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Beyond the Short Term: Transportation Asset Management for Long-Term Sustainability, Accountability and Performance

Information Needs for Asset Management

Chapter 4 shows a photograph of data from different sources linking together. It is used to explain the idea that data and information are among the most important elements of asset management. Good asset condition information and the ability to predict future performance are essential components of asset management.

After leadership, sound information and analysis is the single more critical factor in good Asset Management. It is difficult to overstate the importance of information to the many decisions which must be made at the program level, the project level and the organizational strategy level.

Needed information for the deployment of Asset Management falls into at least three major categories. They are:

Organizational Direction Information - Is the organization's commitment to asset management clear? Has the organization bought in to the asset management approach? Does it understand the asset management approach? Is it cascading the approach actively through the organization?

This category of information is closely aligned with the Leadership component mentioned earlier. It is this information about Organizational Direction which most directly involves the leader.

Organizational Competency Information - Does the organization have the technical and strategic competency to perform asset management functions? Does it have long-term goals and short-term objectives? Can it conduct Resource-Allocation Tradeoffs and long-term forecasting? If the agency is only beginning to adopt preventive maintenance, do the front-line workers have the required training, equipment and materials? Do the information personnel have the tools and training to collect the needed data? Does it have performance measures? What is the competency gap to embrace asset management?

Organizational Asset Data - This is the category of data that is most often recognized as essential to asset management. In fact, a common misconception about asset management is that it involves only technical, computer programs such as Pavement or Bridge Management Systems. In fact, asset management requires all three types of information listed here but it is the Organizational Asset Data that is the most technical, detailed and expensive to acquire.

Organizational Direction Information

Adopting or improving Asset Management approaches is about changing existing practices and implementing new ones. An exercise in Change Management is required. The theory of change management fills volumes of text books but in the case of Asset Management a few general principals apply. Understanding if these principals are at work will reveal a good deal to the leadership about whether the Organizational Direction is sufficient to ensure a successful transition to Asset Management or a successful evolution to the next stage of it. An evaluation of the following types of information can provide insight into whether the Organizational Direction is clear.

The Case for Change Information - To change an organization the leadership must clearly state the new direction and make a clear case for change. In "Re-Engineering the Corporation," Hammer [4] emphasizes the need to make the case before an organizational transformation can occur. Hammer and Champy say the most compelling argument is when the leader clearly and factually notes the inevitable failure that will occur should the organization continue on its present path. In instances where asset management is lacking, the failures can be failure to achieve public support, failure to sustain infrastructure at acceptable conditions or the failure to receive additional resources without documented best practices. Probably the most important information needed to begin an asset management transition is the information leadership provides about the where, how and why the institution is changing.

Modes of Communication - Practitioners who measure human communication note that most communication is non-verbal. The most powerful non-verbal messages are body language, tone of voice and degree of engagement. These same principals apply in terms of leaders communicating asset management to a large agency. Organizations are like people in that they intuitively understand the importance of the non-verbal messages that are transmitted along with the verbal ones. If the leadership issues memos about asset management but does not actively and personally engage in it, they are sending a powerful message that asset management is not truly important. To assess if the information is in place to affect a change in organizational attitude, the leadership must assess the tone, tenor, quality and sincerity of the messages it is sending to the work force. The leadership's active, personal engagement with asset management most effectively communicates its importance.

Sending and Receiving Information - Communication requires both the sending and the receiving of information. Merely sending information without ensuring it is received is broadcasting, but not necessarily communicating. To be understood, information must come in a fashion, context and vocabulary that can be understood. Discussions of Asset Management and Performance Management may be appropriate to planning staff or engineers accustomed to dealing with abstract systems or models. For front-line workers who are realistically focused upon the issue of the day, such terms may not be effective. Instead, it may necessary to speak in plain terms about better strategies to repair pavements, to sustain guardrail or to improve the condition of signage. Direct, concrete, unadorned examples about how maintenance forces fit into asset management are important. To evaluate the clarity of a message, the "ball cap and flannel shirt" test can be applied. Would what we are saying be relevant to the front-line workers in ball caps and flannel shirts who are conducting our day-to-day maintenance? If the leadership's message does not pass the "ball cap and flannel shirt" test, they may be creating an information gap.

