Forward Thinking Clients
For years leaders have been calling for change within the construction industry, a call for it to be more integrated, to reduce inefficiencies and waste, and increase performance. The Latham (1994), Egan (1998) and Government Construction Strategy (2011) reports all flagged the need for improvements to be made with the Egan Report highlighting that “Leading public sector bodies should become best practice clients” as a key catalyst for this change. Yet still The Farmer Review: Modernise or Die (2016), commissioned by the Construction Leadership Council, referred to the lack of collaboration and innovation in construction.
There are amazing pockets of innovation and digital transformations happening in the industry but often this is bottom-up with companies investing in innovation to increase efficiency and help them differentiate from their competitors. There are also great funding initiatives at a government level, through schemes such as Innovate UK and the MHCLG Local Plan Pathfinders Programme to help promote innovation. But what is clear is that there is a massive need for top-down buy-in from clients. The industry needs clients with a mindset that embraces new methods as an opportunity and are willing to seek new commercial arrangements to procure this innovation from SMEs, Tech-start-ups as well as the large consultancy players.
One of the main challenges for clients lie in how to procure and create a commercial arrangement which balances risk and promotes new ways of working. New models, such as The ICE’s Project 13 delivery model, are required to support and encourage innovation through new ways of recognising the value added to the project to deliver a better outcome. If the public sector can set a precedence in adopting these new models to increase the use of innovative technologies, the private sector would hopefully follow suit.
TfL appointed SiteSolve to undertake a first of its kind mass land viability study to understand the development potential of thousands of plots of land in London. In their position they could have tried to deliver the work in a more traditional method, but instead they invested in working with new technology (SiteSolve) and new data sources, such as a tech-start up (Urban Intelligence) and Turner & Townsend Parametric Cost Modelling API. This was a great example of a public sector client is envisioning how to work differently to get results.
We spoke to Candice Lemaitre, TfL’s Commercial Development Innovation Lead, about their approach to innovation.
How is TfL promoting and encouraging innovation internally and with those they work with?
CL – “As Innovation Lead and Proptech Specialist for Transport for London (TfL), it is my role to make innovation thrive internally; support my colleagues understand the impact of innovation in our industry and maintain and encourage collaboration with the innovation market.
This is a diverse sector and at TfL we are working across the spectrum from start-ups right through to our current suppliers and multi-nationals. At TfL we are working to encourage greater innovation in the field to really challenge companies, academics and think tanks to work together to help build the London of tomorrow.
Internal adoption is key to enabling innovation and we regularly promote our recent successful projects, learnings from less successful ones, and bringing ecosystems into our offices to share their innovation journey. We are constantly looking to increase our appetite for trying new things and promote the outcomes of being innovative.
We regularly invite the market to submit innovative solutions that answer some of our key challenges.
What challenges did you face when trying to procure a new kind of project?
CL – “Launching a new kind of project comes with a lot of unknowns: what type of resources and skills we need, what are the deliverables, which processes do we use? All these questions complexify the procurement exercise. Procuring new or disruptive innovative solutions, for example, can be challenging as it is difficult to anticipate detailed specifications.
Early market engagement is essential to start a project and will help build a strong case when starting the procurement exercise.
Internal buy in is key, many project teams have a set way of working and it can at times be challenging to disrupt this. Understanding the deliverables and the problems we are trying to solve through early internal engagement is vital to ensuring a project is able to deliver.”
What do you think the value is in investing in new technologies and methodologies?
CL – “Today, the development of technologies is growing faster than ever, new innovative business models are disrupting traditional models and data is becoming at the heart of every decision process.
These rapid changes impact the way we deliver as well as our customer needs, and require investment in innovation to adapt and deliver services/products in line with new expectations.
Investing in new technologies and methodologies leads more often to cost optimisation, efficiency improvement, and higher quality products and services, but will also offer the possibility to answer better high-level strategic goals such as sustainability and resilience.
Our project involving SiteSolve solution is a good example. By exploring the use of big data and innovative methodologies, we have been able to demonstrate the value of our data and build strong case studies to support decision making process.
Taking also our current environment, we’ve often thought about digital consultation as a bolt-on to the cold damp church hall. Now for the foreseeable future it is the only option, how can we make this deliver genuine, effective engagement with communities and stakeholders. “
What advice would you give to others about undertaking these kinds of project?
CL – “To conduct innovative projects, teams need to be prepared to lead the project with the right mindset.
As previously mentioned, developing new methodologies and technologies can lead to a lot of uncertainty, it won’t always go as planned and it is therefore important to be flexible and ready to readjust outcomes or processes, and accept potential failures as learning experiences.
It is also important to set clear expectations from the beginning with internal and external collaborators.”
How important do you think it is that public sector clients take a lead in pushing forward the use of new methods of working?
CL – “The public sector plays a very significant role in championing innovation.
Facing many challenges such as financial pressures and increased expectations of service users, the ambition to do more for less drives public sector organisations to embrace innovative methodologies and technologies and therefore encourage innovative best practices.
As a public service, institutions such as ours will play a vital role in tackling problems for which the private sector does not yet have the appetite.
By pioneering such endeavours, the public sector can influence change in policy and systems. “
Forward thinking clients are pivotal in driving innovation in the industry. There is so much innovation appearing throughout the industry, and entering it from unexpected places, it is paramount that we put the mechanisms in place to allow clients to harness this potential. By aligning their mindsets and vision with the minds of the disruptors and innovators there is the opportunity for exponential positive impact to the efficiency of delivery and quality of outcome of a project.