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Using project management principles to drive asset management improvements

Having worked within government for 17 years and in the private sector for 16 years, I have commissioned and delivered several asset management reviews.
Using project management principles to drive asset management improvements

These reviews have been driven by a number of factors, such as external criticism on asset performance and expenditure, internal criticism, new executives not being able to forecast and budget for replacement costs , new policies requiring increased awareness and reporting of the condition of assets, strategic plans reflective of aligning organisational goals with asset management activities, customer feedback, lack of data on asset performance and how maintenance contractors are being monitored, etc.

They’ve also followed various frameworks to undertake the analysis, including PMBoK, ISO 55000 maturity assessments, a risk-based approach, other international management standards or various consulting frameworks based on management best practice.

Very rarely has any of this analysis told me something that I, or the organisation, did not know. So why do them?

  • Legitimacy – If an external “independent “consultant tells you something then it must be right! This usually provides an easier path to create momentum with the executive team;
  • Buy-in – The process of engaging with staff to seek their input also gets their buy-in to the outcomes, thereby creating a case for change;
  • Time and resource availability – Using an external consultant to engage with staff, review documentation and prepare a report obviously saves time and energy for you, and leaves you free to manage ‘Business as usual’;
  • Transparency – indicates to staff and outsiders that the organisation is willing to review and improve its performance.

So, you’ve commissioned a review of business or assets. What now?

Primarily, reviews are about creating a case for change and using the report to generate support in terms of funding, resources and commitment to act. It’s then about implementation. How do you implement the recommendations arising from a review? This is one of the key challenges in receiving a report that identifies change requirements.

Having acted on and implemented a number of initiatives arising from external reviews, these are my key lessons learnt:

1. Like a lot of business improvement initiatives, you need buy-in both upwards and downwards. Beyond the initial case for change driven by the review, you also need commitment to how the change is going to be implemented because this is going to involve the organisation’s time, energy and resourcing.

2. Developing a plan to implement change requires experience, expert input, effort and discipline. In the whirlwind of business as usual demands, you may need help to do this.

3. The devil is in the detail. To develop the plan, I always use the principles of PMBoK adapted to suit the organisational environment. Key questions that will need to be answered:

  • Who's going to be responsible? What's going to be the project governance?
  • What are the activities?
  • What’s the best way to structure the activities? Are they sequential? Can they run in parallel? Do you need separate workstreams with different groups?
  • Who’s going to do the work? This is a fundamental question and I’ve seen a lot of organisations struggle with the response. Think about these key things:  how important is this to the organization, do you have spare capacity, how long will this take and can it be done part-time, can you realistically achieve outcomes while undertaking business as usual? In my experience, BAU always trumps business improvement initiatives.
  • What’s the cost to implement, taking into consideration external resources and internal resource commitment?
  • How do we measure progress and success?
  • Key Risks?

Moving from Business Improvement to ‘BAU’

My experience in implementing business improvement initiatives acknowledges that this process of change can take a long time, and I’m talking years. So, it’s very important to set a milestone to move these activities into business as usual. For example:

  • Change Management - you may have had an external team assist with this, but recognizing when this should become part of normal management responsibilities is one of the key transition points;
  • Training - at some point in time this moves from training people to use new systems, into being part of the induction process for new employees;
  • Developing and implementing new contracts for external providers - at some point in time this should move to the internal procurement team and away from the project team;
  • Configuring new systems to encapsulate new fields for improved reporting - you will need to consider whether this becomes an internal function, as part of IT support;
  • Developing new processes and procedures - once the main change initiative is completed, then consider whether this activity should be championed by key individuals going forward.

If you’re struggling to implement business improvement recommendations, including those relating to asset management, then we can help. APP have assisted many clients in undertaking reviews and implementing recommended actions, so please contact me at paul.jones@app.com.au to assess how we can best work with you.

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