Capital programmes are prone to failure, partly due to their complexity and often long gestation, and can quickly become the subjects of critical reports. Crossrail is a great example. This 73-mile railway under London is running more than two years late and will cost over £2bn more than the original £15.9 billion estimate – with further setbacks looking likely. In its 2019 annual report on UK major projects, the IPA said its overall confidence in the delivery of projects had been steadily falling since 2013: only 22 from 133 were rated as ‘probable’ or ‘likely’ to achieve their aims and objectives, and to do so on time and on budget. It is little wonder such ‘megaprojects’ are often in the news and subject to constant political and public scrutiny.
It is, however, important to acknowledge that these programmes are incredibly technically challenging and major project achievements can be obscured by news of cost overruns and delays. Long timescales, some running into decades, mean it is inevitable that plans will change. In 2009, HS2 was initially intended to run from London to Birmingham; by 2017 the plan had been expanded to include lines running much further north.
These hugely multifaceted engineering challenges also demand intricate supply chains and funding arrangements, adding to complexity and creating a vast number of moving parts. And every part of the delivery structure also creates data – these increasingly massive volumes of data have been challenging to integrate, and it has been difficult to extract value from them. However, the latest information technology can revolutionise the way major programmes are delivered and help to deliver more for less. Leading businesses are taking advantage of tools such as the Oakland Group’s Intelligent Forecasting Platform to continue their journeys towards digital transformation.