Last edited 01 Oct 2021

Main author

The Institution of Civil Engineers Institute / association Website

Interoperability: The ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information

Interoperability front cover.png

Interoperability refers to the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information. It’s a hot topic in today’s digitally powered world of infrastructure and seen to be one of the significant barriers to realising true value from digital transformation.

At its broadest level the infrastructure sector has a well-documented productivity problem. For decades low margins, inefficiencies and cost pressures have compromised outcomes to customers and end users, with projects falling short of their potential.

This may be because rework is needed, budgets are exceeded, supply chains are not aligned around value, or there is no clear line of sight from the client through to users.

The problem partly lies with the ways we manage and utilise information throughout the asset lifecycle. Historically, accessing useful asset data has been a highly inefficient process. Digital transformation presents a solution, allowing engineers to access information in seconds rather than days.

While digital sets out a path to efficient decision-making we need to catch up on a strategic level. Too often project information strategies don’t reflect ultimate outcomes. Planning teams haven’t engaged enough with the supply chain to understand what data is really needed - and at which stages. There are also technical challenges around data exchange, such as file format compatibility and vendor lock-in.

Part of the problem is also about industry culture. Traditionally, design and contractor teams have worked in silos with the main aim of meeting the needs of their immediate paymasters. While the industry’s broad direction of travel is driving more collaboration and open working we need stronger incentives to encourage information sharing throughout the supply chain.

Read the full 'Interoperability' report and analysis

This article was written by Ben McAlinden and was originally published on the ICE Blog on 8 June 2018.

--The Institution of Civil Engineers

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again