Official Forms of Communication - In a formal organization many actions are influenced by legally sanctioned documents and processes. These include position descriptions, annual evaluations, promotional exams, a table of organization, union agreements and formal policies. Although a good deal of research has been conducted on how organizations operate in contravention or direct circumvention of these devices, they still play an important role. If the leadership wants to convey the importance of adopting asset management in an organization, it should evaluate whether these formal forms of information reflect the new organizational commitment. If leadership wants managers to adopt asset management, it should review whether such direction is clear in the managers' position descriptions, annual evaluations and in their divisional work responsibilities.

Organizational Success Information - To embrace an on-going change, the workforce must see and experience that the change is actually occurring. To continually communicate the evolving deployment of the asset management direction, the leadership should ensure that it is providing newsletters, websites, group meetings and other forms of feedback. This feedback needs to communicate continuously about the success achieved and the stages about to be undertaken in the organization's deployment of asset management.

Organizational Competency Information

If the organization possessed all the competencies necessary to conduct asset management, it probably would be doing so already. The fact that asset management is not fully deployed indicates that a competency gap exists. Assessing the size of this institutional competency gap and then devising a plan to close it is among the most important types of information needed to deploy asset management. The effort to assess the competency gap and then to close it, is in effect, an Asset Management Implementation Plan. The components of the Implementation Plan to assess and then close the competency gap would include at least the following elements.

The Strategic Basis for Asset Management - Asset Management is like Performance Management in that both are strategic processes intended to direct daily activities so that they contribute to the achievement of long-term institutional goals. The primary strategic foundation for asset management tends to be strategic, long-term organizational goals which include the following elements:

  • "Preservation first" is an organizational priority:
  • "Worst first" treatment strategies are secondary to life-cycle-cost treatment strategies:
  • The organization values "fact-based decision making;"
  • The organization values "continuous improvement" and "institutional knowledge management" which means it constantly evaluates its results, learns from them and disseminates that learning throughout the organization.

If a strategic foundation for Asset Management is missing in an organization, the leadership should consider developing a strategic plan or articulating a strategic vision which clearly states its long-term goals in support of asset management.

Short-Term Objectives and Performance Measures- Most strategic processes evaluate their own success by devising short-term objectives and performance measures which are deployed as incremental steps toward the long-term goals. The achieving of the short-term performance measures ensures progress toward the goals. Failure to achieve the short-term performance measures triggers assessment or "learning" as to what needs to change in order to achieve the desired success.

If an agency lacks clear performance measures and a process to track them it probably lacks a critical element of Asset Management. Steady progress toward implementing projects, maintenance treatments and preventive maintenance operations are essential if the organization is to attain its multi-year, long-term Asset Management goals. Performance measures and a process to track them generally are essential.

Scenario Forecasting - One of the primary questions that asset management answers is, "Will the system be better or worse in the future as a result of what we are doing today?" To answer that question the planning functions need to be able to extrapolate different programmatic strategies and funding levels to determine their costs and benefits. The agency will need to evaluate different funding levels and treatment strategies. These forecasts can be quite complex and rely on state-of-the computer systems in a mature asset management organization or they can consist of straight-line extrapolations of spreadsheet and database information. The sophistication of the forecasts tends to increase with the maturity of the asset management program. However, an essential piece of information necessary will be to determine the competency of the department's scenario-forecasting capabilities.

Workforce Skills - People from the strategic planning offices to the front-line maintenance forces may well need new skills to implement asset management. If the agency intends to increase its emphasis upon preventive maintenance it must ensure that work teams, inspectors, designers and material testers are familiar with crack sealing, chip seals, thin overlays and other pavement preventive treatments. If the department has long relied primarily on reactive overlays, these preventive-maintenance treatments may not be widely understood.

Benefit-Cost Skills - A wider reliance upon benefit/cost analyses at both the program level and project level may require new institutional skills. Tools to easily conduct benefit/cost analyses so that they can be conducted on a wide array of program and project options probably will need to be provided.

An Asset Management Champion - One of the most important requirements is to have an asset management champion at a high level of the organization. If asset management is being driven by a Commission, a Legislature or by the CEO, it probably has an automatic champion. If those conditions do not exist, a champion should be appointed and the higher in the organization the better. This champion in many instances is supported by a broad-ranging committee representing all major departmental areas. This arrangement can spread the advocacy widely across the organization.

