Milan 2019: Unleashing the potential of advanced analytics in infrastructure

  • October 23, 2019
By Luca Milani, Stefano Napoletano, and Nicola Sandri
Impacting nearly every major economic sector, the construction industry’s output is a strong force in Italy’s long-term economic growth and stability.

Yet the construction industry in this region faces unprecedented challenges—energy transition, the mobility revolution, and infrastructure projects growing in size and complexity, to mention a few. Further, while facing these headwinds, construction lags other industries in critical ways—including the lowest productivity gains, degree of digitization, and investments in IT.

With so much to gain, the construction industry is on the brink of a productivity revolution. Advanced analytics may be one of the biggest drivers of change with increasing investments in disruptive technologies. Leading industries in advanced analytics, such as retail and ecommerce, banking and insurance, and healthcare show that aggressive first-movers create competitive advantages while fast-followers with excellent implementation skills can just keep up.

In this peer-to-peer roundtable, senior Italian infrastructure leaders explored how infrastructure players can leverage advanced analytics in their operations to stay ahead of the competition and how to build advanced analytics capabilities. The following themes and recommendations emerged from the event:

  1. Analytics are no longer optional in infrastructure. The industry faces different trigger points—including regulatory changes affecting data considerations, lagging business performance, new levels of public scrutiny, and rapidly expanding technology capabilities—that require leaders to make analytics as part of the way forward. Starting an analytics journey is of critical importance, with the caveat that having a clear purpose in mind is key. For example, companies should pursue data-driven approaches to specific business questions or operational challenges, rather than “analytics for analytics’ sake.”
  2. Focus digital efforts on enhancing productivity. The infrastructure sector has experienced a low productivity gains over the last decade compared to the global economy. Advanced analytics and digital can significantly help improve productivity and have the potential to reduce the project costs.
  3. Integrate data science into decision making processes. There are major disruptions across the value chain which will lead to shifts in the value pool and new archetypes of successful players using new working methods such as BIM, modularization, etc. Companies will need to understand how to leverage data effectively to drive decisions across the entire value chain.
  4. Build analytics efforts on proven successes. Advanced analytics pilots have been used to improve the efficiency of infrastructure projects, reduce injuries for transportation operators, improve customer experience in airports, digitally enable a major dam construction, and more. Studying these proven cases will help companies understand how advanced analytics can be deployed and identify use cases for their needs and investment capacity.
  5. Drive innovation through a Digital Factory. Companies should embrace the potential of the digital disruption and drive innovation through new ways of working that are nimble and efficient. This can be accomplished with a Digital Factory—a “virtual” organization with few dedicated resources organized around digital rooms with cross-functional teams. Working in an agile way to guarantee a progressive roll-out, the rooms’ concurrent efforts scale-up a digital transformation.
  6. Analytics do not replace people in infrastructure, but rather expand their capabilities with new tools. Some industry leaders fear that the rise of advanced analytics might lead to the elimination of jobs. Rather than replacing them, analytics provides the opportunity to empower people to do their jobs more effectively by providing new and insightful ways of looking at a particular project or the business as a whole.

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