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BBA _ the business case for Supplier Diversity, [using Digital Twins]

“The well documented and long-standing, issue of equitable and accessible economic opportunity for ALL [particularly female and/or minority led business owners] is often seen by many in the UK as practically impossible and for the most part, unsustainable. However, in reality and to the contrary ever since their enactment, the same sector agnostic ‘economic opportunity’ has been ‘sustainably’ achieved both within and across the USA and also on the continent of Africa [specifically, South Africa]. Their highly regarded, albeit nuanced, solution frameworks are commonly referred to as ‘Set Aside Contracts’ and ‘Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment’ respectively. In both cases, the evidence [data] speaks for itself.

However, in the presence of an emerging, socio-technical innovation, i.e. an ‘eco-system’ of connected digital twins, and the continued absence of any similar instrument in the UK [legislative or otherwise], recognising that ‘no solution can be considered perfect’, current UK Govt induced and other policy led, #ESG market interventions, will undoubtedly go some way towards opening up the public sector ‘commercial pie’ with a thin slice [not crumbs] being offered to others, in particular, female led and minority owned businesses.” _ Abisogun OBE

Credit: CDBB / 'Centre for Digital Built Britain'

Defining the challenge and problem statement [the What]:

Adopting the principles of the recently launched Gemini Papers the final and most profound output of the ‘CDBB’ Centre for Digital Built Britain, recognising its ‘foundation-role’ since 2017, creates an intrinsic relationship with regards the origins of the National Digital Twin programme ‘NDTp’. But, I hear you say, “what on earth does the NDTp [and digital twins] have to do with Supplier Diversity?” Well, let us consider the three (3) tenets of thought regarding ‘the key pillars’ of and [in my capacity as the Founder & Chairman of DiverseCity Surveyors] my first introduction to the sterling work of the Executive Team on the NDTp amidst the role of any Digital Twin. In fact, let us consider the Gemini Principles of Purpose [the what], Trust [the why] & Function [the how].

Credit: CDBB / 'Centre for Digital Built Britain'

There are and will be, over time, a comprehensive realisation that an infinite number of use-cases exist from which many of us will design, develop and implement / manage a digital twin; but every digital twin must start with three (3) well-defined pillars.


So let’s start with our raw material [call it the ingredients of our idea] in seeking to achieve the purpose of our digital twin. What is the intended outcome (?) “we must always start with the end in mind”;


Once rinsed, washed and suitably prepared [referring to ‘our ingredients’!] we must then add a generous amount of trust _ both in the structured data deployed and shared, the ‘ethics’ of the people designing and administering the digital-twinned-process and of course all manner of other requisite, legislative and documented outcomes. Trust [by others] in the digital twin is paramount and as important as the presence of the twin itself, and as such must be equally relatable and uniquely relevant to the average citizen; and


Finally, we must remove from the oven [or other conductive environment] and allow our idea to cool before we move to (serve and) implement, then manage its core function as a digital twin. A seemingly critical stage of the development process, that is designed to create better organisational-wide and societal benefits, via data-driven insights [through various process(es) and/or intervention(s)].

The well researched ‘business case’ for Supplier Diversity – using the CDBB ‘digital twin’ toolkit – will be an interesting journey for any client, but if you are a public sector client OR commissioning body, then you will also need to wrap around [any future CAPEX and/or OPEX] the multi-faceted and growing emphasis on the ‘S’ in #ESG as well. In doing so, what you will find, at the very least, is that the data simply doesn’t lie and in and of itself, with continuous improvement arising from one’s very own documented benchmark, the ‘discovery piece’ will always prove to be a worthwhile investment.

