Improving governance in infrastructure projects to accelerate decision-making


Railways and other infrastructure systems can be classified as enduring (if not immortal), as evidenced by the improvement and/or upgrade work needed to keep them functioning, including the addition of new capacity .

Infrastructure projects may not achieve the progress required to maintain their financial and political support. This can result in “field starts” for early work on major items such as civil works, requiring project costs to be incurred before the system design is understood.

A driver of governance is being able to commit at any given time with confidence; A systems approach aims to give decision-makers confidence that when they engage in early work, which may be due to long lead times, the system can be delivered and will meet the needs of stakeholders.

IF:D3 is a process framework that provides the foundation for exploring and evolving the entire solution from the ground up, developing strategy, defining the system, and ensuring integration; the framework uses proven systems engineering techniques to connect technical management to established program management processes.

By design, SI:D3 provides the platform for a collaborative and engaged stakeholder environment.

Below is a breakdown of some key activities associated with the processes of each of the three Ds to show how SI:D3 can help improve governance to speed up decision-making.


Strategy development creates the foundation from which the problem space can be defined and further processed; the focus is on defining the concept to be achieved, described in benefits and outcomes.

  • Identify and categorize stakeholders throughout the lifecycle, establishing the appropriate governance for strong management, effective stakeholder engagement, and decision-making.
  • Establish and agree on the benefits to be achieved by the solution, in terms of outcomes, not assets.
  • Tailor activities specific to the project and problem space.


The system definition enables an accurate understanding of the problem space and the specification of a solution to achieve the identified benefits and expected results; the use of generic heuristics and artifacts can be easily applied and refined to meet specific project needs.

  • Analyze the full scope of work required for delivery, identify gaps, and provide optimized scope allocations, minimizing procurement risk.
  • Analyze and break down results into captured, distributed, and traceable functionality and performance requirements.
  • Collaborative development of system architectures allows visualization of written specifications allowing rapid refinement and updating of candidate options.
  • Define a clear “roadmap to success” by optimizing the benefits delivery sequence.


Integration enhances established foundations and focuses efforts on identifying, managing and mitigating engineering threats to achieve defined outcomes.

  • Establish and control baseline and changes to ensure scope remains known and changes are assessed and controlled with a system-wide perspective, ensuring minimal rework.
  • Make key and binding decisions related to system solution specification and acceptance, broken down and traceable to results and benefits.
  • Define, develop and agree interfaces, leading to collaborative specifications between all parties, minimizing delivery risks and providing an integrated solution.
  • Check and validate early and often to ensure that the solution still meets the results, which gives confidence in the success of the project.


IF:D3 is made possible by the collective know-how of WSP’s diverse experts who facilitate the process framework for any given project or program and help people make informed decisions. In turn, SI:D3 helps systems engineering practitioners overcome challenges and implement initiatives that improve governance and accelerate decision-making for infrastructure projects and programs. Taking a systems approach can help organizations deliver projects on time, on budget, and with the expected functionality and long-term benefits.

1 GOV.UK, “Building Back Better: Our Growth Plan”, 3 March 2021
2 Network Rail, “Project Acceleration in a Controlled Environment (PACE)”, NR/L2/P3M/201 Issue 1, 06 March 2021, p. 6.
3 Same.
4 Governance is the authority and accountability framework that defines and controls the outputs, outcomes and benefits of projects, programs and portfolios. The mechanism by which the investing organization exercises financial and technical control over the deployment of work and the realization of value. APM, ‘APM Body of Knowledge’ 7th edition, 2021.
5 Network Rail, “Project Acceleration in a Controlled Environment (PACE)”, NR/L2/P3M/201 Issue 1, 06 March 2021, p. 6.
6 SEBoK, ‘Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge’ version 2.5, 2021.
7 An open and concrete system of technical or socio-technical elements which is at the center of an SE life cycle. Its characteristics include being created by and for people, having purpose, and satisfying the value propositions of key stakeholders when viewed as part of a larger systemic context. SEBoK, ‘Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge’ version 2.5, 2021.

Helen D. Jessen