15 SEP 2021


WSP’s Jon Kelly outlines what the industry needs to do to turn the vision of the Transforming Infrastructure Performance report into reality.

The dynamic trends transforming our world at economic, environmental and social levels, are altering the requirements of the built environment and increasing the complexity of infrastructure projects. 

As such, the launch this week of the Infrastructure Planning Authority’s (IPA) Transforming Infrastructure Performance (TIP) report is both welcome and timely.

The report envisions a future where our industry collectively prioritises societal outcomes, using data, technology and improved delivery models to achieve them through our interventions in the built environment.

What is required now is a degree of self-reflection and a step change from both buyers and suppliers to evolve and adapt how we work together in line with TIP ambition. 

As a priority, the following foundations need to be addressed to deliver on the desire for a step change in outcomes and delivery models:

A critical first step is a focus on Early Supplier Involvement (ESI). Although the Construction Playbook advocates early supply chain involvement, experience shows this is simply not happening often enough. 

Procurement departments are often overly cautious when engaging with suppliers and, as a result, buyers fail to optimise procurement strategies that take account of innovation, market capacity or suppliers’ appetite for risk. 

Yet the lack of ESI cannot solely be attributed to buyers. Suppliers regularly lack the expertise to understand a client’s procurement context and to engage in a manner that doesn’t just focus on their own inputs and outputs. This needs to change.

Second, suppliers should accelerate investment in their own operations to prioritise societal outcomes.  As per the adage ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast,’ organisations should point to purpose to ensure required strategic outcomes pervade their own organisational approach.

As set out in our ESG report, WSP believes that the greatest impact we can have on sustainability of infrastructure projects is through the services and advice we provide to clients. As a result, we measure our impact by estimating the percentage of ‘Clean Revenue’ (aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals). As of June 2021, WSP reported that globally 43% of our 2020 revenues met this target. 

Finally, collaboration works best when all parties’ commercial objectives are in alignment. There has been a positive shift recognising the fundamental role contracts play creating in positive relationships that horizontally integrate the supply base. 

To build on this shift, we need to continue to develop new reward and incentivisation models which align the entire value chain’s interventions to desired outcomes. 

Buyers within the built environment should invest time or seek external advice if they don’t have the skills to design new ways to incentivise and integrate the supply chains. Through this development they should seek opportunities to test and build capacity in the supply base to ensure suppliers can shoulder the investment and risk in implementing a new approach. 

The arrival of TIP should be lauded for how it speaks to purpose, collectively prioritising societal outcomes to align how we deliver our services in the natural and built environments.

It is now down to both buyers and suppliers in our industry to seize this valuable catalyst together and make the bold vision of TIP a reality. 

Jon Kelly is strategic growth director for WSP, and a member of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS).


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