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The Institute of
Asset Management magazine

Developing the road ahead

The third part of our Highways England series finds the programme team working with operational colleagues to tailor asset management processes to the organisation’s specific requirements.

Throughout the Develop and Document stages, the team facilitated workshops with the West Midlands team to jointly develop the guiding Highways Asset Management Processes (HAPs).

This Area was chosen due to its geographical location and close proximity to the neighbouring East Midlands (Area 7), where the new Asset Delivery in-house operating model had been launched. As well as this, its size (the largest of Highways England’s Operational Areas), current asset management maturity and recent training of personnel in the IAM Certificate made it an ideal starting point. In addition to this, and arguably above all else, there was a strong appetite in the Area 9 team for a system that would help improve decision-making and value realised from its operational asset portfolio by aligning with the business objectives at a local level.

Methods and approach

The approach adopted was to spend six intensive months with a core team specifically selected from the Area 9 team to develop and refine a set of asset management processes – including supporting guidance templates and standard operating procedures (SOPs) – through a series of weekly workshops. The intention was to develop the processes from the inside out with those who would be using them in the future. The asset management programme team identified this as a critical success factor very early on in the programme.

Each workshop focused on the development of one of the 19 core processes, and drew upon the expertise and knowledge of stakeholders from other parts of the organisation where required. For example, this included representation from Major Projects, Regional Intelligence Units, the Emergency Planning Team and so on in various process development workshops.

To understand the stakeholders involved in the asset management activities, and which processes were associated with which teams, the team created and continually updated an Asset Management Organisational Network diagram (Figure 1). From this, the team could see early on that asset management overlapped with nearly every department in Highways England.

In some instances, the different teams involved in a particular process were not immediately obvious until the process workshop was completed. In these instances, the team were contacted and the process was aligned retrospectively.

The team also reflected on the findings of the Discovery phase (see Assets August 2016 and November 2016). In particular, they assessed the value of the tools and processes that existed already, as well as the perceived gaps in their current ways of working.

The approach to the workshops involved circulating a pre-read to all attendees in advance. This explained the strategic intention of the process and what had been learned during the Discovery stage, along with relevant extracts from the ISO55000 series of documents and the IAM Self-Assessment Methodology (SAM) questions.

In some cases, the team used the SAM questions and associated asset management maturity levels to create Highways Englandspecific criteria. This was particularly useful in translating the ISO theory into something meaningful and applicable to Highways England’s asset management end users. This was seen as another critical success factor: translating the textbook theory into value-adding asset management activities on behalf of the business.

The workshop attendees reviewed and brainstormed each process, considering several key questions, including the process’s:

  • purpose
  • inputs
  • outputs
  • personnel involved
  • IT systems required.

This allowed the team to develop an outline “swim lane” process map, incorporating the necessary templates, guidance documents and SOPs for each process, and culminating in a measure of its application linking with a process compliance scorecard (in a “sandpit” approach).

By bringing together a wide range of personnel from within the asset management programme, its Operational Area teams, service providers and other internal functions within Highways England, this collaborative approach initiated further discussions outside of the scope of this programme. The close-knit nature and collocation of personnel also enabled the programme team to develop the processes and framework from the core of the business, rather than from the outside in. This allowed the team to fully get to grips with the key asset management activities, as well as to challenge existing methods and ways of working.

 

The workshops helped to develop an outline process map for each of the 19 processes, including the identified business need, the scope of the process and the “asset steward question” which encapsulated the purpose and value obtained from having this process in place.

Overall, the team’s approach to developing the 19 processes worked very well – but there are some points to note for others interested in adopting this methodology.

1. Attending a four-hour workshop every week is a big commitment, so the team allowed for breaks at strategic points in the schedule. In most instances, the workshops were completed well within the allotted time.

2. Switching off from everyday work pressures to focus on developing better ways of doing things was a challenge for some individuals. The team allowed extra time for attendees to voice their opinions and discuss any concerns and ideas in full.

3. In some cases, people attended workshops without having been to a previous session. By presenting the results of the previous workshop before going on to discuss the new process, the team made sure the new attendees could get up to speed after attending just one workshop.

4. The standard workshop format allowed attendees to re-orientate in a short space of time, making it a key success factor.

5. Throughout the process, the team ran a number of review sessions to look back on the processes developed so far and communicate progress to the wider Area 9 team. A final review session compared the processes as a whole to what was in place at the outset, as a way to understand how far they had come.

Outcomes

The processes developed follow a “Plan-Do-Check-Act” continuous improvement and knowledge accumulation cycle, covering the four stages of the asset lifecycle with a focus on the operation and maintenance phases (Figure 2).

Key challenges

One of the initial difficulties with this approach was encouraging participants to challenge long-established ways of working. By focusing on what was currently working well, and recording and removing the nonvalue adding aspects that inhibited good asset management, the team was able to identify where changes needed to be made.

An example of this was where some project and operational teams had introduced a specific role to provide a liaison between Operations and the Projects team right from the initial stages of a project. This ensured assets were introduced with operations and maintenance requirements already fully considered; and were handed over to the required specification and timescales. It was proposed that this role be formalised across all Operational Areas by including an “Asset Integrator” role among the proposed asset management roles.

To facilitate the workshops further, the team also developed a cross-reference matrix to demonstrate the processes’ compliance with ISO55001. The matrix was expanded to show how related projects from other internal initiatives were aligned to Highways England’s Asset Management Framework, and to highlight their interdependencies. This was identified as another critical success factor early on in the programme.

Ultimately, the process development workshops created a sense that the Asset Management Framework was being developed and owned by the Area Team, supported by strong senior management buy-in from the beginning, which ensured that individuals understood the importance of this Development stage and resources were made available to contribute to it.

While the process development stage is complete, and the aim is for the HAPs to remain contract-agnostic and applicable to all Areas, it may still be necessary to update and modify the processes to suit the business as they start to be implemented across the country.

Figure 2: 19 Guiding Highways Asset Management Processes (HAPs)

The processes move from the introduction of new assets (HAP01) to the “doing activities”, such as establishing an asset information package (HAP02), safely operating assets (HAP06) and delivering lifecycle interventions (HAP09). This eventually leads to the removal of assets and updating the lifecycle asset management plan (HAP05). These are then tied together by several management processes (HAPs12-16) such as managing changes to people, processes and assets, and then three levels of governance (HAPs 11, 17 and 19) covering asset manager, asset steward and executive level.

 

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