Webinar takes deeper dive into digital project delivery

Clockwise from top left - Andy Walker from Infrastructure Global, Mott MacDonald’s Jay Mezher, Fenwick Elliott’s Stacy Sinclair and Guillaume Joubert from Autodesk.

Industry leaders discuss some of the latest developments in digital project delivery and how this is shaping a better future.

Digital project delivery is playing a key role in addressing current and future challenges in the infrastructure industry with the end result being the delivery of more efficient and effective projects with greater collaboration and partnership working than ever before. That was a key takeaway from a webinar on 11 June 2024, organised by Infrastructure Global in partnership with Autodesk.

With the infrastructure sector facing multiple challenges on many fronts, engineering, architecture and construction firms are shifting their mindset and leveraging technology to tackle some of the challenges they face and digital project delivery is making a real difference to the way they work. The webinar, How digital project delivery is helping to design and make a better future, examined these issues and more during an informative and entertaining 60-minute session.

Speakers at the webinar, which was chaired by Infrastructure Global’s Andy Walker, included Guillaume Joubert, senior infrastructure strategy manager at Autodesk, Jay Mezher, vice president for digital delivery at Mott MacDonald and Stacy Sinclair, head of technology and innovation at Fenwick Elliott and chair of FIDIC’s digital transformation committee. All were clear that digital project delivery was changing the industry for the better and those that did not embrace it would be left behind.

Megatrends driving industry change

Autodesk’s Guillaume Joubert highlighted three megatrends that were influencing the infrastructure industry – infrastructure demand, capacity and capability issues and accelerating digitalisation. All of these were impacting those working in the sector and bringing the need for more efficient methods of project delivery to the fore. Joubert said that the benefits of digital project delivery were many and would lead to increased revenues, reduced costs and improved risk management. Going digital, he said, would provide new ways to design and build better, more sustainable and resilient Infrastructure.

Jay Mezher from Mott MacDonald offered his experiences from a design firm perspective and said that taking a digital project delivery approach had led to big improvements in efficiency, greater collaboration, especially on megaprojects, more informed decision-making, better data management and a more rounded and holistic approach to risk management. These upsides more than compensated for the inevitable challenges firms face when implementing digital solutions, said Mezher, and it was clear from his experiences on a number of projects that digital was the way to go and was delivering real benefits to clients as well as Mott MacDonald staff.

Addressing the ’people issue’

The ’people issue’ was covered at length during the webinar, with speakers highlighting some of the challenges encountered when going down the digital delivery route. These included a degree of cultural resistance, when some stakeholders, including contractors, engineers and site workers, may resist changes to familiar processes and tools. This could be compounded by a lack of understanding about the benefits of digital tools, leading to reluctance in adopting new technologies. Of course, this was best addressed by implementing a robust digital strategy and using tried and tested platforms that worked in practice, but “taking your staff with you on the digital journey” was key to success.

Stacy Sinclair from the law firm Fenwick Elliott highlighted the critical importance of people and processes when implementing digital project delivery. She said that while the benefits of using technology were clear for all to see, it is still people who are doing the delivering and as with any new approach it was important to ensure that staff were fully prepared and given the right training. Staff and managers may require extensive training to use new digital tools effectively, she said, and highlighted another key challenge which was the industry’s ongoing shortage of skilled personnel who are proficient in both construction and digital technologies. This was being addressed by the industry, but more needed to be done and at pace, Sinclair said.

On the skills shortage question, Guillaume Joubert said that because digital project delivery was enabling significant efficiencies and reduced costs, its widespread adoption could help to address labour challenges across the industry by enabling firms to work smarter. Embracing a digital approach was also seeing firms communicate and collaborate more effectively, said Joubert, and this was being facilitated by Autodesk’s digital programme delivery platforms which were providing the structure and framework for change for clients across the industry.

Turning back to some of the challenges involved in adopting digital solutions, Stacy Sinclair highlighted some ongoing concerns over data and risk management and client permissions. She also looked at smart contracts and their use and also the lack of coherent legislation and regulation on global scale, which meant ensuring that digital processes comply with local, national and international regulations can often be challenging. The recent passing of new EU regulations on artificial intelligence was a positive sign in this area and were set to impact the global construction sector, Sinclair said.

Questions from the 200+ audience attending the webinar were many and varied and covered a range of issues, including risk management and legal redress, people and resource issues, the pace of change, clients’ willingness to innovate, contractual matters, standardisation, costs, project complexity and quality control. It was clear from the points raised that there is great interest in digital project delivery in the industry and a real desire to “get it right” by working with knowledgeable experts who can guide firms on their digital journey with a strategic approach and by creating a culture that embraces innovation and change.

Click here to watch a recording of the webinar.