Credit: London Anchor Institutions

A conversation that I have been actively exploring for well over two (2) decades, more recently as a Board Member at the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry, as well as my dual role as the Black Business Association Lead on Workstream 3 _ Public Sector Contract Opportunities / Supplier Diversity; I am increasingly optimistic of sustainable success, particularly in a post-George Floyd environ.

wnsider this milestone [and the introduction of the digital twin] a manufacturing ‘task-light’ moment. But why just a ‘task-light’ moment, well because at this juncture, at best we are simply preparing to ‘take a good look’ at the journey to date. In theory, this ‘task-light’ review should map the route, to the end of my own tunnel – which after 22years, since I returned from my first business trip to Atlanta, Georgia and where I had my first ‘lightbulb moment’ – still does not appear to be anywhere in sight. [Side note: such an effort, will no doubt be supported quite by possibly yet, more ‘much-needed’ research].

Question: as a public sector client / commissioning body, recognising an area of increasing importance and a conversation that I continue to be invited to participate in, just what is (your own) data telling you [or not] about the ‘inclusivity, accuracy and diversity’ of (your own) current procurement process(es) – and who essentially from a service delivery point of view, exists within it?

Perhaps, we could start there …….. and being to mitigate wasteful spend that could and should be appropriated elsewhere and achieving better, valued based outcomes.

Credit: Trowers & Hamlins / SouthEast Consortium

Defining the need for a new paradigm-shift towards ‘cultural change’ [the Why]:

As we look to create and standardise, fairer OR as many are citing, “responsible procurement” practices, the public sector in particular must prepare to be bold and resist procrastination OR worse still _ #BAU [business as usual]. Given that future CAPEX-led project delivery should aim – without question – to positively impact the domestic [and to a lesser degree, global] ambition to achieve #NetZero2050 [via TIP2030], we have to be acutely aware and honest with ourselves, noting that current models of engagement and procurement ‘are fundamentally broken’ and technically, no longer fit for purpose. It is equally important to recognise the structurally induced, cultural shift(s) that are now collectively, collaboratively and harmoniously required as part of a radical ‘new’ expectation arising from the post-pandemic environ. Coupled with stealth inflationary issues, itself giving birth to unbridled levels of ‘dutch-action’ procurement activity, all in a post-Grenfell environ, it is vitally important that the public sector and her vast resource of layers (and layers) of administrative and Executive personnel, actually remain inspired to act. There has never been a better time for leaders in business [or elsewhere] to step into their light and shine and to do so in a meaningful way that speaks to the obvious needs of wider society; “fairness and inclusion” is now top of the agenda.

Clearly timing is everything and given the presence of a new financial year [we are now in week two of 2022/23] and using the wider narrative around place-based, locally-focussed, economic development, the ‘cultural shift’ away from a wholesale, risk-averse [traditional] procurement method that simply deploys, carte-blanche risk allocation [dumped] onto multi-layered and inherently fragmented Supply Chains – the time has come for us to seriously challenge such an opaque delivery model. Unapologetically, [and as domain / subject matter experts / thought leaders] we must educate and inspire ourselves and clients too, over time via a well-defined road-map, to overhaul and replace [existing procurement practices] with a new, well structured, interoperable, data-driven, appropriately incentivised, risk-mitigated approach that carefully considers the entirety of the required ‘value chain’ as dictated by predetermined #ESG deliverables. And, if ‘cost of capital’is to become directly attributed to intended [and actual] project outcomes, then it must be possible and remains quite capable of being achieved through the ‘unbundling of contracts’ and the creation of social value, which must include, more not less supply chain diversity.

Credit: CDBB / 'Centre for Digital Built Britain'

Along with the aforementioned ‘business case’ for deploying a ‘digital twin’ solution that is perhaps, in this use-case, designed to measure nothing other than #SocialValue creation [as evidenced when converted into cashable and non-cashable pounds and pence!]; could well be the perspective and benchmark, or even KPI, that many in the public sector need to see, more as a reality check, that they too can and should benefit from. “Seeing is believing” and there are plenty of new ideas and ‘virtual conversations’ beginning to take place, some potentially leading to great pilots and other interesting work across the construction sector, so do watch this space [i.e. the Digital Twin Hub].

