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"Innocence" is the first level on our asset management maturity framework, at this level, organisations are taking the saying “ignorance is bliss” literally.
At this level of maturity, there is little to no process development. Processes aren’t documented and can’t be applied with any level of consistency.
If an asset register exists, it doesn’t exist in a centralised repository. Asset histories are often stored in physical files, and asset data is limited, and inaccessible. This leaves data unable to be audited or reconciled, therefore unable to be confidentially used to make decisions.
Organisations have limited visibility and only an anecdotal view over what assets they have, let alone the state of those assets.
Maintenance strategy at this level is limited to reactive only. Without a clear picture of assets, it’s difficult to engage in preventive maintenance, and impossible to engage in predictive maintenance.
Organisations at this level struggle to meet compliance requirements, exposing them to significant risk.
In addition to the risk of being unable to meet formal requirements, these organisations carry risks associated with a lack of proper asset management. Relying on reactive maintenance means risking unexpected business disruptions from breakdowns of critical assets.
The lack of visibility means it is also very difficult for these organisations to project expenditure on assets, presenting potential challenges with liquidity and cash flow.
Without visibility, risks cannot be properly identified or managed. A lack of documentation of incidents and hazards, and inefficient communications processes unfortunately leave organisations over-exposed to risk.
Additionally, a lack of visibility over assets is an inefficient model. Assets may exist that are not in use, and there can be dramatic over-expenditure on assets that are in use.
The other side of the coin, is over-exposure to financial risks, impacting annual reporting, tax implications and under-valuation of asset base. This under-valuation is most acutely felt in the wake of natural disasters; with organisations trying to recover, and discovering they are drastically under-insured.
Generally speaking, it is in the interest of organisations to move past the first level of maturity as quickly as possible. Even organisations with a high degree of risk tolerance are over-exposed to risk at this level.
While level one may seem to be describing an extreme state, unfortunately it is the reality for many organisations.
There are a few reasons organisations can find themselves at this level on the maturity framework.
Developing processes, and putting technology in place to support these, requires both a financial and time investment.
If workloads are increasing, and processes aren’t in place or are very inefficient, organisations can find themselves in a position of “chasing their tail”. Exacerbated by a lack of resources, organisations can find themselves in a position of being too caught up with responding to emerging issues to put in place preventive processes.
Organisations with small teams, underpinned by long tenure, can also find themselves stuck. When the same team has been doing the same thing for an extended period of time, documentation of processes can fall by the wayside because they “just know” what to do.
When these longstanding staff members eventually move on, all process knowledge is lost, leaving the organisation to start again at square one.
Long term, the innocence level of the asset management maturity framework is not sustainable. The longer organisations stay at this level, the greater their exposure to risk.
Moving forward requires significant cultural change, and for some organisations, a cash injection. The involved parties have to want to start to develop and document processes, and need to be supported by leaders within the organisation.
To illustrate what level one on the asset management maturity framework looks like, let’s consider a private K-12 school.
The school, with around 800 students, and has a low staff turnaround. Work orders are sent to the facilities manager via email, and actioned according to their to-do list.
Eventually, the caretaker decides to retire. Their replacement is hired, with a one-month onboarding period. During onboarding, the incoming facilities manager is “trained" by shadowing the outgoing facilities manager, as they work through incoming work requests.
The incoming facilities manager takes some notes, but there are no processes documented.
Upon the departure of the outgoing facility manager, the new facilities manager starts to receive some work order requests via email. Some differ dramatically to the ones demonstrated during their onboarding.
With no processes documented, they have to “wing it”, resulting in work orders taking longer than expected to complete.
Additionally, it’s discovered that some work orders were going to the now-defunct email address of the outgoing facilities manager, meaning they are lost to the process.
Some of these work orders were related to potential hazards, posing a risk to the students at the school.
One such work order results in a student sustaining an injury, which must be reported according to OH&S regulation.
The board of the school is involved in the report and auditing process. During this process, they find there’s no place where all the schools assets are recorded, and no visibility over asset condition.
The board is looking for information on what assets they have, and what kind of condition they are in, to determine future investment in facilities management.
They are also looking to understand the level of risk carried by the school. Without any visibility, they’re unable to get a clear picture of the facilities risk.
With no asset registry, and an unclear picture of risk, the school continues to under invest in FM.
The hefty fine sustained when the school failed to meet compliance requirements is deducted from the already insufficient facilities budget. Continued underinvestment in facilities management leaves the facilities manager scrambling to keep up with work orders.
Consequentially, no processes are documented or improved. The sustained inefficiency in maintaining the facilities means their condition slips away over time.
The school is left with a poor reputation, lowering enrolments and thus revenue consistently over time.
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