Although in principle all asset management systems perform the same task – i.e. that of managing your stock condition data, few have evolved in the last five years from their original objective of providing a stock condition database. Hence with the increased demands on managers and boards to formulate detailed asset management plans and strategies, not all products make these tasks as easy as specialist asset management systems. Although you may have a reasonable stock condition database, you may not actually have an asset management system!
There is a world of difference between managing stock condition data and working with an asset management system? So what differentiates an asset management system from a stock condition database?
Are you recording the past or managing the future? Stock condition databases are designed to report on past performance and evolution of your stock condition. Asset management uses past stock condition but is focused on what happens in the future. It’s similar to the difference between historical accounts (such as a P&L statement and Balance Sheet) and modern management information systems. You wouldn’t plan the future of the business solely using your accounts so why try managing your assets solely using past stock condition data?
Asset Management Information is a specialised form of the management information which pervades your organisation. In order to build a solid asset management system, it needs to ‘hoover-up’ information from every possible source – not just rely on the rolling stock condition survey programme. Yes, don’t get me wrong, the rolling stock condition programme is an essential input into the asset management system but not its sole source of data. There is so much other ‘free’ data in organisations, and consolidating this into a single information point leads to increased information from which to formulate future plans and strategies. So make an effort and consolidate all asset data into the asset management database – it’s worth it!
Once you have all this data, you need a system that allows you to plan your future. The future is more complex that anticipating what happens next solely from past performance and hence you need a system that has the added crystal ball functionality! Hence good asset management systems offer much more than a 30 year forecast and a current Decent Homes status report. They allow you to create complex what-if models, based on stock condition, decency, and energy efficiency, and hence to formulate future work programmes. Sensitivity analysis is another favourite of most Chief Executives and Finance Directors, and hence you need the ability to take the first round of information produced by the asset management system and further refine it based on the demands of the board. Hence you need flexibility – most systems claim to have this built-in but fall into one of two categories. They either force you to build bottom up reports in Microsoft Excel or offer some parameter driven standard reporting. What in fact most people need, is an asset management system that does all the generic work in detail and then let you put the finishing touches on it. Hence ideally you want both – total data mining flexibility and then the ability to refine further in Excel or other tools. Few systems offer this level of sophistication but Keystone does!
Finally, for people to believe the outputs of the asset management system, they must feel part of the information consolidation and dissemination process. Hence, not only should a modern asset management system consolidate many sources of data into a single technical repository, it must also be sufficiently open and user friendly for the entire organisation to self serve and reap the benefits. Leading asset management systems include not only stock condition data, programme plan details and current programme status but also offer asbestos, servicing and inspection information. This wealth of information, made available throughout the entire organisation builds confidence and improves efficiency.
So, a good recipe for asset management success relies on three key ingredients – a powerful database and information modelling tool – functionally rich for expert users but simple for the occasional information seeker, a data ‘hovering-up’ and consolidation culture, and access to information company wide – not restricted to the few but open to all!
If you agree with the above, then maybe you should look again at your stock condition or asset management tool and certainly look at Keystone!
Joshua Warren, Managing Director, Keystone 01206 216 212