Credit: LCCI / 'Black Business Association'

Moreover, if and when an organisational ‘social value’ digital twin is created from the ‘procurement process’ digital twin both, then seamlessly connected to the ‘contract management’ digital twin [the latter, quite possibly supported with some level or degree of visualisation, such visualisation being predetermined by the ‘purpose’ of the twin itself] then and only then will ‘existing’ procurement processes be better equipped [and informed] to manage both project level risk(s) as well as the ‘ambition strategy’ of the organisation itself, who should also be desirous of achieving greater [evidence based] Supplier Diversity.

Credit: CDBB / 'Centre for Digital Built Britain'

The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) as a partner in the Construction Innovation Hub is pleased to announce the launch of a multi-party ‘Integrated Information Management Contract’ (‘IIMC’), developed by the King’s College London Centre of Construction Law and the University of Cambridge Laing O'Rourke Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology, that creates and sustains a collaborative approach to Building Information Modelling (‘BIM’).

The IIMC is supported by a newly published ‘White Paper on Procurement Strategies for incentivizing collaborative delivery to optimize whole-life outcomes’ which explores how a collaborative approach to procurement can help to deliver projects better, faster, greener and safer with a focus on whole life net zero targets and building safety and a greater emphasis on creating social and environmental as well as economic value. Clients and industry are invited to examine and adopt the IIMC as a new means to improve value and reduce risks by agreeing directly their mutual information management commitments on one or more projects, and by implementing these commitments transparently and collaboratively throughout the asset lifecycle.

The model IIMC builds on the ISO 19650 proposition that ‘collaboration between the participants involved in construction projects and in asset management is pivotal to the efficient delivery and operation of assets’ and the 2020 Construction Playbook requirement to ‘align objectives, success measures, targets and incentives so as to enable joint work on improving value and reducing risk” _ Centre for Digital Built Britain; posted 11.04.22

Clients will undoubtedly pleasantly surprise [or potentially even embarrass] themselves in the process, but naturally, we [as domain / subject matter experts / thought leaders] exist to help navigate these ‘early adopter’ conversations with any client and individual, as you seek to embark upon this journey of cultural, ethical, digital and operational transformation.

Credit: DCS / 'DiverseCity Surveyors'

Hosted by the London Chamber on behalf of the Black Business Association, back in January 2022, one such ‘virtual conversation’ that took place was in the form of a round table, and held with two of the UK sectors leading legal and procurement minds, as well as a handful of innovative, ‘early adopter’ industry clients, including those listed below:

Care of the London Anchor Institutions' Charter, [led by Bloomberg Associates] discussions continue to be supported by Bola Abisogun OBE, Founder & Chairman of DiverseCity Surveyors – where the construction sector [and built environment] has since become a key sector of focus – and are taking place with many interested ‘anchor organisations’ including the GLA. Thanks again to Trowers & Hamlins and the SouthEast Consortium for supporting our first online discussion on Supplier Diversity via the LCCI / Black Business Association

Credit: David Mosey / Centre of Construction Law, Kings College

The key objective of the webinar:

The ambition was to introduce and set the scene by referring to life before and after Public Contract Regulations 2015 [aka PCR2015] / Brexit / and now the current challenge OR opportunity as presented by Transforming Public Sector Procurement in 2022 of the c.£290billion, public sector procurement pie. The above would be considered within the context of procuring Works and Services [mindful of their respective ‘new’ thresholds].

The overarching ambition was to leave the audience with a good grasp of the pending changes and the intrinsic opportunities that are likely to present themselves with central and local govt – presenting the construction [and housing] sector as a viable ‘use-case’.

