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Watch the latest ICE Strategy Session: A Systems Approach to Infrastructure Delivery

07 January 2021

In our latest ICE Strategy Session, panellists discussed a model for delivering infrastructure to meet the demands of the modern world. Watch the debate again here.

Watch the latest ICE Strategy Session: A Systems Approach to Infrastructure Delivery

ICE proposals to radically change the way infrastructure is delivered have received the backing of industry leaders.

The recommendations were made in a newly published report, 'A Systems Approach to Infrastructure Delivery discussed at a recent ICE Strategy Session.

Watch the Strategy Session in full again below.

ICE Strategy Session

Heathrow Airport chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, welcomed the report and stated that the time was “absolutely right” to ensure complex projects were delivered on time and budget and to “learn the lessons of the past”. Former chief executive of The Crown Estate, Alison Nimmo, said the report “helps us think about how we change the professions as well as the industry”.

The report reviews how systems thinking can be used to improve infrastructure project delivery. It argues that delays and cost overruns on many projects are due to the current practise of being too focused on delivering the civil engineering element, rather than the entire system.

Speaking at the Strategy Session, chair of the review steering group and former Systra chief operating officer Andrew McNaughton said: “Our current delivery model is facing obsolescence – just at a time when the world needs high quality infrastructure services more than ever. Major projects are now too big, too complex and too long for the brute force and heroism model of the past.”

The report sets out an alternative model – a Systems Approach to Infrastructure Delivery (SAID) – that is driven by the needs of users, and places the onus on infrastructure owners and operators to translate those needs into clear outcomes around which assets and networks can be designed, delivered and operated as whole systems. SAID complements the principles behind ICE-backed Project 13.

A short animation describing the eight components of the SAID model also premiered at the launch event. Watch it below.

Nimmo expanded on the need for agile leadership, as set out in the model: “The sheer complexity of modern day projects and their interdependencies means we need a different type of leadership – one that is more collaborative – and a shift away from command and control, and from a monoculture to diverse teams.”

Echoing these views, Environment Agency chair Emma Howard-Boyd highlighted the importance of collaborating across the private and public sector. She emphasised the importance of front-end loading in the report – putting a lot more effort into planning and design before construction begins. “Within that, I include being willing to fail fast, and get on track if we’ve got it wrong,” said Howard-Boyd.

With the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) reporting up to £37bn in the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline in the coming year, IPA head of infrastructure performance, Huda As’ad, said, “We need to set our projects up for success. While successful project initiation takes a lot more time at the start, this will be repaid many times over later in delivery.”

Emphasising that the issues around climate, social value and recovery from Covid-19 were also woven into the SAID model, ICE president Rachel Skinner, who chaired the session, said, “We can – and must – embrace these new ways of doing things.”

The report and animation can be viewed here.

  • Margo Cole, technical writer and editor at ICE