More digitalisation needed to drive infrastructure programme performance


New Turner & Townsend survey reveals that global infrastructure projects need greater digital integration to better harness the power of technology.

Global infrastructure is increasingly embracing digitalisation, but faster and more comprehensive progress is needed for projects to feel the full benefits and drive better programme performance, according to a new industry survey.

Turner & Townsend has completed a survey of global infrastructure practitioners which assesses their digitalisation and cyber maturity and the role digital plays in driving programmes and business strategies. While it is clear that digital features heavily in industry thinking, there are weaknesses when it comes to understanding and implementing cyber security measures and better integration of digital strategies could be helping programmes feel their benefits more fully.

The survey of over 100 experts working on major infrastructure programmes across the world benchmarks how companies are using digital to transform performance and outcomes. The results identify significant opportunities as well as area for improvement, particularly across the areas of skills, data use and cyber security.

According to the survey, 62% of survey respondents have a digital strategy in place, which is a clear sign of how central digital has become to the sector. 75% of this group reported that these strategies are helping them to unlock long-term value in their programmes.

For those without a digital strategy and those who feel the strategies have not been properly integrated, it is clear one of the main barriers is understanding and relevant specialised skills to support this process. 83% of contributors highlighted skills gaps as one of the biggest hurdles on the path to full digital integration.

Data is underused and undervalued

A central part of the survey focused on data and whether its full value is being utilised by project teams. Nearly a third of all respondents recognised that data is underused and undervalued, with only 42% saying that they use data to manage performance.

Only 10% of programmes surveyed hold their data as a tangible asset on their balance sheet. This reflects an opportunity to improve the understanding of the commercial value of project data and how this can be used to help attract investors and further showcase the true value of adopting digital strategies.

Cyber security is also identified as a key area for improvement. In what may be a wake-up call for the sector, 80% of respondents felt that their cyber security was not fit for purpose and less than 30% have cyber and disaster management plans in place. The survey results highlight the need for the industry to put in place more rigorous protocols and embed a culture of cyber security in the face of growing threats and wider recognition of this critical issue.

Industry must do more to harness power of digital

Murray Rowden, global head of infrastructure at Turner & Townsend, said: “As part of our Transforming performance of major programmes series, we’ve been delving deep into global digitalised infrastructure programmes to understand what good looks like and how the sector is performing. The current expectations being placed on infrastructure to transform our world are considerable – from powering economic growth to tackling the climate crisis and equalling out societal outcomes. Achieving this means using every lever at our disposal and it’s clear there is more the industry can be doing to harness the power of digital.

“Our survey findings have reinforced this view and are confident in the capacity of digitalisation to unlock greater productivity, security and sustainability. To reach this full potential, clients need to think ‘digital first’, embedding digital from the earliest stages, integrating it throughout programmes and ensuring it is fundamental to business strategy.”

This survey has been part of Turner & Townsend’s 12-month research and engagement project, Transforming performance of major programmes. The first section of this research has focused on ‘Digital first’, with further insight and advice available on Turner & Townsend’s website at