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How can we overcome the interoperability challenge?

08 June 2018
ICE and Bluebeam’s industry recent roundtable set out the issues and challenges around working with asset information.
How can we overcome the interoperability challenge?

Interoperability refers to the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information. It’s a hot topic in today’s digitally powered world of infrastructure and seen to be one of the significant barriers to realising true value from digital transformation.

What are the issues?

At its broadest level the infrastructure sector has a well-documented productivity problem. For decades low margins, inefficiencies and cost pressures have compromised outcomes to customers and end users, with projects falling short of their potential.

This may be because rework is needed, budgets are exceeded, supply chains are not aligned around value, or there is no clear line of sight from the client through to users.

The problem partly lies with the ways we manage and utilise information throughout the asset lifecycle. Historically, accessing useful asset data has been a highly inefficient process. Digital transformation presents a solution, allowing engineers to access information in seconds rather than days.

While digital sets out a path to efficient decision-making we need to catch up on a strategic level. Too often project information strategies don’t reflect ultimate outcomes. Planning teams haven’t engaged enough with the supply chain to understand what data is really needed - and at which stages. There are also technical challenges around data exchange, such as file format compatibility and vendor lock-in.

Part of the problem is also about industry culture. Traditionally, design and contractor teams have worked in silos with the main aim of meeting the needs of their immediate paymasters. While the industry’s broad direction of travel is driving more collaboration and open working we need stronger incentives to encourage information sharing throughout the supply chain.

Read the full 'Interoperability' report and analysis

Further information

Follow ICE's Digital Transformation campaign
Join ICE, Bluebeam and the digital transformation community at Shaping A Digital World,
25 September 2018

  • Ben McAlinden, manager (international partnerships) at Royal Academy of Engineering