The increasing complexity of programmes across Scottish real estate and infrastructure is being intensified by ongoing cost, labour and supply chain challenges. Project Director for Infrastructure Digital UK at Turner & Townsend, Christopher Frost, explains how adopting a digital-first approach will be critical to driving best outcomes in the region.

While the rate of cost escalation is forecast to ease through 2023, prices of materials, services, components and energy are expected to remain significantly higher than pre-pandemic. Exacerbating these rising costs is an ongoing skills shortage.

At the same time programmes in the region are impacted by increased scale, duration, economic and environmental impacts. Managing these challenges requires increasingly sophisticated digital skills, integrated systems, and smarter use of well-secured and controlled data.

A digital-first approach is about changing the way we design and deliver projects. Embedding digital practices will improve programme performance, drive productivity, and also ensure the asset or scheme makes a positive difference throughout the project and after completion, delivering real economic, environmental and social value.

To do that, it is fundamental to embed a digital-first approach from the start of the programme, from strategy, throughout set-up and finally delivery.

1. Digital-first strategy

Defining the desired strategic outcomes must always be the starting point. The most effective programmes focus these outcomes not just on commercial success – of cost and timescales – but also on the social, economic and environmental value created throughout delivery and after completion.

2. Getting set-up for success

Building on the solid foundations put in place in the strategy will ensure the programme is set up for success, focusing on the digital architecture needed to ensure teams and partners can see and understand where they lock into the overall design, and can plan and organise to do this. Assessing readiness is crucial here, defining the capabilities, skills and systems the programme needs across its lifecycle and supply chain.

3. Accelerating delivery

Programme teams will now be well prepared to initiate the main delivery phases. This starts with robust digital project and programme management, whether taking a waterfall, agile or blended approach, and powered by a digital project management office (PMO).


Getting digital first right does not just improve project outcomes and efficiency. There is also an increasing appreciation from investors and clients that a digitalised asset, such as a smart building or one with a digital twin and well-packaged data sets, offers greater value than its analogue equivalent. Investors and asset owners are now expecting the construction and operational phases to be digital first and to produce an asset with an accurate data set and models.

Across Scotland and the wider construction sector, clients need to focus on driving digitalisation, not only to improve productivity and commercial outputs, but also to deliver tangible societal change, making crucial headway on environmental targets and supporting sustained economic growth and resilience in the region.

To find out more about digital services at Turner & Townsend visit

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