Creating an Organizational 'Ecosystem' for Effective Asset Management
October 18, 2021 at 10:20 AM EDT
Five key elements can lay the foundation for building a robust asset management organizational strategy that garners internal support and delivers impactful results.
Infrastructure organizations are challenged with implementing asset management programs within a wider sphere of corporate initiatives that include strategic planning, capital planning and master planning, and policy objectives such as resilience and social equity.
Asset management is an integrated set of processes designed to minimize the lifecycle costs of infrastructure assets at an acceptable level of risk, while delivering established levels of service. When applied effectively it balances costs, opportunities and risks against the desired performance of assets.
Leading agencies have aligned with these efforts and incorporated them as an integral part of a wider organizational “ecosystem” of connected programs, strategies and objectives.
However, when agencies tackle multiple strategic priorities at the same time, it can quickly overwhelm staff and employees with initiative overload.
Leadership can avoid this risk by proactively communicating and demonstrating clear integration and alignment, connecting infrastructure decisions with long-term policy objectives. These common techniques have been effective in creating the foundation to a successful organizational asset management ecosystem:
Developing a shared purpose and creating alignment drives asset management program support. It then guides the conversation toward larger impacts — beyond day-to-day maintenance, renewal decisions and achieving state of good repair.
There are five key elements to building a robust asset management organizational ecosystem that can garner wide support and deliver more impactful results through a Future ReadyTM approach:
Deploy a Comprehensive Communication Strategy
A comprehensive asset management communication strategy is important to engage stakeholders across departments and ensure that all staff are aware of the impact that asset management has on their mission, day-to-day work and decision making.
Organizations must tackle both internal and external communications strategies in parallel.
Internal communications strategies include:
External communications strategies include:
Asset management messaging should convey the importance of promoting not only investments related to new initiatives, but projects that focus on the foundational state of good repair and optimizing performance of existing assets. The key is having the right balance, securing dedicated consistent funding, and educating elected officials and the public.
WSP USA recently worked with several agencies, including the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA), to create impactful asset management plans, reports and updates that enhance public and stakeholder support and understanding. These efforts also support increased program funding and awareness.
MDOT SHA is developing and integrating asset management best practices to prioritize the needs of its organization across offices and build a culture of teamwork that empowers it to be even better stewards of Maryland’s resources. WSP’s partnership with the agency generated a comprehensive asset management brochure that communicates the program drivers and benefits to external stakeholders as part of its formal Asset Management Office rollout.
In the opening message of the Asset Management Office rollout, Tim Smith, MDOT SHA administrator, states, “Asset management is a long-term commitment, and our team is committed to embracing proactive strategies that employ data-driven decisions, apply lifecycle cost analysis, and deliver prioritized investment decisions to cost-effectively meet our service-level goals and commitments.”
Quick Wins, Clear Benefits
Performance management is a critical element of a successful asset management program. Leadership and staff must understand performance expectations and goals and use clear information to make decisions and modify strategies as needed.
In fact, WSP is currently working with a major wastewater utility in the western U.S. to develop such strategic and tactical metrics that will support the client’s asset management program.
Measures should be diverse and directly related to the organization’s strategic and asset management goals, including reliability, service levels, equity, sustainability and maintenance efficiency. Picking the right measures with a supporting hierarchy of related strategic and tactical measures is an important first step.
Organizations must remember that performance management is a process that involves multiple steps, including developing detailed measure definition sheets, configuring information systems, documenting data collection and validation processes, and designing simple and meaningful reports. All these efforts require commitment.
Measures should be carefully chosen so that they address strategic stakeholder issues as well as tactical operational needs. Ultimately, the performance framework should build trust and transparency and provide the asset management team with a scorecard to measure short-term and long-term progress and benefits.
Organizations should start with a targeted set of high-level metrics that are meaningful for decision makers, and critical measures should be updated in real-time and delivered through interactive dashboards.
Well-developed performance frameworks demonstrate to operations, maintenance and customer service staff how the program makes their job easier and/or more impactful. This approach builds connections and champions at all levels of the organization.
Collaborate, Refine, Innovate and Improve
Successful asset management programs must constantly evolve and improve with regular cycles of review and refinement. Organizations that fully embrace asset management and commit to collaboration, innovation and continuous improvement, discover that these valuable techniques quickly become part of the culture – not just another program.
Successful programs make asset management a permanent part of day-to-day activities and have fully committed senior leadership, allowing the organization to stay focused, even during times when funding and resources may be constrained.
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