The right systems for effective asset management

by Chris Shaw

Effective asset management is a critical business function for all registered providers of social housing. Knowing the exact, current state of your entire property portfolio, whether individual properties, estates, communal areas or land, is essential.

Firstly, it's crucial for the effective planning and delivery of investment decisions and improvement programmes. But asset management is also at the heart of key areas of legal and regulatory compliance, including areas such as gas, electrical and fire safety and asbestos and legionella.

The problem is most providers' current asset management systems (and it is usually systems plural) are not fit for purpose. As we carry out more and more reviews on behalf of providers of their existing asset management set up, common weaknesses are apparent.

So what's wrong with current approaches? Why have the majority of providers not got a full handle on their compliance activity? And what needs to change?

Firstly, approaches vary from provider to provider. Some carry out all compliance related asset management activity in-house. Others might outsource some or all to an external supplier.

Most providers either don't have a single system to manage all aspects of compliance - or if they do, it is not being used effectively. In some instances we have found providers are using multiple systems and, for some elements of compliance, are resorting to using Excel spreadsheets. For example, one system might be used for stock condition information, while data on gas servicing might be kept in spreadsheets. This is fraught with difficulties.

If external providers are using their own separate asset management systems, or if providers are using separate ones internally, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for organisations to build up a complete picture of their overall compliance performance. It comes down to one simple fact: it is difficult for organisations to ascertain if they are compliant or not.

In some instances there is also an issue with duplication: for example, staff having to input data once in the field on paper and then having to come back to the office to key in the information again. We've even found examples of triple data entry going on. There are, of course, cost implications to this. One review we recently carried out for a provider, estimated this was costing them more than £150,000 a year. However, it also has data quality and accuracy implications.

This is the problem many organisations face. But there is a solution. It starts with a comprehensive review of a providers' asset management system or systems. When we work with providers on such reviews it's about building up a complete picture of the strengths and weaknesses of that existing set-up, before making recommendations on possible solutions. We look at what the capabilities of the current asset management systems are, what systems are used for what purposes and what current asset management compliance processes are.

It's about asking critical questions such as: how compliant are we as a business? What are the information sources around each of our assets? If we don't have a complete picture of our compliance activity, what do we need to do to get that complete picture?

Solutions are never one size fits all, but effective asset management systems do have common denominators. Firstly, they involve bringing all compliance related data into one place and offering users a live view of what's happening. That might be possible with your existing system, or switching to a new system might be required.

Crucially, an effective system must allow providers to set the parameters which matter to them, and it must be adaptable and customisable to meet the changing needs of the business.

In addition, a good asset management and compliance system should also help businesses to better plan and manage their responses to compliance issues as they arise. Augmented intelligence technology, for example, can now automate responses to compliance breaches, for example, generating and scheduling the appropriate work tasks required to put things right. Ultimately, that means better operational management and more effective service delivery.

Where we come in is being able to offer insight into what the capabilities of current technologies are. We can then help you define exactly what your requirements are, then support you to go to market and find the best supplier and solution based on your needs.

If you're having doubts about your current asset management compliance systems, get in touch. Don't despair, there is a solution.

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