Organizational Asset Data

One of the common fallacies about asset management is that its practice is dependent upon state-of-the-art enterprise-wide computer systems. Such systems are extremely desirable and they are powerful adjuncts to mature asset management processes. However, as mentioned in past sections they are optional while other types of data are absolutely essential for asset management. The following section generically describes the type of basic asset data that an organization will require. It should be stressed that the acquisition of sufficient data and information for asset management is a continuous journey, not a point of departure for the asset management effort. "Begin with what you have" is repeatedly stressed in asset management guidance worldwide. Spread-sheets, data bases and simple forecast curves are often the foundations of asset management information systems.

Organizational Asset Data - The International Infrastructure Management Manual identifies the following categories of data that underlie sound Asset Management. [5] They include:

Asset Inventories - These are the basic data regarding the bridges, pavements, maintenance appurtenances, traffic control devices, equipment and facilities which comprise the total inventory of the department's physical assets. Generally, this information includes at least current condition and location information. Preferably, it would include past-performance history and detailed structural condition data so that remaining service life can be predicted. Although it may simplistic, just knowing what assets exist and where they are can is important. Some assets such as culverts, under drains, signs, traffic signals and guardrail have been lacking in traditional asset inventories, which focused upon pavements and bridges.

Level of Service Data - Data as to the desired level of service compared to the existing level of service is clearly desirable in Asset Management information systems. When unit cost data is added to the existing and desired level of service information, financial gap analyses can be conducted. In addition, ad hoc trend analysis and exception reports can be conducted to look for trends in asset deficiencies, whether they occur geographically or programmatically.

Predicted Future Demand Data - This data is often volume-based such as traffic forecasts. This data is important for forecasting future demands, such as loadings on pavements or bridges.

Remaining Useful Life Forecasts - If the preceding data exists, it generally is possible to forecast the Remaining Useful Life of assets. The remaining useful life can predict failure scenarios and is fundamental to accurate forecasts of financial needs.

Risk-Analysis Data - The risk-sensitivity of items such as fracture-critical bridges or traffic control devices is quite high. Rather than accept high-degrees of risk regarding these asset classes, the desired asset data would include indicators of risk for structures or other asset items which need to be maintained with higher degrees of adequacy than would items of lesser risk such as low-volume rural pavements.

Treatment-Sensitivity Data - The relative effects of various treatments upon the remaining service life of assets is important and desirable data. This data preferably is derived from statistical analysis of a vast array of past examples but it can be generated by engineering judgment or "rules of thumb" in early Asset Management programs.

Benefit/Cost Data - Closely related to treatment-sensitivity data is benefit/cost data which can be used to generalized the return-on-investment of various treatments or strategies.

Fiscal Forecasts - Forecasts of predicted revenue based upon likely economic and political scenarios are necessary to evaluate potential investment options.

The Sensitivity of Maintenance and Oper-ations - Tradeoffs in capital programs often are made in Asset Management as decision makers evaluate tradeoffs between asset classes such as pavements, bridges or maintenance items. Another class of trade-off decision is how to allocate maintenance and operations resources toward the maintenance of assets. Decisions on how to deploy people, equipment and materials relies upon the expected sensitivity of those resources when they are applied to the improvement of various assets.

Analysis for Asset Management

According to the FHWA Office of Asset Management the following analyses are the basic ones which will be conducted upon the Asset Management information systems mentioned above.

  1. What is the state of my assets?
    1. What do I own?
    2. Where is it?
    3. What condition is it in?
    4. What is its remaining useful life?
    5. What is its remaining economic value?
  2. What is my required level of service?
    1. What is the demand for services by stakeholders?
    2. Are there regulatory requirements I must meet?
    3. What is my actual performance?
  3. Which assets are critical to sustained performance?
    1. How does it fail? How can it fail?
    2. What is the likelihood of failure?
    3. What does it cost to repair?
    4. What are the consequences of failure?
  4. What are my best "Operations and Maintenance" and "Capital Improvement" investment strategies?
    1. What alternative management options exist?
    2. Which are the most feasible for my organization?
  5. What is my best long-term funding strategy?
    1. What revenue will I have?
    2. What is my investment gap or surplus to meet asset condition goals?
    3. What would be my optimum mix of:
      • Preventive Maintenance
      • Reactive Maintenance
      • Rehabilitation
      • Replacement
    4. If I cannot afford my optimum mix, what is the best mix of fixes I can afford?
Oregon Asset Management Case Study

