Building and Maintaining Solid Infrastructures

The Need for Asset Management Systems within Public Works Departments

A successful public works department is unobtrusive, providing its local community with the infrastructure it needs seamlessly and with minimal disruption. In this sense, it is simultaneously ever-present and invisible, doing its work for the greater good, without getting in the way. They are the unsung heroes of Public Service.

But such a stealthy provision of public services and the effective maintenance of infrastructure are not easy to achieve. This requires a multifaceted strategy; one which can manage the vast amounts of data generated by a community each day, and one which can wield this data in implementing improvements and carrying out the maintenance tasks that need to be done.

The only way to achieve this is to implement powerful software to make this data more manageable, which in turn enables the department to construct and then sustain high-quality infrastructure in the local community.

Asset Management as Requirement, Not Luxury

Modern communities have become data-resources. The way in which public infrastructure is used, the cost and frequency of maintenance, public feedback on previously implemented projects; all of this provides public works teams with the information they need to serve the community.

The problem lies in the volume of data produced. Such a vast array of different data points requires a dedicated system of management. This is why asset management software has exceeded the status of ‘luxury’ and become a necessity for any public works department.

Shifts in Public Expectation

A factor that makes asset management software such a necessity is increasing standards of living and quality of life in our communities. In order to achieve better conditions in their local communities, citizens must pay taxes, which makes them entitled to expect appropriate provisions of services and infrastructure in their area.

Aging infrastructure, budgetary oversights, low quality reporting; these are three areas in which poor asset management can lead to a reduction in living standards in communities within the department’s jurisdiction. If a public works department is truly to serve the needs of the local populace, accountability is key. An asset management platform enables reporting across a variety of metrics and data configurations, providing a profound level of accountability, and also enabling departments to deliver what is required in a cost-effective, highly-efficient manner.

Growing Inventories

As communities grow, so does the number of challenges a public works department faces. Chances are, the infrastructure overseen by the department was designed and constructed several decades ago, with the contemporary needs of that community in mind and with only a limited plan for scaling and growth forecasting.
It is up to the department to ensure that that infrastructure remains fit for purpose, which means maintaining, replacing, and – periodically – adding to facilities within the community. The physical process of building and adapting is sustainable in itself as the cost and benefit are both borne by the local community, but what about its data and management? This can very quickly get out of hand without the relevant software in place.

Comprehensive Legal Compliance

The construction, maintenance and operation of public buildings are governed by an array of regulations aimed at safeguarding the well-being of those who live and work in the buildings, or who utilize them in any way.

It is the duty of a public works department to understand each and every legal provision that covers the assets in its jurisdiction. Not only must they understand these legalities, they must also keep abreast of any changes in the law and ensure that such changes are enacted across the community and its infrastructure.

The Changing Landscape of Public Works

It is a fact which cannot be ignored; public works departments, and the duties they must undertake, have changed a great deal over time. The emergence of public and private synergies – partnerships in which public works are undertaken by a combined effort from the public and private sectors – have added another level of complexity to accounting and planning within departments.

Decentralization of public works has also created more data points and more headaches for the teams who have to oversee them. Asset management software enables departments to keep track of these shifts in the topography of public works, and to adapt quickly to new duties and requirements.

Asset Management Checklist

How to Develop Sustainable Infrastructure Strategies

So what can a public works department do to ensure that the infrastructure they develop is sustainable and that they are utilizing the data they receive in a responsible manner? The implementation of an asset management system is a big step towards achieving this, but it cannot work in isolation.

Below are four principles that govern successful asset management. By working through all four, public works departments are securing high-quality infrastructure for now and for the future.

  1. Clarity of Purpose
    Successful public works require a unity of spirit; they require every member of the team to be in accord and to be working from the same page. Ensure that this is the case within your department by outlining clearly defined, realistic targets and goals.
    Bringing your team together in this fashion enables a concerted effort. Your employees need to understand that sustainable infrastructure is a marathon task, not a sprint, and it could be some time before the true fruits of your labors are realized. Assign progress points and mile markers, and ask your team to look out for these as signals of incremental forward motion and momentum.
  2. Widespread Adoption
    Without widespread adoption on a department-wide basis, asset management can never achieve its goals. Such a system needs to be watertight; it needs to be connected to each and every data access point if it is to be successful. For this to occur, its principles and processes need to be embraced en masse.
    Hold training sessions and meetings aimed at bringing all team members up-to-speed on the system before it is launched. Failing to do this represents a major missed opportunity at best, and a potentially severe mishandling of data at worst.
  3. Procedural Audit
    With the system adopted on a large scale, employees now have the tools and the knowledge to turn their attention to the procedures and protocols they use on a daily basis. How do these fit into the new framework of asset management? How can I apply the most recent data reports to these processes?
    Building sustainable infrastructure requires departmental flexibility. This sort of procedural audit gives employees the chance to apply new, higher-level reporting functionality to their own work, developing more streamlined and effective processes.
  4. Reinvestment
    Efficiency in the field of public works means the ability manage public money effectively, providing for the needs of the local community and securing a surplus of funds each year. In order to truly create sustainable infrastructure, and to go above and beyond the expectations of the community you serve, this surplus must be reinvested.

This reinvestment is what makes the difference between a team going through the motions and a passionate, driven, focused department of public works professionals. We all want to help our local community, we all want to give something back, and to develop it for current and future generations; proper asset management is the way to do this.