual employees.

Key successes

  • Delivered expertise across data science, data engineering and business intelligence to support an ambitious and complex project.
  • Developed an ingenious, hybrid solution, which brought all key data into one place, combining on-premises data storage with cloud-based analytics, to reflect an evolving technical landscape.
  • Deployed agile techniques to roll out new data and analytics capability for HR to reduce time-to-market.
  • Enabled the bank to deliver mandatory reporting to the Dutch regulator during a time when complex change was underway across the organisation

Developing an enhanced analytics capability

Rabobank is a cooperative bank made up of almost 90 local branches in the Netherlands, all operating with a high degree of autonomy. The bank has significant international operations too with a focus on food and agriculture. This complex set-up had resulted in a fragmented technology and systems landscape, with no standard ways to capture and report on people data. Capturing data was a manual process, led by individuals across the Rabobank team. This was not only hugely time-consuming, but it meant data wasn’t always accurate.

Rabobank understood the importance of people data, serving (the digital) needs of its workforce and simplifying global processes which has led to the implementation of a new HR core system in 2019. However, they wanted more – an enhanced reporting and analytics capability that would provide the data-driven insights the bank needed to develop and manage its people. This new capability would also enable them to replace the existing manual processes they had in place to deliver robust regulatory and workforce related reports efficiently and accurately.

We assembled a diverse team of experts to meet the challenge – including specialists in data science, solution architecture, project management, business intelligence, agile development and data engineering. Our job was to establish a state-of-the-art capability with global reach. This would start to drive a data-driven culture across the HR function and pave the way for a similar shift in culture across all functions in future. All this took place in the context of the requirement to continue providing accurate and timely reporting on key indicators to regulators and providing the business with high quality insights for people decisions.

Applying ingenuity to resolve complexity

Our first task was to create the blueprint for the new reporting capability. What people and processes were required? How would systems fit together to enable the insights HR needed? Where would data come from and where would it be held? The ongoing configuration of the bank’s new core HR system during this phase of work added a high degree of complexity, creating a moving target for our team.

With HR still dependent on on-premise systems to hold HR data ahead of a future move to the cloud, there was added complexity. We needed an approach that worked for now and for the future, and kept sensitive data secure throughout. We came up with an ingenious solution. We created a data warehouse to allow Rabobank to retain people data on its own systems for now, but to start using the cloud to conduct reporting and analysis straight away. This hybrid approach demonstrates the skill of our experts in data engineering and solution architecture and their ability to bring innovative thinking to complex challenges.

Providing the expertise to realise a vision

We set about enabling Rabobank to realise the solution we had designed. We helped get the right team in place, supplementing in-house capability with our own expertise as necessary. Working together, we began rolling out the new framework, including setting up interfaces with the new HR core system and other data sources. Just six weeks after these major changes, Rabobank was able to deliver the first mandatory reports on sickness-related absence on time and without a hitch. We had passed a significant milestone, but there was still a long journey ahead.

Over the next 18 months, we continued to work with the bank to develop and roll out a fully automated solution that delivers all the dashboards and reports required by HR and the regulator. Throughout, we deployed agile techniques (demo’s, user groups etc.) to make sure the tools we developed met users’ needs. For example, we developed an app that matches employees with internal vacancies so that they don’t miss out on career development opportunities. By sharing our expertise with the Rabobank team, we enabled them to continue to develop the new capability independently in the future.

Enabling better decisions on the people agenda

With our support, Rabobank now has control of its people data and can develop robust insights to inform HR decisions. Managers, HR Business Partners and employees in compliance roles now have the information they need for effective decision-making at their fingertips, with more than 3,000 people accessing the solution’s easy-to-use dashboards each day. Automation is helping eliminate time spent chasing data or reconciling different versions, freeing up more time to think about what the numbers actually mean. Today, reporting is an automated process that runs daily, needing minimal input from the Rabobank team. We not only changed the way reporting is done, but we ensured that people across the organisation understood the value in automation. This change of culture within HR will be the catalyst for a shift to a data-driven culture and smart decision-making across the wider organisation.

We’re already working with Rabobank on the next phase of the project to feed the most important HR-related data into a ‘data lake’. This database will hold both structured and unstructured data and allow for even more insights to be unearthed.

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