The following Oregon DOT case study illustrates how one agency addressed the three types of organizational information needs as it evolved its Asset Management strategies. The Oregon DOT developed Organizational Direction information which served to focus the agency staff upon the path of Asset Management. It adopted both an Asset Management Program Plan and an Asset Management communication plan to fully convey its organizational direction to the work force. It gathered its Organizational Competency Information by assessing and then enhancing its organizational structure to support its Asset Management efforts. Finally, it also developed a strategic approach to producing the Organizational Asset Data its needs to fully capitalize on Asset Management for a wide range of assets. Although the Oregon DOT did not approach its Asset Management evolution primarily as a information exercise, the steps it did take serve to illustrate the three types of information that an agency needs to consider as it adopts Asset Management.

The Oregon DOT case study also illustrates how an agency can use its Asset Management system to generate highway performance information to satisfy statewide performance measurement efforts.

Summary of Asset Management Development in Oregon

The development of Asset Management is often an evolutionary process within an agency and it was so at the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). The roots of the ODOT Asset Management efforts can be traced to department policies which began as early as 1988 to set targets and to measure performance of the department's highway infrastructure assets. The agency set desired levels of service and began tracking its performance toward achieving those levels. Because the setting of performance targets is a common activity in both Asset Management and Performance Management, ODOT's early experience in setting performance targets allowed it to adapt more readily over the years to the practice of Asset Management as that became the agency's preferred approach to managing its highway infrastructure. Concurrently, through the years, the agency improved its systems for pavement management, bridge management and safety management. It also used the HERS-ST program to help determine optimum investment levels between asset classes. Eventually, the various performance measurement efforts combined with the agency's embrace of management systems led it to an Asset Management system that now has formal structures, a formal mission and formal policies.

As other agencies have found, the DOT's evolving Asset Management system could produce the data necessary to satisfy the state's desire for transportation performance metrics as part of a statewide Performance Management program. In a collaboration of the transportation department's Asset Management process and the state's performance measurement process, the ODOT performance targets for its transportation assets are tied directly to the state-level performance measures. These measures are presented annually to the state Legislature for review during the budgeting process. [6]

The transportation measures are tied strategically to four over-arching agency goals of:

  • (1) Improve Travel Safety in Oregon,
  • (2) Move People and Goods Efficiently,
  • (3) Support Livability and Economic Prosperity, and
  • (4) Provide Excellent Customer Services.

As a result, a direct linkage can be drawn between the Oregon DOT's asset management practices and the practices' contribution to the achievement of statewide performance goals.

Oregon DOT officials said this long history of strategically approaching the measuring and managing of transportation asset conditions has given the agency a firm sense of its organizational direction regarding Asset Management. The agency continues to evolve from setting infrastructure performance measures, to developing management systems to embarking on full implementation of an Asset Management program. Representatives from a majority of ODOT program areas are now involved in the decision making process. At the same time, the Legislature and the state executive branch can have confidence in the outputs from the Asset Management program to provide the information they seek to assure that transportation performance is sound.

Achieving Organizational Direction for Asset Management in Oregon

As the Oregon DOT developed its Asset Management processes, it became increasingly clear and emphatic in communicating its asset management direction to its workforce, to the Legislature and to the public at large. The agency's formal evolution to embracing Asset Management included the adoption in January, 2006, of the "ODOT Asset Management Strategic Plan." That was followed by other systematic efforts to communicate the organizational direction including an Asset Management Program Plan, an Asset Management Implementation Plan and an Asset Management Communications Plan. All were intended to clearly and systematically convey that the organization was making a further, evolutionary shift in refining and enhancing its Asset Management practices.

Figure 15: Asset management influences preservation, operations and capital improvements.
Figure 15 is a graphical representation of Asset Management influencing Preservation, Operations and Capital Improvement through the use of performance measure data. It shows that reliable, accurate and current data used in data reporting systems helps the agency make objective, broad based, across-asset strategic resource allocation decisions on preservation, operations and maintenance.

