ASSET MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY

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1 ASSET MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY Vivek Kangesu, Manager, Corporate Asset Management & Systems Townsville City Council, Queensland, Australia Abstract Today asset management and its strategies are very important to achieve financial sustainability. Finding the correct strategy is a difficult process, especially in Local Government services delivery. This paper provides a local government experience in developing asset management strategies for financial sustainability. The paper deals with developing asset management strategies on the following: service management, capital investment, operational & maintenance improvement and performance management. These strategies can function in conjunction with eachother or individually. The paper discusses developing and implementing the strategic models for successful asset management supporting financial sustainability. Mostly, local governments manage some of the asset classes very well, while leaving others to poor standard. Due to this reason, overall asset management performance is at a moderate stage and not achieving financial sustainability as expected. The paper also provides an experience in applying these strategic models at all asset portfolios level (corporate asset management) and an individual asset type (operational asset management) such as roads, stormwater drainage, water, wastewater, parks, and buildings. Key Words: asset management, level of service, operation, maintenance, capital investment, performance management 1. Introduction Strategic and operational asset management practices are continuously improving in all Local Governments nationally and internationally. Best practice improvements are occurring to asset management within all of the operational practices such as acquisition, operation, pro active maintenance, asset risk management, condition assessment etc. According to National Asset Management Support Group the objective of Asset management is to meet a required level of service, in the most effective manner, through the management of assets for present and future customers. 1 In other words, asset management determines appropriate operational and financial decisions for financial sustainability, delivering agreed and desired level of services and reducing risk exposure to an acceptable level. Asset management is a core function and an intellectual property of a Local Government. Local Governments are under constant pressure to re invent or re engineer asset management for effective and efficient service delivery and financial sustainability. According to the Queensland Audit Office, some of the larger Local Governments in Queensland are under moderate or high risk of not achieving financial sustainability. 2 Causal factors are the increasing number of customer service calls, increasing cost of reactive maintenance, along with costs of services in most of the Local Government sector. Whilst asset management strategic and operational practices improve continuously, asset management paradigm shifts are required for organisational wide financial sustainability through operational and strategic asset management practices. Recent advancements in asset management shows that asset management improvement strategies should focus on whole of council improvements in level of services, cost of services, operations and maintenance, 1 National Asset Management Support Group, 2011, p2 2 Queensland Audit Office, 2013, p5

2 capital works investment, risk management, leadership, synergy, structured consistency process, waste elimination, performance management etc.. The paper discusses some of the asset management improvement strategies experienced recently for financial sustainability. The strategies have been developed through strategic, tactical and operational planning process. An organisation s corporate plan, vision, goals etc.., leads the organisation for agreed desired financially sustainable service delivery in the long term, and initiation and implementation of asset management strategies formulates from current practices and future goals within the boundaries of the corporate framework. Some of the improvements strategies experienced are namely: Whole of council long term asset management strategy Whole of council CapEx prioritisation and scheduling strategy All asset portfolios maintenance management improvement strategy All asset portfolios performance management strategy Service management strategy Asset management plans strategy 2. Strategy Formulation 2.1 Policy and Framework Policies and frameworks are vitally important for the success of asset management through leadership and synergy. Policy establishes boundaries, consistency and guidelines for best practice asset management. Frameworks show guiding principles, elements, and alignments of its elements for reporting. Asset management strategies formulation centres on mission, corporate plan, policies and framework. The following frameworks are key frameworks with council policies for successful best practice asset management; Corporate Plan framework (We aspire to achieve, Key Objectives., and our priorities.) Strategic Planning framework (Council s key strategic plans, directions, timing, classifications) Service Management framework (Service lifecycle key functions, Design, Planning, and Delivery elements, linkages ) and Asset Management framework (Lifecycle Asset Management key functions, Acquisition to Disposal elements, linkages ) 2.2 Asset Management Strategy Formulation Process Asset management practices improve continuously and performance indicators highlight the current strategic issues. The issues call for development strategies. The diagram displays formulation of strategies.

