Addressing data quality and the key construction backlog challenges for 2024

2024 won’t be the year many contractors doing business in the UK will have planned. The part-cancellation of high-speed rail project HS2, although widely anticipated, has sent a shock wave through the construction industry with millions of pounds of work wiped off the 2024 books in an instant.

The industry has switched to the power of AI this year, with ChatGPT and rival platforms creating a huge boom in use (Photo: AdobeStock)

The cancellation adds to an increasingly shaky outlook for 2024, with the weakening of net zero targets in September also threatening investor confidence. Unfortunately, it appears that the 38% of European respondents who cited political climate as a major risk to growth in this year’s Global Capital Projects Outlook were right.

Addressing the construction backlog

In place of HS2, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will divert £36 billion into new transport infrastructure across the Midlands and North, promising that hundreds of smaller projects will be started sooner and finished faster.

The fact that many of these projects are still in the very early stages of development means they are of little consolation for some. However, for others, the cancellation of HS2 may represent a window of opportunity – a silver lining some might say – to address the UK’s backlog of infrastructure projects once and for all. Renewable projects are particularly likely to see a boost.

The inaugural King’s Speech promised “record levels of investment into renewable energy sources and a reform of grid connections.” That said, a continued squeeze on public funds will likely mean greater pressure on private organisations to finance and deliver on net zero with less government support than the industry has previously enjoyed.

The ‘failure’ of the latest Contracts for Difference (CfD) round to secure any new offshore wind projects may be an early indication of what is to come. The need to deliver net zero with greatly reduced subsidies will be difficult, particularly if the forthcoming winter brings high energy bills like last year.

Although the forecast appears somewhat grey, there remain plenty of publicly backed projects to build. While offshore wind was not successful in the latest CfD round, a total of 95 solar PV, onshore wind, remote island wind, tidal and geothermal projects are set to share £227 million.

A further £65 million has been allocated to bring forward five green heat projects. On the grid connection side, the groundbreaking Xlinks project – a 3,800km HVDC sub-sea power cable which will connect Morocco to the UK – is another one to watch (especially after the Total Energies investment), with an expected price tag of £20-22 billion, alongside continued interest in small modular reactors from Rolls Royce and others.

A focus on data to power AI

The industry has switched to the power of AI this year, with ChatGPT and rival platforms creating a huge boom in use. As the initial euphoria passes, 2024 will see a new focus on its foundations: data.

Companies that use AI and machine learning can make better, more informed decisions... if they have an accurate, coherent, and timely data foundation to rely on. Much like a construction project, you can throw a building up in a matter of days if you have all the relevant materials, but if it doesn’t have decent foundations, it won’t be robust, resilient, or deliver a long-term return on investment. Indeed those who remember the enterprise resource planning (ERP) boom of the 1990s will see similarities in the upswing of AI adoption.

To unlock AI’s full potential, organisations will need to instil enterprise-wide information management capabilities that capture data using consistent conventions. Right now, even if organisations have five years’ worth of data, it will almost certainly have been collected differently from project to project and team to team – making it very difficult to compare and combine. As such, a significant task lies ahead for most organisations to put the data foundations in place.

Part of the challenge to date has been the complexity of finding software solutions that can operate together without the need for lots of custom coding to share data. In response, next year we can expect to see the rise of modular platform solutions which allow organisations to address their greatest pain points while building a database that will integrate seamlessly with additional modules deployed in future.

The shifting political landscape suggests that 2024 will be a year of uncertainty for the construction industry. While the cancellation of HS2 and the tightening of the public purse present significant hurdles, unwavering support for renewable energy and the integration of AI in construction processes indicate potential avenues for growth and innovation.

About the author

As Head of Account Management for EMEA with InEight, Jeff Quantrill focuses his expertise on helping shape and deliver systems that create real value for clients.

Previous to InEight, Jeff created and ran a consultancy aimed at helping his clients use the value of interconnected data and systems to deliver actionable insights. He has also held leadership roles with Arcadis in their client facing IT group where his enterprise project management and process knowledge allowed him to develop an expertise in project management information systems. 


Receive the information you need when you need it through our world-leading magazines, newsletters and daily briefings.

Sign up

Andy Brown Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786224 E-mail: [email protected]
Neil Gerrard Senior Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 7355 092 771 E-mail: [email protected]
Catrin Jones Deputy Editor, Editorial, UK – Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 791 2298 133 E-mail: [email protected]
Eleanor Shefford Brand Manager Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786 236 E-mail: [email protected]