To this end, and through the medium of a tripartite conversation, I had hoped and was pleasantly surprised by] the very simple conversation that traversed the over-arching landscape of opportunity, one that could possibly be achieved with the use of technology e.g. BIM and moving forward Digital Twins. Of equal importance was the need to cite the specific and commendable work of industry ally and thought leader, in the form of David Mosey, through his ‘Constructing the Gold Standard’ [CTGSF] which affirmed the following [excerpts in brackets]:

· What can a Gold Standard Framework achieve [pg 10 / 13/ 24]

· The role of ‘best practice’ / public sector policy; specifically the National Procurement Policy Statement

· The concept of MEAT to MAT; pursuing better social value, deploying local supply chains and supporting local economies

· The value creation afforded by the Construction Playbook / Net Zero / ESG [pg 19]

· The concept of Frameworks that support more Social Value and the inclusion / the role of micro-businesses and small companies, referring much wider than just the SME [pg 36 / 76]

· Increasing the use of data-driven solutions to support better and more transparent decision making with reference to the role of Smart Contracts & Digital Twins / BIM in procurement and Blockchain / DLT solutions e.g. in asset management / and the evolving and ever important golden ‘digital’ thread [pg 51 - ]

· Unapologetic use of ESI [Early Supply Chain Involvement] and what could this could look like along with the ‘supplier criteria’ for timely engagement [pg 56 - ]

· The role of a DPS and the implications for micro-businesses and other smaller suppliers wishing to compete / and quite possibly, challenge decision(s)

Within the foreword of David Mosey’s [CTGSF] publications [as seen on pg4]:

· “Framework contracts will not fulfil their potential if they govern only call-off, measurement and administration. Review contributors support of a Gold Standard framework alliance contract that is collaborative, outcome-focused and flexible, with processes that drive improved value and integrate the work of framework providers, clients, managers, suppliers and supply chain members.”

Professor Mosey went on to say:

· “The effectiveness of construction frameworks is hampered by duplication, inconsistency and adversarial practices, wasting large amounts of money and impeding essential progress.

· The new ‘Gold Standard’ for frameworks and framework contracts drives the strategic actions that will improve value and safety, manage risks, meet Net Zero Carbon targets and support a profitable construction industry’.

· In 2018, public sector works contributed £117 billion to the UK economy, as well as supporting more than two million jobs.

· The Gold Standard will need to be met by all future construction frameworks and also recommends actions to improve value under existing frameworks.

· The review is a result of the Construction Playbook, which was launched by the Cabinet Office in 2020with the aim of making sure the public sector and construction industry work together better to deliver key infrastructure projects.”

For those interested, the full 45min LCCI/BBA webinar held on 25.01.22 can be seen here.

Credit: The Equal Group / MSDUK

Supplier Diversity is an issue of national importance and at DiverseCity Surveyors ‘DCS’, we [via our Chairman] continue to work with others in this space to galvanise the much-needed seismic effect and also to work smarter in a digitally enabled eco-system. Last week [held on 05.04.22] DCS was invited by one of our strategic partners based in Birmingham, a dynamic, data-driven team led by Mac Alonge, CEO of The Equal Group. Even with relatively short notice, we were able to support them as well as another keen support of Supplier Diversity, an ally in the form of Mayank Shah, who is the CEO of Leicester based Minority Supplier Development UK / 'MSDUK'.

Credit: MSDUK

Represented by Kate Taiwo and Ricky Shah respectively, an hour-long conversation ensued with an energetic audience, which discussed business engagement from across three critical sectors, construction, finance and technology, the latter being the focus on the day.

Credit: Government Commercial Function [UK]

Although still early days, and despite the shocking statistics shared by colleagues at MSDUK, there are some interesting forward-procurement plans being established by many industry clients, forward thinking buyers and contracting authorities; so yes, the ‘task-light’ is still shining and the pool of interested allies is beginning to grow …… so there is good reason to be cautiously optimistic [and a little excited too!].

Credit: GAEA / Greater Atlanta Economic Alliance

Evidencing success through ‘diversity of thought’ [‘the how’]:

The ancient Greek orator Demosthenes once said, “small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises”. Many business owners are looking for that window of opportunity that will allow them to showcase their services and function as a launchpad to growth.

