This shift demands a change in culture in a range of areas, not least in getting used to new business models. Whereas in the past, it was all about time on the job and materials used, “Now we are thinking about end-customer value and ways to use ‘risk and reward’ profit sharing,” Pamplin explains.
This can require new ways of collaborating, not just with clients but also with those clients’ other suppliers. “It’s a huge cultural change because we are reliant on other organisations for our success. Our success or failure is completely aligned with the end product that we all produce together.”
Another cultural shift that will be required in the new digital reality is a change in the relationship with data. Anne Kemp, a Technical Director in Atkins’ Infrastructure division, says that everyone must now take ownership of data, rather than it being solely the responsibility of the “techies.” “There has been a lot of focus on the drudgery of data rather than on its value, and the fact is that we need to treat it right so that we can extract from it the information that is useful,” she says. “Everyone needs to appreciate data and how valuable it can be.”
Part of this is about democratising data by making it available to everyone. “Knowledge shared is power,” Pamplin says, but Kemp adds that there must be a balance between this openness and having safeguards in place to ensure that people use the data appropriately and securely while also complying with all the relevant rules and regulations.
Employees also need to know the importance of using the right procedures to ensure that data is accurate and reliable. Concepts such as digital twins and 3D representations of buildings are very powerful, but thought needs to be given to the issues that arise from moving from presenting data in 2D to doing so in 3D. “Is there a danger of misinterpreting an image or, by contrast, trusting an image too much, rather than employing the fundamentals of your training?” Kemp asks. “We need to be clear about what is happening with technical assurance, what needs to be scrutinised, verified and agreed upon. With things like digital twins, we need to be clear who is responsible for keeping them up to date. If they are not accurate, the consequences could be really serious.”