Model-Driven Contract Validation [How Linked Data Saves Time]

Can the Australian infrastructure industry benefit from recent European innovations? This blog describes how Arcadis Asia Pacific uses models versus documents to validate the quality of contract requirements for infrastructure projects, to prevent unclarity and inconsistencies leading to waste of time or even rework during design and construction.

Context: Expanding the infrastructure
With a population growth of 40 million by 2059, Australia is expanding its infrastructure rapidly. Investment in Australian public infrastructure exceeds more than A$218 billion (1). Many large projects are already on their way like the Melbourne and Sydney metro projects and the WestConnex 33 km traffic motorway, and all of these projects are specified in contracts full of requirements that must be fulfilled.

Situation: Requirement Management Standard Challenges
International standards for requirement management are clear on the criteria that requirements must meet when agreed upon by the client and contractor before they can be transformed into system specifications (2).

  • Requirements need to be complete and explicit.
  • Any unclarities need to be solved.
  • Stakeholders ensure that the needs have been adequately expressed.
  • Record requirements in a form suitable for requirements management.
  • Maintain stakeholder requirements traceability to the sources of stakeholder need.

But in practice, briefs, statements of requirements, and contract specifications do not always meet these criteria.

Figure 1. Different sources and their implicit relations. Arcadis, 2022 (3)

Complication: Managing Text-Based Project Requirements
The problem is that most contracts containing project requirements are often managed and mostly communicated as text documents. Text documents make it very hard to manage interdependencies between requirements, leading to different terms being used for the same things, redundancy in requirements, and hard-to-manage changes and inconsistencies. This leads to:

  • Time wasted on solving unclarities.
  • Unclear impact and risk analysis of changes.
  • Rework because of faulty requirements.

Document-based requirements tend to be risky and needlessly require resources.

Solution: Transforming Text-Based Requirements into Model-Based Solutions
Our solution is working model-based: turning text files into data, resulting in structured, meaningful, and coherent requirements. By dissecting text documents into small pieces of information and linking the pieces together, a network of information, or a requirement model, is created. And as coherent linked data, all interdependencies, redundancies, and inconsistencies are presented.

Figure 2. Step-by-step transformation of the document to model. Arcadis, 2022 (4)

In a nutshell: by going through the following steps, requirements can be validated and improved:

  • Upload a text document.
  • Extract requirements and subjects.
  • Validate and correct requirements (make them SMART and MECE (also see 5)).

The result is a set of project requirements suitable for derivation into design solutions.

Whether the client does the model-based validation before handing it over or the contractor does so before designing an unclear or inconsistent contract will impact the budget of everyone. Although validation takes time, it is a profitable investment.

“Having been involved in requirements and contract management since 2007 and having to handle up to 30,000 requirements in an Excel spreadsheet manually, the implementation of automated processes will greatly assist the productivity and efficiency of the team having access to a database of connected and traceable information, for the lifecycle of the project” – Joe Fiadino, Senior Design Manager – Rail (4)

Want to know more about model-based working? Reach out to James Harvey from Arcadis or Niels Kooiman from Semmtech.


(2) ISO (2015), ISO/IEC/IEEE 15288:2015 Systems and software engineering — System life cycle processes: 6.4.1 Stakeholder Requirements Definition Process.
(3) Harvey, J. (2022), Presentation on Model-Based Systems Engineering, Arcadis
(4) Harvey, J. (2023), Presentation for Transport for New South Wales, Arcadis
(5) Oostinga, D. (2014). SEm Infra: Model-Based Systems Engineering in Civil and mechanical engineering. Semmtech