“One of the biggest challenges for small, women and minority owned businesses is opportunity. All a contractor really needs is the opportunity to bid on a job and have the bid taken seriously.” _ GAEA Member.

Credit: Joe "The GIANT" Jackson / President, GAEA

The GAEA [Greater Atlanta Economic Alliance], headquartered in Atlanta, was created in 2000 at the beginning of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s capital improvement programme. “The airport wanted to make sure that, as they underwent their $6.5billion airport expansion (which spanned from 2000 to 2015), there would be significant small, women and minority owned business participation, which was formed in response to the airport’s diversity and inclusion goals” _ affirmed by Joe Jackson, President of the GAEA [in photo above].

‘Small business set-asides are a powerful tool for helping small firms to win federal prime contracts. Fundamentally, government purchases that have an anticipated dollar value exceeding $3,000, but not over $150,000 are automatically reserved or set-aside for small businesses’

Credit: City of Atlanta _ Office of Contract Compliance

In simple terms, the fact(s) that exist today, across the USA are such:

“Small business set-asides are contracts “set aside” by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that must be awarded to small businesses, in order to help them compete for the $500 billion in goods and services the federal government buys from the private sector annually. Set-asides are awarded across a variety of industries, and disadvantaged businesses are given special consideration.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) works with federal agencies to help ensure that at least 23% of all prime government contracts are awarded to small businesses. This is one way that small businesses can compete with Amazon and the other giants of commerce. There are two main types of small business set-asides: competitive set-aside contracts, and sole-source set-aside contracts.

For competitive contracts, two or more businesses can submit a bit to take on the job. Generally (though not always), this happens automatically when the contract is under $150,000. Some of these contracts are only open to those who participate in SBA contracting assistance programs.

Sole-source contracts are awarded without a bidding process when only a single business can fulfill the contract requirements. These contracts are publicly posted, and potential vendors can still bid on them, assuming the business participates in the relevant contracting assistance programs.

In addition to the government-wide 23% set-aside goal, there are different goals for certain subsets of small businesses:

  • Small disadvantaged businesses (8a program) — 5%

  • Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) — 5%

  • Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses — 3%

  • Businesses in HUBZones (historically underutilized business zones) — 3%

Not all set-asides are for prime contracts (those directly with a government agency). There are also small business set-asides for subcontracts resulting from a prime contract. For example, if an automotive manufacturer gets a prime contract to build Army jeeps, they could subcontract with a small manufacturer to supply some of the parts. Any qualifying small business has the opportunity to win a set-aside contract. Doing so can open the door to future opportunities, and can be used as an excellent marketing tool for other jobs as well.”

Credit: Prasanna Patil [Author] via Sabre88 LLC

Based on the above, one of the biggest recipients of public dollar contracts, let since the enactment of Set Aside contracts, across the US construction sector and specifically within the City of Atlanta, State of Georgia, is and remains H J Russell & Company. Originally located downtown at 504 Fair Street, SW Atlanta [now relocated in MidTown] this was the location of the largest and most successful construction company in the South East and a constant contender for the BE100’s published by Black Enterprise Magazine; literally a who’s who of Black owned business success across the USA.

The existing business premises and former headquarters, that I originally visited, many moons ago and infrequently since my inaugural visit in late 2000, has since become the Herman J Russell Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship; an incubator for the next gen leadership & entrepreneur community. What better way to create social value at a local level and an indelible legacy across the City of Atlanta; we celebrate the work and legacy of Mr Herman J Russell.

Credit: City of Atlanta _ Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce

I felt privileged that I had the good fortune of meeting ‘in person’ the first African American member of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Mr Herman J Russell, at his infamous Fair Street offices. During our 1 hr plus conversation, he literally gave me a masterclass on building a business through 'ethical' partnerships with Prime [Main] Contractors. He did it well, albeit relying solely upon the legislative framework of ‘set-aside contracts’ a positive outcome arising out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; administered at a local level, by the hugely successful, three (3) term Mayor, Maynard Jackson, a fellow Atlantan and the first ever Black Mayor of Atlanta.

