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Welcome to the March 2018 issue of Voices on Infrastructure, a collection of insights from McKinsey and industry experts on harnessing the promise of digital.

After a long legacy of reluctance to embrace new technology, capital project and infrastructure leaders are quickly realizing that digital is no longer an option. And digital solutions are proliferating to meet the need, with $10 billion in investment flowing into construction-technology firms between 2011 and early 2017. In shaping this compendium of insights, three themes rose to the fore:

Defining the business value: Leaders frequently lack clarity around the value of individual solutions, making them difficult to adopt in a holistic and coherent fashion. This shortfall is a major barrier to successful digitization. Visibility into technology’s impact on the bottom line is crucial to design the right combination of levers to deliver that value. At the same time, it is vital for enterprises to move away from a world of proliferated systems, with scattered spreadsheets and documents, and into a coherent, state-of-the-art, project-centric enterprise backbone. This shift will entail longer-term investments into R&D and IT—areas that are typically underfunded in this industry.

Organizing the ecosystem: With myriad tools and solutions emerging and gaining traction, how can leaders best understand and prioritize their investments? From advanced analytics to artificial intelligence to virtual reality, we delve into how specific technologies are improving the way we build, operate, and communicate about built assets. The best-in-class will distinguish themselves through new approaches to automated design, cross-project optimization, and an integrated lifecycle approach to projects that is rarely seen today.

Mobilizing for success: Tools alone are not enough to realize the digital opportunity, and organizations must fundamentally alter the way they work to achieve true value. Progress will be at least as much about attracting new digital talent as it will be about upskilling the existing workforce. With these insights, we aim to outline actionable steps that leaders can take to kickstart, scale, and sustain their digitization efforts.

We are past the precipice of change, and leaders must act now to develop their digital strategies. As proven by other industries that are more digitally advanced, those who wait for proven success stories will be too late to catch up to the competition. We hope these perspectives bring new understanding about how technology is shaping our evolving sector and support readers in pursuing and developing successful digital transformations.

Gernot Strube
Senior partner,
McKinsey & Company

Steffen Fuchs
McKinsey & Company

More Articles


Has the construction industry been thinking about capital project delivery in the wrong way?

Amit Varma, VEERUM


Once at the forefront of innovation, construction now lags behind in the adoption of new technologies. But the industry is at a tipping point. We spoke with executives from Atkins, Siemens, and RIB Software at GII 2017 about how they’re embracing the disruptive potential of digitization.


Stakeholders serious about garnering support for infrastructure projects can turn to technology to tell the story and highlight value.

Jan Bunge, Squint/Opera


Shanghai-based WinSun is pioneering 3-D printing as a construction process. With as few as three employees overseeing the process, commercially viable houses are being built in under one week, using materials from construction and industrial waste. Chairman and CEO Ma Yihe explores how large-scale 3-D printing could transform the industry with respect to design, cost, and time.


Asset owners are lagging other industries in data analytics. Now’s the time to get going.

John Levene, Sacha Litman, Ian Schillinger, and Chris Toomey, McKinsey & Company


Tony Hansen, Global Infrastructure Initiative


As construction moves into the cloud, here’s what industry leaders must do to lay the groundwork for change.

Thomas Wolf, RIB, YTWO Formative


With digital solutions poised to disrupt capital projects, companies must overcome their long-standing reluctance to apply these tools. Here’s how.

Steffen Fuchs, James Nowicke, and Gernot Strube, McKinsey & Company



Engineering and construction is behind the curve in implementing artificial intelligence solutions. Based on extensive research, we survey applications and algorithms to help bridge the technology gap.

Jose Luis Blanco, Steffen Fuchs, Matt Parsons, and Maria João Ribeirinho, McKinsey & Company


Utilities have found it hard to scale their digital pilots up to full digital-transformation programs. Adopting digital ways of working, adding talent, and modernizing IT will speed their efforts to reinvent themselves as digital enterprises.

Adrian Booth, Eelco de Jong, and Peter Peters, McKinsey & Company

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