The Strategic Plan says, "ODOT adopted the goals and principles of the AASHTO Transportation Asset Management Guide and is currently attempting to integrate the process of Asset Management into its every-day business processes and decision-making at all levels, and across all functions, of the organization. Its Strategic Plan includes Figure 15 which illustrates how Asset Management influences Preservation, Operations and Capital Improvements through the systematic use of data, reporting systems, decision structures and resource-allocation decisions.

The ODOT Asset Management Strategic Plan described the then-current state of Asset Management in Oregon - including its weaknesses - and laid out a concrete plan for how the agency would improve its Asset Management practices. The Strategic Plan said that the success of Oregon's Asset Management efforts would depend on whether it developed a program that met the business needs of the various core business areas of the department including management, planning, project development, operations and maintenance. It intended to make Asset Management the foundation to monitor the transportation system and to steer the preservation, improvement and replacement of its assets. It notes that the agency will build upon its strong management systems.

"The significant difference (between Asset Management and the other management systems) is that, in many respects, existing ODOT management systems are used in a "tactical" manner, to identify specific projects. Asset Management is a "strategic" analysis and decision-making approach that selects projects and allocates funding by looking at a broad range of assets and their performance in the system as a whole," said the ODOT Asset Management Strategic Plan.

The Strategic Plan goes on to spell out the Core Principles to guide the organizational embrace of Asset Management. Those principles include that:

  • Asset Management will add value and support the mission of the department;
  • It will be done well and will be based upon the national and international best practices;
  • Asset Management will build upon ODOT's existing good work of its management systems;
  • Current efforts under way to gather and improve data will be supported;
  • Asset Management will be part of the department's daily work function;
  • Asset Management will use trusted and reliable data;
  • It will be a management process that is regularly monitored with performance measures of the effectiveness of cross-asset decision-making, data monitoring, trade-off analysis reporting structure and other key elements;
  • It will support broad-based funding allocation decisions;
  • It will allow readily available asset reports;
  • It will foster cross-asset communication.

The Strategic Plan candidly said in 2006 that, at that time, the agency's approach fell short of those comprehensive objectives. It noted that its data was contained in between 60 and 70 different data bases which did not allow the comprehensive analysis that the agency desired. To be strategically prepared for Asset Management, the Strategic Plan said the agency must implement processes to integrate capital and linear asset data into an Asset Management system. The system must then be strategically used to make policy, program and funding allocation decisions.

To achieve its strategic ends, the Plan set three goals, each with several objectives and strategies. The goals were:

  • Develop and implement a robust Asset Management Data Collection and Storage system that is consistent, unduplicated, understandable, reliable and accurate;
  • Develop and implement a fully automated, flexible and complete Asset Management Data Reporting System that performs cross-asset analysis;
  • Develop and implement an integrated, useable, and reliable Asset Management system that provides information and analysis for life-cycle cost management of ODOT assets so that funding allocation decisions are broad-based across various asset categories.

That plan says in part, "The Asset Management Program Plan has been developed to provide interested stakeholders a synopsis of Oregon Department of Transportation efforts to implement a strategic and pro-active Asset Management Program for all linear transportation assets under its responsibility."

The agency adopted a formal Vision for its Asset Management efforts which is: "ODOT's assets are managed strategically by utilizing integrated and systematic data collection, storage, analysis and reporting standards on a broad range of transportation system assets, optimizing funding and life-cycle decisions for operations, maintenance and construction business functions."

Its Asset Management Mission is:"Recognizing that Asset Management is a process or methodology that ODOT can use to cost-effectively deliver an efficient, effective, reliable and safe transportation service, the mission of ODOT Asset Management is:

  • to put in place the plans, people, processes, and products that enable ODOT to implement accepted Asset Management practices in a timely and cost-effective manner, and;
  • to continually monitor and improve Asset Management implementation over time.

We do this so that the benefits to ODOT in the areas of accountability, communication, risk management and financial efficiency can be realized." [7]

Figure 16: Oregon DOT links "plans, people, processes and products in its asset management framework.
Figure 16 is a graphical representation that shows Oregon DOT links 'plans, people, processes and products' in its asset management framework. The agency strategically links Operations Mobility, Management, Planning, Financial, Construction, Maintenance, Facilities, IT, Fleet, Transit and Railroad information to proactively manage its assets.

