Client Story

National Highways

Partnering to build the digital resilience of England’s strategic road network

The digital resilience of England’s increasingly digitised and interconnected road network is constantly being challenged by threats and disruptive events that impact on the safety of road users.

National Highways manages the strategic road network (SRN) in England, comprising 4,500 miles of motorways and some A roads. They have committed to invest £1 billion in digital technology by 2025 as part of their Digital Roads strategy to enable safer journeys, faster delivery, and an enhanced customer experience for all.

Together with National Highways and their supply chain, we are establishing a new level of digital resilience capability to reduce the risk of disruption to road users and protect critical road infrastructure, and the wider roads ecosystem.

National Highways
Building digital resilience for England’s strategic road network

“Resilience is the ability to cope with whatever is thrown at you and still provide a service,” explained Philomena Lavery, Director of Information and Cyber Security at National Highways. She continued, “It’s achieved by allowing people who have the capabilities to come together and solve problems. PA led that co-creation of our digital resilience capability with the purpose of elevating and embedding digital resilience across our people, operations, processes, and wider ecosystem. They provided a fully personalised experience of the highest quality that has built a capability which drives sustainable, repeatable results.”

To accelerate National Highways’ ambitions, together we identified three areas of focus: enhancing the digital resilience ecosystem to meet customer needs; building National Highways’ digital resilience muscle through wargaming; and establishing a new digital resilience mindset.

Enhancing the digital resilience ecosystem to meet customer needs

Technology and data play a critical role in ensuring National Highways can meet customer needs. Whether it's enhanced cyber security to defend against potential threats or artificial intelligence that can forecast potential congestion, the national road network is becoming more data-driven, connected, and automated every year.

Digitisation of the road network also presents an opportunity to enhance resilience across its ecosystem of services. The multiple entry points and interconnectedness of National Highways’ critical systems means a cyber-attack could permeate through its digital estate and disrupt customer services.

We teamed up with National Highways to answer the question: how do you transform a complex organisation and develop the requisite digital and cyber resilience capabilities in a constantly evolving environment?

Building National Highways' digital resilience muscle through wargaming

To accelerate a path to digital resilience, we brought our innovative expertise of wargaming exercises – a tailored programme of scenario-based experiential exercises that bring challenges and the ecosystem to life. It meant placing participants in simulated future situations to explore, test, or stress test plans and processes, and strengthen teams when dealing with disruptive events.

A clear people engagement and communications strategy was also critical to the success of this programme. Everyone — from National Highways’ own team to suppliers and partners — needed to understand the importance of digital resilience and the impact across the critical services. We mapped our key stakeholders and engaged with them, taking a focussed and personalised approach, through update sessions, as well as the wargaming scenarios to bring the work, its purpose, and benefits to life. Or as PA readiness and resilience expert, Sara Ulrich described it, “making the ‘invisible’ visible and tangible”.

“Our challenge was that, as digital disruptive events become more frequent, we need to further build our ability to detect, prevent, respond, and recover from these, explained Lavery. She continued, “we needed a partner to enhance our digital resilience mindset and the best way to do this is ‘show, not tell’. If you take people through scenarios of what could happen using wargaming, then you get that nudge factor. PA have enabled our team to come together and solve problems with the right competencies and capabilities in place.”

Establishing a new digital resilience mindset

By encouraging a shift in mindset, together with National Highways, we have improved and will continue to grow its understanding of the importance of digital resilience across the organisation.

Our system thinking approach also enables its teams to understand the ever-evolving threat environment across the critical services as well as the current digital resilience landscape and how to make important decisions to improve it.

By focusing on all aspects, from people and processes, to technology and data, to supply chain, together we established a digital resilience mindset that will accelerate National Highways’ journey to long-lasting digital resilience. And by prioritising critical services such as traffic management, communications, and managing the enterprise, National Highways has reduced the time to realising value and embedded digital resilience capabilities where most needed.

We continue to assist National Highways by conducting scenario-based assessments and wargaming exercises, enabling them to evaluate operations, detect areas for improvement, cultivate new competencies, and support their transition towards a 'business as usual’ digital resilience state.

National Highways' teams continue to make strides in delivering a safer road system, making major national infrastructure more digitally resilient, and positively contributing to the UK economy by reducing disruption.

The collaborative approach between our organisations proved hugely beneficial in developing the right mindset of ‘by, with, and through’ which allowed us to be more flexible, to explore issues in a more open manner and to expand the programme as real-world operational issues presented. A great example of this is the number of incident tabletop exercises that have been run with the business based on real events. These proved invaluable in adjusting our processes in real-time making us more secure and advancing the resilience, safety, and security mindset in the business.”
Head of Security Strategy and Intelligence, National Highways
Perhaps the greatest benefit is the realisation across the organisation that a road network is as reliant on the performance of its people as the technologies it deploys. We've seen evidence of teams coming together, working together, and really starting to understand how something small could cause a systemic failure. Identifying the list of critical services helps every person within the organisation to pivot towards areas that really matter when it comes to digital resilience; now we can focus on the areas that are likely to hurt the organisation most if they are compromised or lost.”
Director of Information and Cyber Security, National Highways

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