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Duncan Evans of Crossrail 2 talks to the Infrastructure Client Group (ICG) about their journey of writing and delivering a digitalisation strategy; how it came about, the approach taken, the problems encountered and key lessons learned.
Duncan Evans led the delivery of Crossrail 2’s Digitalisation Strategy. Crossrail 2 (CRL2) is a subsidiary of Transport for London and is currently developing the scheme ahead of submission of the hybrid bill. The Infrastructure Client Group first asked Duncan how the CRL2 digitalisation strategy came about.
“Its important that it’s driven from the top.” Simon Adams, Head of Commercial at CRL2 identified the need for a digitalisation strategy. It may seem obvious, but getting leadership buy/in is essential. As Duncan goes on to explain, this is because the digitalisation strategy cannot be an add-on if it is to bring true value – it must be a part of the organisation’s core culture and values. Duncan was asked to join the CRL2 team from his previous role as Head of Business Systems at Crossrail. Initially he thought that he could “do it alone”, but soon realised that it was important to get the right team together. A head of Information Management from Crossrail and a Senior BIM manager soon joined to bolster the team. The final step of getting the right team together was engaging Mott Macdonald, who were already providing some design consultancy to the project. This brought several advantages, primarily access to Mott’s network of people involved in digitalisation who could provide valuable knowledge and peer reviews.
So, the first two lessons from CRL2 on how to make a digitalisation strategy happen are:
Duncan and his team took a very structured approach to the development of the strategy. They put together a schedule for when they aimed to deliver the strategy and engage with stakeholders and got buy in to it from the management team. Then Duncan created the framework – what the strategy needed to consider.
“The framework gave us the contents page for the report. We then took a top down approach to flesh out the detail”. This process gave 6 themes for the strategy and the team then hosted a workshop for each of them. The workshops focused on principles and values rather than ‘how’ the strategy would be delivered – this can be worked out later. CRL2 brought in other industry members to the workshops to challenge views and benefit from the experience as well. Even at this early stage CRL2 decided to take an open approach to their digitalisation journey.
Once the strategy was on paper, the next stage was to involve the ICG’s digital transformation task group (DTTG) for peer review and critique. The group provided a lot of constructive feedback, as some members had recently gone through a similar journey. It also provided some confidence that what CRL2 had created was the right approach. One of Duncan’s key reflections from this part of the journey was that “it really helped being part of the DTTG. There were 12 or so similarly minded people who had similar challenges who we could share with.”
CRL2’s digitalisation strategy doesn’t talk about BIM, or Augmented Reality, or Blockchain. These are tools. Digital transformation for CRL2 is about the way they approach their work - not a transformation of the tools that they use to do so.
Keeping stakeholders on board is a key part of delivering the strategy. Duncan states that having clarity on who needed to be involved and how to manage their expectations was key. This is a reflection that has been echoed by other members of ICG.
As stated earlier, the need for top end support was also key. In CRL2, this meant that the Managing Director, Head of Engineering and Head of Commercial were key stakeholders. The team made efforts to keep these stakeholders involved with the process in an efficient way. Regular but short and focused meetings were set up, and these key stakeholders saw and commented on outputs before anyone else. This was a part of making the digitalisation strategy a key part of the project, rather than an add on to it.
The team had to overcome a series of problems to create the strategy. Many of these were also experienced by other ICG members.
From inception to implementation, the CRL2 digitalisation strategy took nearly 2 years. As a result, Duncan has some lessons for how he would do it differently next time.
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