ODOT's efforts to link "plans, people, process and products" to advance its Asset Management practices is reflected in the multi-disciplinary approach evident in its Asset Management Program Plan, and as illustrated in Figure 2, taken from the Strategic Plan. The Program Plan notes that the Asset Management efforts will build upon the Bridge Management System, the Pavement Management System, the Safety Management System but it also notes that its efforts must extend more broadly to include the organizational structure, the policies, the standards and processes of the agency. To advance the Asset Management Program, partnerships and collaboration must be forged with cross-cutting units within the department and across the districts. Areas as diverse as data collection, data management, data warehousing, planning, the project delivery system and maintenance need to be communicating and working in concert to advance the agency's Asset Management program, indicates its Asset Management Program Plan. "...a pro-active Asset Management Program is a key element in the strategic life-cycle management of these assets. This program must provide resources to the agency in the form of applications, tools, standards, processes and guidelines for decision making, data management and communication," says the Program Plan.

It goes on to identify the responsibilities of key areas within the department that need to collaborate and work across divisions to propel the agency along its Asset Management path:

  • The Technical Services staff will operate the asset management systems, develop design standards and policies, collect data and contribute to decision making about Asset Management;
  • The Transportation Development Division will provide foundational data such as the statewide transportation plan, and plans for highways, freight, and specific corridors. It also will provide advice to key decision makers such as the Oregon Transportation Commission about programmatic decisions;
  • The Office of Maintenance and Operations has Asset Management responsibilities for updating design policies and standards and for leading asset maintenance activities;
  • The regions and districts have responsibility for performing capital improvements, performing maintenance and making operational improvements to the transportation system;
  • The Information Systems staff collaborates with the department to support Asset Management;
  • The Asset Management Integration Section develops and implements the Asset Management Program, develops Asset Management policies and assesses the Asset Management program's success by monitoring its performance measures.

The close collaboration and unified organizational direction that is essential for Asset Management is evident in the Asset Management Program Plan's enumeration of roles and responsibilities. Each of six different functional areas are assigned roles and responsibilities in the common areas of Program Coordination, Data Collection, Data Management, Data Analysis and Report and Decision Making. In other words, the various divisions and units all play a key role in the cross-cutting functions of coordination, data collection, data management, data analysis and decision making in the Oregon Asset Management framework.

Change Management and the Asset Management Communication Plan

Obtaining organizational buy-in is one of the primary concerns during asset management implementation, particularly at early stages. Without commitment up and down the organization, asset management remains only a set of principles written down on paper, no matter how elegantly phrased. To undertake this important component of implementation, the Asset Management Integration Section of ODOT developed an Asset Management Communication Plan. The primary goal of this plan was to increase understanding of the ODOT Asset Management approach. It includes a Change Management Plan, encompassing both communication and education/training plans.

The Change Management Plan aimed to set and communicate clear goals for Asset Management implementation, assess and respond to agency culture, and set up a framework that allows employees to understand how they fit into agency-wide efforts. One key message emphasized by the integration team is that asset management has been embraced by senior management. Demonstrating that the agency's leaders are active supporters of asset management is an important step in aligning the organization. Executive involvement in policy guidance and asset management committees further contributes to this aim.

In addition to the Communication Plan, the organization created an Asset Management Steering Committee to create a good internal governance structure. The Steering Committee is composed of staff from Highway, Information Systems, Motor Carrier, and other divisions. Integration between the Highway Division and the Transportation Development Division is extensive.

Organizational Competency Information

As seen in the preceding section, the Oregon DOT went to considerable lengths to ensure there was clear information regarding its organizational direction for Asset Management. As was also clear, the agency had a firm understanding of its Organizational Competency gaps regarding Asset Management. Those primary gaps regarded data availability, flexible data reporting and the ability to make life-cycle cost decisions at the project and program levels. In the ODOT Asset Management Implementation Plan, it set about to close those competency gaps and to provide the asset information it needed to achieve its Asset Management aspirations. Because its competency gaps related to data and information, there was a close connection between the final two types of information needs - the Organizational Competency Information Needs and the Organizational Asset Data Needs.

