by Claire Gowson
Asset Management Consultant at eAsset Management
So, when was the last time you made a decision based on gut feel? That is, a choice based on what your intuition told you, rather than weighing up more obviously tangible or robust evidence.
Was it choosing breakfast (yes – that is the most literal example of gut feel I could think of!)? Deciding whether you wanted a second date? Or was it hiring a new employee?
There are some decisions in life where gut feel plays an important role; choosing a partner (or lunch) is a good example. And though gut-feel judgments seem unsubstantiated, intuition is more usually the mind weighing up finely-balanced evidence more quickly than the mouth or keyboard can articulate a verdict.
But in asset management, intuition should play a decreasing role. One of the core principles of asset management is that decisions need to be taken from a position of knowledge. Another is that decisions need to be transparent. It’s difficult for decisions based on gut feel to be clearly understandable by others – we need reasoning, not intuition.
To take transparent decisions from a position of knowledge, asset managers need to understand specifically what knowledge they need, and what information sources will get them there (see ISO 55001, Section 7.5 on Information Requirements).
Understanding asset management information requirements involves more than asking engineers what they’d ideally like to know about their assets. Asset management information extends beyond the assets themselves; think contracts, people and skills.
In the ongoing quest to understand asset management nirvana, and how to get there, I have identified a few lessons about how to handle asset management information. These steps might help your organization understand how to reduce the quantity of intuitive decision-making, so that decisions are reasoned and objectively evidence-based.
Information strategy – write it down and communicate it. The information strategy explains what information is needed to make decisions about asset management, and assesses any gaps. The information strategy should be used as a basis for an IT strategy – not vice versa.
Information for decisions - Set out specifically which information sources should be used for which decisions in the organization, and communicate that too.
Ownership – Identify (or perhaps create and agree) an owner for each information source, responsible for maintaining it against agreed data quality standards.
Measuring asset performance - If you create condition or health indices to help explain asset performance, be clear which decisions the indices should support. (This may be none. In which case you need to be clear that the indices are a political tool or broad-brush communications method, which could be risky in itself.)
Investment in data - Invest in new data only when it fills a known gap, and when you know the data can be accessed and used for decision-making by the people that need it.
Review your working - Once you write down an information strategy, review it often – business needs change, as does technology. You need to stay on top of the effects of both on information requirements.
This advice should not be interpreted to mean that opinion has no place in asset management decision-making. But the opinions organizations need for asset management choices are expert judgments, based on information - rather than emotion, personal prejudice or individual political ambition.