3 3. Service Management Strategy 3.1 Framework Developing a service management strategy is to deliver financially sustainable, agreed and desired level of services through effective and efficient asset management. The service strategy provides guidance in order to prepare level of services, standards, targets and cost of services at an asset portfolio level. Community engagement and service levels are a well known asset and service management strategy but there are generally less evidences available that council has quantified level of services with community satisfaction and improved levels of services through linking community collaboration. Developing a service management framework offers a set of standards used to guide the lifecycle of service delivery commencing from community collaboration, to service design, service planning to service performance and back to community collaboration to complete the cycle. Once developed, these service delivery standards require measurement, monitoring and improvement based on community engagement. This service management strategy paradigm integrates community collaboration and asset management, effectively improving levels of service, known as Agreed Desired Service Levels [ADSL]. 3.2 Service Design This first step of the Framework utilises both Community and Council inputs to define services and outline service boundaries offered in order to provide efficient level of services with which the community is satisfied to pay.

4 Designing level of services can be quantified based on current service performance, community satisfaction scores matrix as shown below. The level of services can be assessed and categorised on a rating scale A to G as shown below table.

5 3.3 Service Planning The second step of the Framework is planning the defined services. Consider the level of services and identify which resources and quantities will be required to deliver the service. List functions and higher level activities that are part of the service, map them to strategic, tactical and operational tasks indicating the accountabilities and responsibilities. Assess work breakdown structures. Map dependent relationships and links to the Service Level Agreements (SLA), if any. 3.4 Service Delivery Refer to the certifications, standards, legislative requirements with which the service must comply and deliver agreed, desired level of services. List the levels of communications and identify risk and mitigation plans. All the information including level of services, standards, target, cost of services, service provider responsibilities and community survey results, can be expressed in a Service Catalogue for the organisation. 3.5 Service Performance Specify key metrics for the service delivery. Use Community Survey results to perform a gap analysis, comparing agreed level of services with desired levels. Create action plan for the previous Community Survey. 3.6 Community Collaboration The Community Survey represents satisfaction towards services and facilities offered by Council which are measured by an importance index and satisfaction rating in order to award an agreed desired level of service; identifying the gap between level of services and community expectations/perception. Importance Index 5 Crucial must have 4 Important certainly expect 3 Nice to have but not important 2 Not important 1 Unimportant unnecessary

6 Satisfaction Score 5 Very satisfied 4 Satisfied 3 Not very satisfied 2 Dissatisfied 1 Very dissatisfied The community service important index and satisfaction levels can be segregated into geographical Zones and geographically mapped for Agreed Desired Service Levels (ADSL) Process analysis as shown in the diagram below. The analysis supports best practice process in delivering services as it identifies specific locations within the services that require infrastructure or service management improvements; targeting areas for potential savings or improvement, eliminating ineffective use of council s funds and resources supports both sustainable service delivery and financial sustainability. 4. Operations and Maintenance Improvement Strategy Increasing number of customer service calls, increasing cost of reactive maintenance, along with costs of services in most of the Local Government sector leads for an improvement strategy for sustainability. There various strategies for operational and maintenance improvements and achieve sustainability. 4.1 Strategy A The first strategy A is to optimise the future O&M costs increase through optimising investment in new/upgrade projects (Demand and Growth). The tactical plan of the strategy is to reduce (low risk projects) the amount of investment in new projects. This operational action will decrease costs in two areas: Decrease to the capital budget due to forfeiting the purchase of new asset Decrease operation and maintenance costs to the extent of that which would have been incurred had the assets been purchased 4.2 Strategy B The strategy B is to minimise the reactive maintenance costs through the current renewal program. Reactive maintenance is an inefficient form of maintenance; reducing the occurrence of reactive