Implementation Plan to Close the Competency Gap

The Oregon DOT Implementation Plan lays out a clear approach to providing the information and analytic tools the agency desires for its Asset Management maturation. The implementation plan provides the agency specific steps to take for the successful integration of Asset Management principles, practices and processes into its every day work. It says that woven throughout ODOT's Asset Management program is the need for business processes, communication channels and system enhancements to support the integration of Asset Management. It appears from the ODOT Asset Management implementation plan that the agency believes it possesses many strengths in the management of individual assets but that it perceived a gap in the "connectedness" of its plans, people, processes and products to make the cross-asset tradeoffs that it desired. "Well defined roles and responsibilities, interrelationships within ODOT and external stakeholders and the ability to maintain a "learning" attitude are all vital attributes for a successfully institutionalized ODOT Asset Management system," says its Implementation Plan.

Its Strategic Plan included three broad goals.

Goal 1 was to have a robust Asset Management Data Collection and Storage System that contains consistent, unduplicated, reliable and current data. To achieve that, the agency identified the Objective of making data adequate for both project-level and strategic level decisions. It adopted the strategy of formally identifying "Business Line System Owners" for each management system or class of assets. Then the roles and responsibilities of those owners and their key stakeholders would be identified and documented.

Another strategy to support Goal 1 was to complete a formal assessment of the data used to support each management system or asset class. Then policies would be developed to identify what should be collected, how the data will be defined, how it will be collected, how it will be stored, the degree of precision it should meet and the practices used to identify the location of its related asset. In other words, the strategy would adopt a consistent process to ensure the quality of the asset data collected. A related strategy is to define a governance structure that has oversight and authority to ensure adequacy of data-collection efforts.

Goal 2 is to have an automated, flexible and complete Asset Management Data Reporting System that performs cross-asset analysis and which monitors the inventory, condition and performance of the assets. To move the agency toward that goal, it developed strategies to assess existing management system analysis software, to review key analytic inputs such as construction price inflation rates, asset deterioration rates and life-cycle models. Another strategy is to develop tools and processes to incorporate Asset Management principles into the ODOT planning and project-development processes.

To achieve Goal 3, which is to create a decision process that focuses on life-cycle management of assets, the agency identified the steps it needed to take. Among them were to implement Asset Management principles into the resource-allocation processes, to implement the Asset Management Communication Plan , to develop an Asset Management Training plan, and to implement performance measures to support and identify the use of life-cycle-based decisions.

Collectively, these steps and additional ones which were not included here, were identified to close the Organizational Competency Gap so the agency could achieve its Asset Management aspirations.

Developing Organizational Asset Data

Closely tied to the development of the organizational competency information in Oregon was the effort to provide the third type of information needed for Asset Management, that is the Organizational Asset Data. These data consist of the asset inventories, the management systems, and the related decision-support software, information technology networks and the human resource capital to fully utilize them. As mentioned earlier, ODOT had mature and robust individual management systems for pavements, bridges, and safety programs. However, ODOT identified that it had gaps in how to integrate this data for cross-asset decision making and trade-off analysis. It also was concerned that it lacked consistency in the quality of its data because of differing practices in the collection and storage of them. The third component of its information-building efforts related to Asset Management was to build the information systems necessary to support a mature, robust and reliable Asset Management process.

Asset Management Steering Committee

The enhancement of the Organizational Asset Data was pursued in a systematic fashion by the Oregon DOT. In its Asset Management Strategic Plan, it identified the need to create an Asset Management Executive Steering Committee and to have it coordinate the efforts of other key existing and newly created panels. These panels represented important practitioners or led important data-development efforts which were necessary to meet the demanding data needs which the agency identified. These include:

  • Oregon Transportation System Steering Committee;
  • Information Technology Executive Steering Committee;
  • Community of Interest Committees (IT and Transportation);
  • Linear Asset Management Steering Committee;
  • A Technical Services Asset Management Task Force; and,
  • A GIS Steering Committee.

These panels coordinated the many steps necessary to complete the ambitious data system tasks which had been identified in the ODOT Asset Management Strategic Plan. They worked from the comprehensive set of objectives and strategies in the strategic plan. One data strategy was to develop a corporate Data Model and System Model that defines the agency's data and its overall information system. The data strategy efforts included obtaining the input from asset system owners, asset class owners and key stakeholders. Included with that effort was development of a gap analysis of the current versus-the- optimal ODOT data and system for managing the data.

Another significant data initiative identified in the Strategic Plan was to review the adequacy of data necessary to conduct cross-asset analysis among major asset classes. The effort involved reviewing data from the current management systems to determine if they could serve in the cross-asset analysis. Related to the cross-asset analysis was an initiative to create a data-improvement plan for each priority class of asset.

