7th November 20197 Minutes

Curzon Consulting have partnered with Victoria Trukhanovich to deliver an MBA research project at Cass Business School, on the topic of digital transformation.

Over a series of articles we will explore existing challenges, business requirements, relevant technologies and strategy that needs to be applied by infrastructure organisations in order to design and perform transformative digital change successfully.

In this introductory piece we present a summary of findings on the current state of digital adoption across the infrastructure industry, including the transport, utilities and construction sectors.

Using digital transformation to address challenges

The challenges that companies operating physical infrastructure face include:

    • aging assets
    • frequent incidents of underperformance
    • capacity congestion
    • inefficient capital and maintenance programmes,
    • strong regulations
    • dissatisfied customers

Digital transformation is increasingly viewed as an enabler to address these issues, providing opportunities for infrastructure companies to achieve significant gains in areas of system resilience, capacity utilisation, asset productivity, process efficiency and customer engagement.

Lagging digital maturity

Yet, the digital maturity of infrastructure companies lags behind that of many other industries. Although level of maturity varies across and within sectors, the majority of infrastructure companies have not started to implement digital technologies on a wide scale and digital activities are fragmented. Due to a number of legacy factors, infrastructure companies often lack the capacity to build a clear digital vision and drive technological change throughout the organisation.

Empirical evidence from digital transformation projects, conducted by Curzon Consulting with UK transport infrastructure network owners, water and sewerage companies and airport operators, reveals the common challenge of an inconsistent approach to digital integration. Companies often run innovative, technology-enabled initiatives on a project-by-project basis without systematically integrating technologies in line with strategic objectives.

The digital transformation strategy challenge

A dispersed digital agenda was thus found to be the most pressing challenge for companies to solve in order to assert direction within the transformation process and consolidate digital initiatives around achieving clear business objectives.

This study asks how infrastructure companies should go about developing an effective digital transformation strategy. The urgency of addressing this challenge is exacerbated for companies in competitive markets as digital leaders and emerging start-ups are well positioned to identify adjacent niches and secure dominant shares quickly.

The role of technology

To offer a summary of digital strategy recommendations, we seek to:

  • assess the potential of critical digital technologies to deliver industry objectives
  • identify key capabilities enabled by technological advancements
  • examine the evolutionary timeline of digital transformation
  • analyse organisational functions affected and value outcomes generated

Developing a framework for successful digital transformation delivery

Once developed and agreed at the corporate level a digital strategy framework can be used by infrastructure companies to evolve from an ‘adapting- enterprise systems’ approach into a smart network operator approach. Although each digital transformation programme will have a degree of uniqueness, the framework developed within this study offers a high-level plan for successful development and delivery of digital change in infrastructure sectors.

Effective transition to the state of being a digital-champion also requires a company to make important early decisions often targeted at legacy factors that would otherwise inhibit change. Those decisions include establishing a strong leadership position, engaging an appropriately skilled workforce, removing silo-based barriers, instituting cultural change in the corporate mindset and addressing ways of working throughout the organisation.

This article marks the first in our Digital Change for Infrastructure series.

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