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Insights from the Industry: Kim Smith

an illustration of a facilities manager in high vis holding an oversized lightbulb

Kim Smith is the Asset and Contracts manager at Auckland’s Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), who are currently in the process of migrating from Pulse to FMI Works.

With a background in business analysis, Kim has revolutionised asset management at MIT over the past few years, helping the organisation shift from managing assets, to strategic asset management.

After sitting down with Kim to discuss MIT’s transformation, we picked her brain for an expert perspective on the industry.

How did you get into Asset Management?

I was originally a Business Analyst, and in that role did a few system implementations, which gave me a good understanding of back-end systems and the process of what implementation looks like.

Understanding how they work, and how they manipulate data, helped me to leverage that information for the benefit of the business.

I then moved into a local government role, working in parks and open spaces, specifically in asset management. In that role we went through a bit of a tech journey from paper based going out and getting asset data and conditions, to embracing a more mobile solution.

Ensuring that data was up to date, that data became increasingly important to the business; that’s kind of where I got my hooks into where I am now. If you know that data is available, and you know it is correct, a lot of people start to come to you for information and the confidence grows in the team and they realise the potential of that data.

Then I became asset systems manager for parks and open space looking after, FM, Roading, Open Spaces and the Three Waters, ensuring the same processes we implemented were council wide. When the amalgamation happened from 7 councils to 1 in Auckland, I shifted into a full property role.

From a background perspective, that was my journey, heavily in the data and systems space. So when I knew what I had to do at MIT was ensure that data is updated and accurate, and that the team are able to provide it on request.

In my experience, the more people get what they need from the system, the more they use it, the more value that system has for the business.

Has there been a shift in perspective at MIT over your time there with respect to the property team?

It is certainly starting to. We showed Sapphire to our finance manager a few weeks ago and showed her deferred works, and she could see the big lump of money to be spent in 6 to 10 years time.

The good thing about this is that we were able to demonstrate and show the data without saying “I think” or “I feel”. It was “this is the data, this is what it looks like, do what you will with that”.

What are the main change management implications of moving from Pulse to FMI Works?  

With Pulse it was very contained because only a small number of people needed to be able to access it. With Sapphire, the audience got a bit bigger because we wanted stakeholders to be able to see the data.

With FMI, we’re giving people a lot more control over what they put into the system. We’re widening it with mobile technology. What this will do is give users ownership over the data – for example, a plumber out in the field can now update asset condition while still out in the field.

We’re going to see less of a “oh this is Kim’s system” to “oh this is my data, this is our system”. If people have ownership of something, they usually start to take pride in ensuring it is up to date.

Do you think there is a shift in thinking in the industry in general?

I come from a local government background and the standards there are very very high, there are lots of compliance standards you have to abide by, and lots of information you have to be able to provide.

For me, I’ve been able to bring that knowledge and experience into the tertiary industry, which similarly has benchmarks and compliance requirements. Certainly government expectations and standards are applicable across industry, and we want to make sure that asset management is done for the benefit of the community it serves.

We’re progressing from service management, to being able to do so much more. We can use our data and determine how many times an asset has been fixed, what that looks like, what’s the relative cost of repair to replacement.

Are expectations changing around information accessibility?

Yeah absolutely. People generally in the world expect information to be at their fingertips.

Information shouldn’t be sitting on drives or requiring someone to interpret. It needs to be accessible, readable, and retrieved in a timely manner. If I’ve got a stakeholder asking for information, I should be able to get that information straight away.

Even now I can share my screen and show stakeholders what I’ve got; the expectation is increasingly straight away.

In your opinion, what do you see happening in the future for asset management?

There’s going to be more and more financial constraints on people with respect to their assets. It’s just going to get harder, so increasingly you’ll have to be able to prove that you are sweating those assets, and assessing their financial viability.

You’re going to have to defend the assets that exist, and why they need money. You’ll have to be able to access all asset data, like cost per metre, and capacity etc. to make sure you’re getting the most out of that asset and ensure the asset contributes to your Levels of Service which align with the organisations strategic goals.

You’ll have to be able to look at something like cleaning expenditure and explain how that supports the overall goals of the organisation.

You’ll just have to get tighter with your justifications for things and have the data to support it.

What do you see changing or challenging the framework of asset management into the future?

Technology is going to challenge some frameworks and methodologies. And we need to keep hold of that technology in terms of what it can and should do for asset management.

It’s really ensuring organisations and people know the difference between managing assets and asset management. Making sure that people know the difference between the two. This is really a constraint, because what I’ve seen in the past is people thinking that managing assets is asset management, but all they are doing is maintaining an asset.

Asset management is more than maintenance and service requests. It’s about thinking strategically, forecasting capex spend and looking at the whole of life cost of the asset. Asset management can be transformative when insights and measurements come into play for strategy development.

What do you like about working in this space?

I love when all my data matches up, is all consistent and doesn’t have any gaps because for me, the best thing is presenting data and seeing the change in people’s faces as they think “wow I didn’t realise” or “I didn’t know that”.

Asset managers love aligning processes, goals and strategies, and taking previously invisible data to deliver extremely valuable insight.

It’s also good because it gives you the opportunity to get out and about – you’re not completely office bound and can go out and check on your assets.