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What illuminating the complex means to us

Andie Heck: Data illuminates!

CPCS excels at ‘illuminating the complex.’ In the infrastructure analytics team, we’re often tasked with making sense of large and imperfect datasets and using them to paint a clear picture to our clients. My work involves a lot of cartography and data visualization, which is one tool we can use to make sure our work has a longstanding impact.

I always like to say that cartography is the perfect marriage of data analysis and visual arts! It’s important our work is evidence-based and data-driven but communicating it effectively with clear visuals is what ensures our analytical work can be impactful.

This ability to ‘illuminate the complex’ is what sets us apart at CPCS and something our team takes a lot of pride in.

Chang-Boong Lee: Simplicity takes courage!

I am a big fan of simplicity: Plain and honest communications, solutions presented in straight-forward manners, and emphasis on substance over form. It makes life easier, and at a deeper level, simplicity to me speaks of courage, being accessible, and commitment to understanding the complex.

One reason why CPCS clicked with me is that we write and tell our work in simple language – one would not naturally associate that with management consulting.
I think it takes courage because the substance of our work must shine bright enough. It makes us accessible, all the more important when our clients, colleagues, and stakeholders come from such diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. And it’s a commitment to put in the hard work to understand the complex subject at hand and communicate clearly.

Of course, we might err on that on any given day, but on a spectrum, I think we do a great job at embracing simplicity, using that like a torch to illuminate the complex, which almost pervades everything we do as infrastructure advisors who deals with big, long-term, and consequential things.

Taslima Akter: Reveal layers of complexities 

What I thought was going to be a traditional traffic modelling exercise, turned into something bigger. A Nigerian feasibility study I recently worked on involved four newly constructed light rail transit (LRT) lines in Lagos, the country’s largest city. Each LRT line has about 11-18 stations, where some stations are common for multiple LRT lines. To complicate things, not all LRT lines and stations would be operational at the same time. In short, the project gradually revealed layers of complexities and challenges.

The fun lies exactly in having to understand the complex system and operations of LRT lines. We’ve been shedding light on gaps and pathways to find the best practical solution.
Ultimately, we developed eight different ridership models that capture the comprehensive system of four LRT lines. These ridership models are used to develop operational models. As you can tell, the full CPCS project team dove deep, step-by-step, to illuminate the complexity of this LRT system.

Ethan Schwartz: When no easy solutions exist 

To me, illuminating the complex means distilling client goals and translating them into a clear and practical plan. We’re tasked with solving some of the world’s hardest infrastructure problems, often in markets where no similar solutions exist. This is where our ability to illuminate the complex shines.

A notable example is an ongoing transaction advisory mandate which CPCS is conducting for a port project in Africa. The client is seeking to develop and build what would be one of the largest ports in the region, which would open a large swath of the country to international trade while alleviating bottlenecks at other ports. Though the client initially sought to implement the project in a public-private partnership, several factors made this structure infeasible. To assuage market doubts while supporting the client in meeting their goals, CPCS is proposing a novel transaction structure that appropriately balances risk for all transaction parties by phasing in private ownership as the project progresses.

Jia Yuan: Illuminating the complex means… 

  1. To be data smart: I’m not referring to having strong analytical and technical skills in data processing (although it matters too). While data are numbers that could provide insight into freight planning, it doesn’t always reflect the full pictures; local knowledge, stakeholder expertise, and other qualitative information and anecdotal evidence are equally important. To be data smart is to be data-driven but not data-blind. 
  2. To ask effective questions: I often see our role as puzzle solvers – we gather and process a variety of information about complex systems (the “puzzle pieces”) and then piece them together to identify solutions. Asking effective questions helps the team collect puzzle pieces from clients and other stakeholders efficiently. I’m continuously learning from my colleagues how to inquire about key information strategically. CPCS also consists of people with robust domain and geographic knowledge. I always find it valuable to reach out to my peers to leverage their insight and expertise, and this often leads me to the missing pieces. 
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