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Everything is connected: digital partnership opportunities for infrastructure and water

November 15, 2022

By Daniel Causley

Partnerships involve bringing people around to the power of technology – to enable knowledge sharing and decision making

Our world faces complex societal issues, not least the global transformation that is happening as companies, governments, people and even our refrigerators ‘go digital’. In a world where everything is connected, we are not alone.

Digital transformation in most sectors requires a purpose, a vision, planning and a commitment to implementation – and it can take time. Some technology companies are experienced in this and may be self-sufficient in some established IT markets, yet they rely on an intricate and sometimes fragile supply chain to be successful. Many other organisations, large and small, require a partner to evolve their internal practices, sometimes radically, or to position themselves strategically for offering new services or new projects with new clients.

Choosing the right partner 

Looking at synergies is a sensible starting point, with a focus on synergies in culture with like-minded organisations. This allows a broader service offering to clients, fosters creativity and innovation, opens up new markets, and promotes exciting and diverse opportunities for colleagues across both organisations.

Investment decisions also should not or cannot be made in isolation. By focusing on the communities impacted by these investments, we recognise that every solution delivered can bring wider benefits to the places we live, whether using data analytics to predict potential sewer blockages, optimising a fire-fighting system for urban tower blocks, or planning autonomous vehicle infrastructure.

Stantec has decades of experience of joint ventures particularly in the water industry, so we know what it takes to make a partnership work. Such connections have led to award-winning projects such as Yorkshire Water and Stantec’s unique automated approach to identifying Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) risks which won the Digital Initiative of the Year at the 2020 British Construction Industry Awards. Our tried and tested approaches have now been applied across energy, transport, buildings and community development.

Added value to health and safety risk assessment through automation, data mining, and digital transformation

What makes a good partnership?

Building successful partnerships has never been easy. It requires us to focus our understanding on a client’s needs, and doing things in the right way, by looking at how a solution is formulated - rather than being hindered by internal constraints. When we follow this approach, there are a whole lot of growth opportunities out there. If an organisation doesn’t have quite the right capability, then it’s a good idea to source that elsewhere, so that 1+1=3.

Partnerships also involve bringing people around to the power of technology – to enable knowledge sharing and decision making. Digital technology allows insights for world leading subject matter experts to make the right decisions for our clients. What makes a good partnership is the freedom and capacity to create together, from the seemingly simple to the most complex tasks.

A problem shared

Information exchange is fundamental to problem solving. World leading expertise is worthless if it is not shared effectively. Built upon decades of global thinking using connected networks of people, a solution to a problem in Liverpool can in seconds be communicated to a team in Manila. Our teams have promoted a drive to open-source data where practicable, not least when it comes to project management and delivering designs. With the right protocols in place, cyber secure information sharing happens daily with our existing partners. To achieve success, data must allow insights.

Client leadership structures change frequently, policies are mandated, strategies adapt sometimes dramatically. Ultimately by focusing on the ‘user experience’ and driven by simple, yet powerful values, the end result can benefit all. Culture and behaviours start at the top of an organisation and those with sustainable long-term growth can attribute that to the mantra of putting people first, amongst other foundational behaviours.

During a recent independent survey of our largest UK clients, Stantec was repeatedly found to be a hugely collaborative company, recognising the range of skills that client, partner and even competitor organisations can bring to a project. However, it’s important to remember that these partnerships and collaborations have to benefit the customer. For example, on most days in the UK a clean glass of water at the turn of a tap is available more than 99.9% of the time. The person turning on the tap tends not to worry about the company who delivered it to their home. While partnerships can be seen as positive financials in the eyes of investors, the key focus is the communities that these partnerships serve.

Frameworks and processes for future connections

Stantec has partnered with multiple organisations over the decades, on community development schemes, national critical infrastructure projects, across all the regulated asset management plan periods to date in the water sector and the list continues to evolve. As such, we have an established playbook for partnering, so not to reinvent the wheel each time.  

Since the end of the 20th Century in the technology sector and with the micro-chip revolution, Moore's Law has been a driving force for technological and social change, increased productivity and economic growth.

However, as digital practices become embedded in our lives, how can you ensure that an innovative new algorithm actually delivers what you or your clients need? We believe that encouraging people to work together across organisational boundaries results in new innovative communities that unite us being built. The Hadfield Smart Water Network Pilot project is such an example, with over 13 different organisations collaborating to revolutionise the way leaks and interruptions to supply are managed in the future.

The World is increasingly digitally connected, from our mobile phones, wrist watches and kitchen appliances to edge technology in the field. To push forward and succeed with digital transformation across sectors, we need purpose, a vision, planning and a commitment to implementation. Digital partnerships can deliver substantial benefits, but choosing the right partner is essential. What can give you the edge in your solution is working with a partner who is top tier in their design knowledge and can bring people to the power of technology is critical to success.

  • Daniel Causley

    Daniel leads a team of data analysts, data engineers, coding experts and statistical specialists focused on developing innovative digital solutions predominantly in the water sector, though working across our sectors.

    Contact Daniel
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