Project Management Institute

Transformation in Progress

Examining the Impact of Digital Information on Project Delivery

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From computers to mobile phones, computing technology connects project managers to information and real-time updates 24/7. This study articulates, for the first time, the transformative power of pervasive digital information on project delivery models.

The research identifies the direction and set of transitions associated with ongoing change, building on the literature on innovation and knowledge codification and a study of London's evolving digital innovation ecosystem.

The study analyzed 15 years of developments across industry/government initiatives and infrastructure megaprojects that have pioneered new digitally enabled project delivery models. These developments have been codified into digital standards and processes and now have international influence.

INDUSTRY/GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES INFRASTRUCTURE MEGAPROJECTS

Avanti Programme

BIM Agenda

Digital Built Britain

Heathrow Terminal 5

London 2012 Olympics

Crossrail

High Speed 2

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Across the four megaprojects studied, partners used digital information to foster collaboration, deliver structured asset information, and better consider project outcomes.

Reimagining Project Delivery

Numerous collaborative approaches to project delivery have proven successful. These include partnering, integrated project delivery, alliancing, and public-private partnerships. In fact, using a radically new collaborative delivery model, Heathrow Terminal 5 reversed a decades-long trend of megaprojects finishing late and over budget.

Digital information (described in the paper as shareable, accessible remotely, searchable, and updatable) changes the deliverables of projects by becoming the deliverable itself, beyond a physical product and its associated services. Project delivery processes (and relationships with suppliers and users) change as well, since digital workflows and analytics, rather than documents, grow in importance.

While researchers have previously looked at how projects deliver services and products, this study extends that work into an exploration of the challenges of systems integration and the delivery of integrated solutions. It identifies three generations of integrated solutions made possible by increasingly pervasive digital information.

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Findings

The paper documented how digital maturity is achieved within an evolving digital innovation ecosystem and how the promulgation of smaller, cheaper devices means that megaproject managers must continually adapt, engage with, and consider new digital technologies for project delivery.

As project data grows increasingly complex, the potential grows for greater monitoring, integration, enrichment, and supply chain visibility. Findings within the ecosystem were across:

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Examination of the digital delivery of infrastructure megaprojects, which demonstrated that project managers and engineers now have more access to digital dashboards, analytics, and workflows. These megaprojects featured a convergence of technologies associated with BIM, GIS, process modeling, communications, survey information, and the use of sensors for smart infrastructure. Each megaproject also used integrated software solutions allowing partners to access applications through a common database and user interface.

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The industry/government initiatives studied, which represent tremendous effort to develop template processes for using digital information on infrastructure projects in the United Kingdom.

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Contributions

The research made three new contributions to project management scholarship in the areas of:

  • Project delivery models—identifying three generations of integrated solutions, as products and services become digitally enriched with greater supply-chain transparency and integration across usage, operation, and delivery.
  • Relationships between projects and operations (owner-operator, pop-up client, and integrated pop-up client)—and how the new project delivery models address changing supply chains and relationships with owners, operators, and end users in digitally enabled project delivery.
  • Knowledge codification in projects—highlighting the growing importance of digital workflows and analytics, rather than documents.
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OVERALL TAKEAWAY: Pervasive digital information and computation devices are changing project delivery models and deliverables by introducing new generations of integrated solutions. They are altering project/operations relationships and leading to new digital workflows and analytics.

To read the full report, visit pmi.org/learning/academic-research.

The knowledge represented here comes from research done by Professor Jennifer Whyte, Centre for Systems Engineering and Innovation, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, UK.

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