In all honesty Mr Russell [who sadly passed away in November 2014] exposed me to his blueprint for success, and equipped me, along with the courage to return back to London [in November 2000] where three years later, I set up Urbanis in 2003. I chose to specifically target the next best thing _ at the time _ to ‘set-aside contracts’; the s106 [social value] legislative requirement of any and every Public Sector [Decent homes] contract. Unfortunately, and not for want of trying, I failed on multiple fronts in the absence of any stringent legislative instruments and my own lived-experience [working within main contractor supply chains, in a fundamental and morally bankrupt, broken delivery model] one whose KPI’s often went unchecked by many clients, still leaves a lot to be desired. The conduct of some major [Tier 1] contractor organisations, including Carillion who has since gone out of business is still a huge topic of debate; another conversation perhaps …… However, the legacy of such effort was ultimately recognised by HMQEII on 28th Dec 2018, so not a total loss; and yes, ‘still we rise’.

Credit: The Russell Family / H J Russell & Company

You can watch the legacy of the man himself in a short film called "Building Atlanta: The Story of Herman J. Russell" launched on 16th February 2020 via PBA.

However, and to positively affirm the here and now, it is the same ‘lived-experience’ that has led me and my passion to date, to the inevitable mainstream application of digital twins ‘during the design through to handover’ of built assets. Drawing upon the contents of my own thesis, published in 1993/94 [as reflected in the recent RICS Insight Paper on Digital Twins] the entire construction supply chain can now (shall we say) be protected ‘comfortably and in real time’ against inappropriate, contracting behaviours and other forms of sharp practice by those in the upper echelons of the appointed risk pool. Suffice to say, my current ‘use-case’ for digital twins in the ‘Design, Construction & Supply Chain Management’ spheres, will undoubtedly drive cultural change, ensure vertical and horizontal collaborative engagement, engross the use of a DLT / type Blockchain platform and at their core, adopt Smart Legal Contracts. This utopia position is completely aligned to the Future of the Quantity Surveying Profession, and in the context of ‘regulated professional services’ for better client, project and societal outcomes _ enter #(P)QS2030; the client side perspective

Future Supplier Diversity Events:

The London Chamber, via the Black Business Association, which is chaired by my fellow Aquarian, Lord Dr Michael Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE who will also be delivering a keynote on the day, is supporting a unique event aimed at Black business owners, to be held in July 2022.

Called the Black Entrepreneurs Conference 2022, the event is seeking to build upon a recently launched report by its author Dr Carlton Brown. Early bird tickets have only just commenced sales [effective yesterday, 11.04.2022] and are a definite must for any current or aspiring business owner.

Credit: David Brinkley / Your Dictionary


So, I say all of the above to say this; given the content and context of just some of the vitriolic comments and other savoury interjections [rare as they may be], that I continue to receive, particularly via social media.

For the record, and on the surface it may well appear that I ‘only bat for BAME or other diverse groups’ but in actual fact, the truth is that I have to ‘bat for AND empathise with the most needy in society’, and at this time [on 12.04.2022], it is largely a lived-experience championed by the Black population, who figuratively and comprehensively, lead all other groups by a country mile. However, the upside of my personal endeavours – which have been proven time and time again – could be so much better using evidence based digital twin solutions.

So here’s the thing, if I choose to ‘bat for the most needy in society’ and succeed by generating a clear, unconditional and unquestionable positive outcome or outcomes, then funnily enough, EVERYONE IN SOCIETY benefits in the long run. At times it’s a very painful and thankless slow-burn, but it’s still a jaw-dropping ‘win-win’ and one that I now call the ‘lift and shift model’ because it works so well and could easily be applied to other groups, just like the Inclusive Employers Toolkit, funded and produced by the GLA.

Trust that all makes sense(?); and hopefully, I’ll see you at the aforementioned BEC Event in July?


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