Client interview: Transforming digital project delivery at one of the world’s leading railway operators
With our support, Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation has been using a period of operational stability to overhaul its digital systems and processes. This is as it seeks to take forward a new phase of railway development with multiple extension projects to be launched progressively in order to further enhance the railway network and support the continuous growth of Hong Kong. Lyndon Jerome Adolphus, General Manager-PMO at MTR Corporation explains how the organisation’s evolution will improve project outcomes and result in a more-engaged workforce.
Today, the company operates rail lines serving Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, as well as buses, an Airport Express service, and light rail services. It is regarded as one of the world's leading railway operators for safety, reliability, customer service and cost efficiency.
Bringing digital capabilities up to date
“A number of years ago, we commissioned a far-reaching report to take stock of our digital strategy with a view to bringing the organisation in line with what others were doing from a digital perspective,” says Adolphus.
“At the time, MTR was in a period with no new major projects being executed. This meant we continued to use the existing systems, processes and procedures."
However, we were always keen to explore new ways of working to improve our systems, particularly with regards to introducing modern project controls, enhanced performance metrics, alternative earned value analysis techniques and new contract mechanisms.
“This, we felt, would make us more economic and efficient and help us improve our overall reporting accuracy and delivery programmes,” he adds.
Adolphus joined the MTR Corporation in 2022 to head up the Capital Works Project Management Office. “When I came on board we focused our digital strategy into three lenses: Digital Project/Commercial Management, Digital Onsite and Digital Engineering, with an evolving visualisation platform and common data environment that serves as a reporting and information hub.”
“The Digital Project/Commercial Management arena is where the priority was set for changes to be made, as we sought to introduce a number of new digital tools to better manage our project, progress and status with integrated cost and programming information, including advanced performance metrics to provide better historical and predictive reporting to provide reliable management insights for sound decision making.”
The digital engineering pillar was primarily focused on BIM, 4D and 5D initiatives, as well as document management and workflows, across the design and construction stages.
The improvements in digital construction were about gathering contemporaneous, time management information and merging it with the contract programme information and cost, and bringing it together for performance metrics.
MTR is keen on reporting project progress using advanced earned value management principles and the introduction of enhanced performance metrics
“We are introducing Prism software which brings cost, programme and risks together. Prism breaks down project costs to its component building blocks and relates it to programme activities.”
On a simple basis, this helped us have better visibility on how projects are progressing in terms of budget and timing, and it provides combined performance metrics in addition to enhanced insights and early warning notification through the NEC contract mechanism.
“Equally, we will be able to identify where we are already achieving efficiencies, helping us to bring those efficiencies and lean management processes and techniques into other projects managed by MTR globally.”
Making data accessible
One of the major improvements MTR has brought about has been the introduction of integrated digital tools and ways of working, including dashboards and KPIs, which has enabled the company to visualise many of its metrics.
Adding analysis and KPIs to our reporting has given us an additional dimension to our reporting, showing us whether our deployment of the workforce and resources are effective or not - a crucial component to our future success.
“We now have precise and accessible data on the health of our projects, marking a step-change from our existing method. We hope the changes we have made will improve our ability to quickly see how a project is performing from a quality, safety, time and cost perspective,” he explains.
Evolution of the organisation
Project teams industry-wide are coming under increasing pressure to do ‘more for less’ and Adolphus recognises the need to evolve through the use of new technologies. “It is therefore essential that we continuously challenge our ways of working and aim to streamline our processes where possible so that we can be more effective and economic in the way we do things.”
But as well as continuously seeking efficiency savings, he expects the changes the company has made will result in a more engaged workforce as information and data harnessed by the new digital systems is made more accessible to stakeholders, both internally and externally, with access rights according to roles and responsibilities.
We aim to make it easier for our project managers, cost managers, quantity surveyors and others to interrogate the information and data relating to their projects.
“This will allow them to rapidly drill down and understand where potential delays may arise and where costs are escalating, which will contribute to better management mitigations measures and decision making.”
Investing for improvement
Although adding new digital systems involves front-end investment, we believe there is a significant long-term gain. The work we have done will give us a single source of truth for our projects: a database where all our information is stored, providing transparent information with a high level of integrity.
“As MTR continues to grow and we look ahead to a number of exciting extension projects in the years to come, having a digital system fit for the continuous industry and market development will help us retain our position as one of the best transport operators in the world,” he concludes.