The development of an Asset Management Data Reporting System that is easy to use, reliable and accessible, and which provides current and accurate condition and performance data, was another Strategic Plan initiative which was pursued and overseen by the implementation committees. Among the action items for this task was to perform a cross-asset demonstration project in preparation for the full development.

A particularly successful data strategy for the Oregon DOT has been the use of Linear Reference Methods (LRMs) across the agency. LRM is a technique used to identify a specific point along a linear feature (e.g., mile point). Through linear referencing, data from legacy management systems can be coordinated by linking all data to specific linear point on the highway network. LRM combined with the use of Data Warehousing breaks down the barriers between legacy systems which could not be easily coordinated in the past.

The information strategies included attempting to capture data generated during the planning process and the project-development process and incorporating it into the asset management data bases. The agency identified the need to efficiently capture and communicate data during the planning, project development and construction phases.

Based on needs identified in an asset management pilot project in one district, data management and integration became the major focus of ODOT's asset management initiative. TransCOI, the Transportation Community of Interest, has assumed the role of "Data Council," providing strategic direction. Products produced by this committee include process guides and standards for linear asset data collection and field data collection. While the council began as exclusively committed to asset management, it will extend in the future to support other initiatives including integrated Systems and Data Warehousing.

The Asset Management Integration Section was set up under the Transportation Development Division to coordinate and facilitate agency-wide asset management efforts. It is working on developing standards for gathering and storing data and developing tools to help various business areas manage their assets. The Asset Management Integration Section serves as a conduit for communication across the agency, in particular among planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance business lines.

Decision Support: People and Tools

Although the Oregon DOT has invested heavily in improving its data systems, it also brings the engineering judgment of its staff into the decision-making process. For example, pavement leadership in Oregon is careful to practice a mixed approach to decision support. While systems such as the Pavement Management System (PMS) are very useful for forecasting, leadership emphasizes the importance of not discounting expert knowledge from the field. Pavement management in ODOT relies on both tools and people.

The Statewide Pavement Committee has been in operation for ten years and meets every two months. Its membership spans the geographic regions as well as a variety of roles related to pavement. While data drives decisions made by the committee it also was formed to capture the insight of the experienced department personnel.

A Way of Doing Business

ODOT leadership measures the Asset Management initiative's success quite simply: up and down the organization, everyone now understands that "worst first" is not the answer. This one simple but important concept is indicative of major progress toward establishing a culture of Asset Management.

Since the development and approval of the Asset Management Implementation Plan (April 2006), ODOT asset management said the agency recognized that in order to allow for successful implementation it had to reach out for wider involvement from all ODOT program areas. This resulted in an adjustment to the participation of the Asset Management Steering Committee. Part of the outreach included an effort to integrate and share previous asset data in an easily accessible format. This includes a tool that was developed to help employees by improving transportation data availability. The FACS-STIP (Features, Attributes and Conditions Survey - Statewide Transportation Improvement Program) Tool offers both a map interface and a tabular method for getting asset information. For more information on the Oregon DOT Asset Management program and its efforts please contact Laura Wipper (Laura.R.Wipper@odot.state.or.us) or Laura Hansen (Laura.L.Hansen@odot.state.or.us).

'Words of Wisdom' in Developing an Asset Management Process

Leaders at ODOT offer a number of observations that may prove useful to other agencies at earlier stages in the asset management development process:

  • Not everything must be figured out at the start. ODOT has been doing Asset Management for years without calling it that. The next step is to become more strategic.
  • When ODOT first started performance measurement, it was a separate effort. More success resulted once performance management and Asset Management were viewed as intertwined.
  • ODOT demonstrated the importance of good tools and data for managing assets by first implementing an Asset Management pilot program in Region 2, District 3.
  • You are never done - it's a continuous improvement process.
  • Sophistication of Asset Management can be based on the risk involved for different assets.
  • There will necessarily be different levels of complexity for different assets. While it is important to have a central person in pavement because of the scale of the endeavor, there is no need to have the same model for all assets. For example, a $35,000 budget for guardrails requires less sophistication.
  • Existing institutional culture (e.g. the organization's shared goals, understanding of responsibility and the decision making process, personal relationships) cannot be discounted when implementing Asset Management as the new way of "doing business."
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Updated: 06/18/2012