7 maintenance (with the current high failure and high risk assets renewal) will in turn decrease O&M costs significantly. 4.3 Strategy C The strategy C is to increase future renewals thorough evidences such as condition, risk, location, failure history, remaining life, and life cycle analysis, etc... Investing on additional evidence based renewals will eliminate renewal gap, increase sustainability ratio and achieve sustainability. 4.4 Strategy D This strategy targets two areas of maintenance; increasing investing on proactive maintenance (preventive and predictive maintenance) and decreasing reactive costs. By increasing the proportion of proactive maintenance performed, this reduces the occurrence of reactive maintenance. 4.5 Strategy A, B, C, and D The tactical and operational planning and implementing the strategies in stages will benefit the organisation with minimum impact on additional resources requirements. Local Governments endeavour to implement maintenance management but not as successfully as planned due to due to a lack of understanding of whole life cycle maintenance management and asset specific training. 5. Capital Investment Strategy Adding new and upgrade capital investment (including new developments) increases re current costs in addition to the capital cost. New and upgrade capital investment decision with demand, growth and cost of services to community is crucial decision making to the organisation. Renewal capital investment is important to maintain the assets to deliver reliable services to the current and future community. A capital investment strategy is required for Local Governments informed decision making on capital (New/Upgrade/Renewal) investment. The capital investment program changes every year due to various factors; growth, priority infrastructure plan, demand, backlog, legacy projects, natural disasters, etc The accumulation of capital investment projects should be prioritised to achieve a Long Term Financial Management Plan (LTFMP).

8 Recent experience shows that a capital prioritisation strategy support council s informed decision making process. Capital prioritisation strategy, where all projects are assessed with focus to four strategic Quadruple Bottom Line goals (QBL); responsible governance, economic criteria, environmental criteria and social responsibility, whilst giving precedence to renewal capital according to asset management plans and the Local Government Act. Each new and upgrade capital investment is assessed with QBL risk assessment to get a score. The renewal investments also get assessed against the renewal modelling and Local Government Act and get scored. All factors are scored and averaged together to supply an Average Priority Score (APS), as shown in the diagram which can be used to rank projects at program level by importance. Programs can then be listed by importance using the APS score and accumulatively totalled. The CapEx plan can be linked to LTFP targets by applying an accumulative cut off point for low scoring projects, where the low scoring projects that exceed total budget are delayed to consequent years or rejected from the plan; adhering to LTFP budget requirements ensuring financial sustainability. The capital investment strategy leads the organisation for reliable service delivery, financial sustainability and minimises risk to an acceptable level. 6. Performance Management Strategy Asset Management Performance Management Strategy is highly important to follow Define, Identify, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control principle for financial sustainability. Establishment of the Performance Management Framework for asset and services management is a core component of the total management and decision making regime for Local Government and is conducted in order to achieve corporate plan goals, efficiencies in performance, understanding the impacts on level of services, operations, maintenance and capital investment attributing to financial sustainability.

9 Performance assessment indicators accounted for in the Framework, typically include sustainable service, financial sustainability, value for money, strategy and planning, leadership style and people, customer focus, process management, improvement and innovation, information and knowledge, success and sustainability. The framework needs to account for the trend of continually endeavouring to improve management of assets and services, and consistently provide standards and targets for current Level of Services. A spider graph summarises asset management performance assessment indicators in comparison to core targets and advanced targets, highlighting inefficiencies in performance monitored annually. Local Government asset management improves continuously on capital investment, service delivery, operational and maintenance but a combination of nominated performance indicators and risk indicators assessment at an asset portfolio level are the key factors for assessing the impacts on service levels, capital investment and operational and maintenance. 7. Conclusion: Asset management strategies for financial sustainability Local Government industry is under constant pressure to improve and re engineer asset management for correct operational and financial decisions while delivering agreed, desired level of services, and minimize the risks to an acceptable level. Continuous paradigm shifts require asset management to achieve the organisations vision and goals. Some of the Strategies experienced have been discussed in this paper. The following diagram shows some of the current and future asset management strategy paradigms for financial sustainability.

10 8. References National Asset Management Support Group (NAMS Limited) 2011, International Infrastructure Management Manual, 4 th edn. Queensland Audit Office 2013, Results of Audits: Local government entities , Report to Parliament 10: Acknowledgement I would like to acknowledge with much appreciation the crucial role of my staff Heidi Carroll, in developing asset management strategies and the paper.

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