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Practical steps for smart infrastructure managers

Michael Salvato recommends four topics to discuss at your next asset management meeting.

Public and private leaders of critical infrastructure, such as energy, transport, water and waste management, are facing significant challenges – and compelling opportunities – to upgrade their ‘operating systems’ in line with rapid technological innovation and climate change.

Building smarter, more sustainable and resilient infrastructure is not as complex as it first sounds. There are many examples now of best practice in collecting data, making sense of it with the right management systems, and then using it in real time to make beneficial infrastructure decisions, for the infrastructure owner, end users and beneficiaries. But it requires a paradigm shift in how we think about the engineering, management and development of infrastructure systems.

Here are four tried and tested ways to anchor your journey, depending on your current asset maturity:

1. Stick to the standards

The glue that keeps smart infrastructures operating efficiently is open standards and practices. They’re happening in different industries at different speeds, but there's some commonality around the relationship between physical assets, information assets, business processes, and hardware and software such as applications and communication technology.

These are a good starting point:

  • ISO 15288: System life cycle processes
  • ISO 14224: Reliability and maintenance data
  • ISO 19650: Better information management
  • ISO 55000: Effective asset management
  • ISO 31000: Enterprise risk management
  • ISO 37152: Sustainable community infrastructure

2. Put the governance in place

Unfortunately, rigorous master data management doesn’t run throughout the asset lifecycle in most infrastructure organisations. Information governance is vital for ensuring that ongoing activities conform to your information strategy. Effective information management is essential for promoting interoperability and integration across an organisation – its operating divisions, business processes and information system. Without effective information management, the enterprise will struggle to form a ‘single source of truth’ needed for practical collaboration. Infrastructure asset managers are in the information management business whether they want to be or not.

3. Architecture for systems engineering

The co-ordination of asset management with asset information management is the new target operating system for asset intensive organizations, be they public or private. One without the other is like clapping with one hand only. This co-ordination relies on installing the right systems engineering architecture to sit on top of day-to-day operations and lifecycle management. It allows you to monitor and manage your risk – and determine whether or not you’re achieving your goals and objectives at an enterprise level. This is what elevates intelligent assets to smart infrastructure.

The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) Architecture Development Method is a reliable process for managing an enterprise systems architecture design process that’s applicable to the development of a strategic asset management improvement program. For a case study, the Smart Grid Coordination Group established a TOGAF reference architecture and framework of standards to support the deployment of energy smart grid systems. This enabled the co-ordinated development of complex cyber-physical systems that covered a wide variety of concerns, from customer service to power generation by homeowners, markets, components and business objectives.

4. Embrace the paradigm shift

The infrastructure industry is moving from a ‘fixed’ paradigm to a ‘dynamic’ paradigm. The culture of our industry is the biggest inertia that we face. Bureaucracies are currently set up to manage risk by locking stuff down and avoiding change. That’s unsustainable. Until you’re on a journey of continuous improvement, then you’ll fall further and further behind. Why? Client expectations are changing. Information technologies and management systems are changing. And the climate is changing.

Identifying where you sit in relation to those three keys changes is a worthwhile exercise. Mott MacDonald’s Smart Infrastructure Index is designed to help you take a measure of your current position on the journey. We also offer information advisory services that will start moving you forward.

Michael Salvato

Mott MacDonald asset management lead

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