Skip to main content Skip to footer


Capital projects: Driving value from digital


December 20, 2020

In brief

  • Many capital projects companies have invested in digital and data capabilities, but only a few get the returns they expected.

  • We surveyed over 700 "owner-operators" and engineering, procurement and construction companies to see how they were driving their digitalization.

  • Our findings show how a small group of companies can derive much higher value from digital by making specific changes to their operating environment.

  • We've compiled these practices into our CAPSTONE digitalization framework, which increases both returns on capital investments and margins.

Digital, yes. But valuable?

Digital capital projects aren't exactly a new concept. But many companies are still struggling with putting it into practice—and that's despite their significant investments in the digitalization of the project value chain.

Almost all the owner-operators and engineering, procurement and construction companies ("EPCs") we surveyed for our research have spent the past years building digital and data capabilities to improve time to completion, project cost and returns on investment.

But only a third of them said they were actually realizing these benefits.

Which begs the question: Why the other 66 percent can't get similar results. And, couldn't they learn some things from their peers in order to drive higher value from digital, too? 


Owner-operators and EPC's use average or good quality data for their recently executed capital projects.


of the companies reported success around many of the key KPIs.

The two keys to digital success

While few executives would dispute the immense value digital can bring to capital projects, they might differ in how they strategize and execute around them.

In theory, capabilities like the cloud, mobile and data analytics can enable and improve the collaborative decision-making in every company. In practice, however, such enablement can only happen if companies:


Institutionalize ownership for building the right operating environment to collate and deploy useful data and drive true collaboration.


Operationalize technology and data for better decision-making towards "on-time, on-budget" project delivery.

Driving either one of these isn't exactly easy of course—it'll almost always be a journey rather than a sprint. And that journey will require some clear strategy and planning if it is to be successful.

So how can executives ensure both?

Why do digital initiatives in capital projects fail?

Watch: Why Capital Projects Companies’ Digital Initiatives Fail | 2021-02-17 | SupplyChainBrain

Introducing "CAPSTONE"

The findings from our survey offer an answer to this very question because they point to certain best practices that all the successful "digital" companies in our sample employed.

And we have spent some time improving this answer even further, by compiling these practices into our framework called "CAPSTONE". This framework can grow the operating margin of EPCs by an additional 5.8 percent, and give owner-operators an incremental 6.6 percent return on their capital investments through four building blocks:

Data-committed C-suites

C-suites commit to a collaborative culture of data-ownership and sharing, and data-driven decision-making across all project businesses.

Data-sharing capabilities

Owner-operators and EPCs align investments and build contextual, mutually beneficial data-stacks for the entire project life cycle.

Data-friendly talent

Owner-operators start using data to help EPCs execute, and EPCs train workers in on-site data-use to improve results.

Incentive-based contracts

Contracts are structured to incentivize project contributors to share and use data to improve project outcomes.

About the research

Our latest Capital Projects research examines where owner-operators and EPCs are in their journey of data-driven digital transformation, their challenges and the differentiated actions adopted by some of the most progressive companies during 2015-2019.

The insights, derived from around a million data-points, are based on:

  • Analysis of Accenture’s Capital Projects 2020 survey of 570 executives from large owner-operators (exceeding revenues of USD1 billion), located across 20 countries, spanning asset-heavy industries such as Aerospace & Defense, Chemicals, Industrial Equipment, Metals & Mining and Oil & Gas, as well as the Public Infrastructure sector, amongst others. The remaining 140 are senior executives from global EPCs with combined 2019 revenues of over US$1 trillion.

  • In-depth discussions with nearly a dozen academic experts and senior industry experts representing owner-operators as well as EPCs.

  • Analysis of publicly available financial data of surveyed companies towards identifying progressive companies amongst the cohort of owner-operators and EPCs.

  • Regression analysis for determining the potential impact of differentiated actions being undertaken by progressive companies on financial performance of owner-operators and EPCs.


Andy Webster

Managing Director – Industry X, Infrastructure & Capital Projects, Global Lead

Raghav Narsalay

Accenture Research Lead for the Metaverse Continuum Business Group