With many organisations under increasing scrutiny when it comes to managing costs, companies are now looking to ‘sweat’ all their assets, including their IT systems. ‘Sweating the asset’ is about taking a fresh look at technologies in place and making sure they are fully aligned with current and future business processes.
So how can an organisation ensure its asset management systems are delivering maximum value? Well, while specific challenges in each sector may vary, the approach to be taken is largely the same and four key strategies need to be considered:
Embedding - is about delivering a solid platform against which you can build and deliver additional benefits at an incremental cost. It is about users relying on asset and work management systems to do the day job, and to help them make informed business decisions.
Enhancing - is about delivering additional, incremental value through the use of new functionality. For example, through streamlined business procedures and by introducing new or enhanced system capabilities based on user experience.
Extending - takes the functions and data provided by the asset and work management system to:
- additional roles and users
- external roles and organisations
- new business processes and functions
- and ultimately, to everyone in the organisation
Integrating - is about taking the functions and data provided by asset management systems and tying them in with all the other business systems.Embedding
Successfully embedding an asset management solution into an organisation is a vital step in ensuring a system can deliver real value across the enterprise. No matter how smoothly the implementation of an IT project runs, there is always a journey to be taken to get from system acceptance to full business reliance.
Where a system is already in place, questions need to be asked about why it is not already fully embedded. Reasons can vary and include:
- the requirements have changed since the original implementation
- users were not trained effectively as part of the delivery project
- the support organisations have not been established to manage the processes in steady state
- data quality is not what it should be
- new business processes are not being adhered to is not easy
- there’s no clear process ownership
- the usability of the system could be better
Once the root causes have been determined, simple problem solving disciplines can help determine appropriate solutions. These can include:a) Employee performance support:
Businesses change so rapidly that it’s almost impossible to keep everyone up-to-date and skilled all the time. The reality is that you cannot deliver enough training to get everyone 100 per cent competent on day one of using a new system. And because today’s training budgets and timeframes are being squeezed, employees have less time to spend away from their daily jobs – meaning the capacity to deliver upfront or refresher training is limited. So what is the solution?
Performance centred knowledge management systems or employee performance support systems can help meet the challenges that both employees and businesses face. They can help employees use complex enterprise applications, understand procedures and business rules, and keep up to speed with product and service information. Employee performance support systems are more specific than e-learning. They can provide faster access to actionable information than intranet portals, are more business and role specific than online help, and can cover a multitude of applications.b) Data scorecards:
Fundamental to the management of data is the ability to measure it. If you can’t measure it, you can’t control it in a proactive way. That is where data scorecards can play a role, identifying:
- what data is missing or unuseable?
- whether it is in a non-standard format?
- which data values give conflicting information?
- what data is incorrect or out of date?
- which data records are duplicated?
- what data is missing important relationship linkages?
However, data scorecards themselves are not the only answer. They have to be used as part of a clear strategy that defines what data is required to operate the business and who owns it. Only then can they be used to motivate those with responsibility for data quality to continuously improve it.c) Effective reporting:
To deliver real business value, managers need to make decisions based on the information the systems provide. To do this they need effective reporting solutions, which are accessible, relevant, flexible, easy to use and extensive. These need to provide graphical analysis, drill downs and exception reporting. Ranking and rating, benchmarking and dashboard functionality are also key, helping users unlock data in the asset and work management systems and use it to drive management decision making.Enhancing
The second strategy for ‘sweating’ an asset and work management system is enhancing. This can be through more streamlined business procedures or by introducing new system capabilities based on user experience. Specific examples of enhancing include:
a) Additional modules of most value include:
- additional modules
- enhanced user interface
- new or enhanced functionality
b) Enhanced User Interface:
- operating statistics - used to record usage information on assets, this information can drive maintenance regimes based on usage rather than time, predict the remaining lifetime of a component in conjunction with condition monitoring, and support unit costing
- production statistics - these can track actual availability of an individual asset, component or process against target availability. Figures can then be analysed in terms of standby time, actual operating hours and downtime, which in turn can determine the productivity of an asset
- condition monitoring - typically used for two purposes, condition monitoring can record the results of visual condition assessments or actual, more in-depth, measurements. Over time, this data can be used to trigger appropriate maintenance intervention when certain levels of asset degradation are reached
- maintenance strategy support system – this element closes the loop on a risk-based approach to maintenance through continuous monitoring of asset performance against a defined strategy. This module can link failures to an asset strategy, highlighting unplanned incidents where a preventative strategy should have kicked in
As well as implementing additional modules, organisations looking to ‘sweat’ their assets should consider enhancing the usability of systems through enhanced user interfaces. These combine the required asset and work management system functions into a single interface. This is typically required where user productivity is important or where the system has to drive the user through a business process to apply the necessary data or process rules.
c) New or Enhanced Functionality:
Finally, organisations can also work with suppliers to develop new functionality in an asset management system, which can typically delivered in two ways. Firstly, enhancements can be delivered for clients specifically. These can often add competitive advantages for an organisation, but can be costly to develop and support. Secondly, new requirements can be built into a base product. This approach is typically more cost effective to develop and support, but compromises on functionality and timescales may have to be made.Extending
Extending an asset management system in the right way can take its functionality and the information it provides to a much wider audience than originally intended. This can include field workers, external contacts including customers, suppliers and contractor, and new business processes and functions.
The trend for field working is growing rapidly across the UK’s essential industries. Equipping workers with information and access to asset management systems while on the move can take away the burden of administrative tasks including data entry and form filling. It can also help guarantee that accurate and timely information on assets and work is delivered back to the enterprise.Integrating
The final strategy is integrating. This is about taking the functions and data provided by asset management systems and tying them into all of the other business systems used to operate a modern asset management organisation. Integrating is fundamentally about breaking down the boundaries between systems. For many of AMT-SYBEX’s clients, external pressures are driving them to be more agile and to adapt to change more rapidly. It is important to link the customer to the asset, and to link operational information to asset information to understand capacity, capability, and the impact of failure.
Increasingly, users in the essential industries need simple and efficient access to data in a range of back office systems. Traditionally, this has been difficult to achieve. However, with the emergence of service-orientated architectures, business process management, and composite applications – delivered to both internal users and external parties through portals – this is now achievable.
In summary, while ‘sweating the asset’ is fundamentally a job for customers, our work in this area shows there is also a role for IT suppliers such as AMT-SYBEX to play. By helping an organisation embed, enhance, extend, and integrate its chosen asset management system, it can evolve in line with new business drivers and continue to facilitate the sharing of knowledge across the enterprise.
Andy Scott is a principal consultant at AMT-SYBEX, a leading consultancy and systems technology provider serving customers in ‘essential’ industries with services and solutions aimed at enterprise asset management, information management, mobile working, supply chain management and asset consulting.
For further information please visit: www.amt-sybex.com