• Richard Bradley

Why optimise digital planning?

Updated: May 25, 2020

Complexities of rapidly changing traveller behaviours & outcome priorities

Travel behaviour is influenced by external factors outside of your control as well as internal factors within your control.​ Such external factors are numerous and bring significant uncertainty to your planning and decision making.​ The internal factors are what you have direct influence over and include your policies and investment plans. ​

There is also a middle ground between internal and external factors that you can influence but is dependent on different levels of government working together to find close alignment on shared policy areas.​

Outcomes that you want to achieve are dependent on the interaction of both internal and external factors.​ This interaction influences what outcomes you want to prioritise and the external factors may mean that outcomes are not necessarily prioritised in the order you might prefer. ​

Current longer term headline outcomes include levelling-up and tackling the climate crisis, which are achieving broad alignment across different levels of government. However, over the years headline outcomes have a habit of changing and the current CV-19 crisis is forcing a focus on shorter term outcomes.​

Importantly, for credibility and value for money, any shorter term focus needs alignment to the overall mission and meeting The Grand Challenge, and needs to contribute to the understanding of behavioural change.​

This uncertainty and changing priorities makes it more challenging to plan how you develop evidence to support decisions.​ It means planning has to be both reactive to rapidly meet shorter term outcomes as well as proactive to meet longer term outcomes.​

This emphasises that it's not the plan that is important but the way you evolve the plan as quickly and efficiently as possible, and aligned to your priorities.​

Now, more than ever, reimagining our planning services and production of evidence should be a collective effort, learning from as many experiences as is practically possible.​

Optimising your digital planning services does allow closer collaboration between organisations and without doubt has the potential to unite planning services within different levels of government if made a priority.​ This has great potential to achieve closer alignment in shared policy areas, thus broadening your influence on outcomes, but relies on strong leadership at all levels.​

Opportunities to work together and to exploit ubiquitous data & systems​

Contemporary computer systems are also key enablers in bringing people, data and tools together.​ If common approaches can be followed then digital planning systems can be shared and can more rapidly rebuild evidence to explore uncertainty and measure different outcomes.​

This is fundamental to enable us to understand likely future mobility impacts and define a route-map to future mobility.

Automating & collaborating

At the heart of the system is automation and collaboration.​

Take a systems view to industrialise the production of evidence

We must take a systems view to digital planning and developing evidence and one that makes collaboration easy and can maximise the benefits of sharing and stimulate innovation.​

Improve quality & consistency

If we can collaborate at a national, regional and local level then this collective effort will drive greater quality improvements and provide greater consistency in decision making.​

Better represent the customer experience

Improved quality should take a proportional approach to provide a consistent representation of the customer experience across all geographies and communities, ensuring that tools and planning systems are fit for their purpose to measure desired outcomes.

Explore future uncertainty and 'levelling-up'

Collaboration will also help combine thinking on how to best explore future uncertainty and levelling-up the UK's outcomes across all geographies and communities.​

Vary the velocity of monitoring & evaluation

Tackling shorter term outcomes can also benefit from collaboration with awareness of existing systems that can be quickly deployed and provide higher velocity metrics for vital short term monitoring & evaluation feedback loops. ​

Achieve a step-change in time & cost​

There will be great efficiencies of working together on exploring uncertainty and measuring different outcomes. You can expect automation and collaboration to have a step-change in the overall cost and time for your planning activities. For example,

  • for shorter term outcomes enabling high-velocity monitoring and evaluation systems to be operational in months


  • for longer term outcomes reducing the time for a road scheme to be 'shovel ready' from 7 years to 5 years and saving more than £1m.​

Accelerate to capital programmes

By accelerating the planning process it should be quicker to get to capital programmes, with the initial business case delivery potentially halved, whilst at the same time increasing quality and consistency.​

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