Asset management technology – flawless or full of flaws?

Since stepping into the world of software development and technology, the one thing that stands out to me is the ability to do great things around processes and procedures we’ve always assumed as compliant. In truth, why do we need to innovate something that’s compliant or is working? It’s simple if we always accepted that crazy mentality that, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, we really wouldn’t move forward as a nation, or as a life form for that matter. I mean come on, do we believe there’s a situation where that phrase actually applies, is it even true? There is a small selection of people who always look for something else, to improve something, to build on something and to make things better. When we say it isn’t broken, do we mean it or have we been brainwashed to accept that the thing we’re talking about is suitable for the task ahead?


Some examples of this apply to Asset Management Technology but it also applies in other places. Take Mental Health as an example. One of the worst things about mental health is the fact people don’t know how to deal with it, those suffering and those who are not suffering, we give the impression that everything is ok and thus show ‘It ain’t broke’ sometimes because of the stigma attached to it. Yet if someone created something that would help, the person pretending ‘it isn’t broke’ would reach for it and welcome it with open arms.


I guess my point is that we need to assess things continuously and accept that things need to change or be improved or built upon. The major contributing factor to doing things differently is when we are forced through a major event. We are naturally drawn to things that have existed for a while and become uncomfortable when we’re asked to change. It’s takes something like Grenfell for us to accept the mindset shift.


The above is also difficult to address when trying to sell the dream of technology services.

Let’s take a look at today’s ‘Asset Management Software’ and see if I can change your mind about something!


Asset Management definition:  


‘Asset Management is the range of activities undertaken to ensure that the Housing Stock meets the needs and standards for the future’.


The first question I want you to ask yourself when considering your asset management tool is: Taking the above statement, is your Asset Management platform meeting that definition or, is it more of a document storage facility?


Now the difficulty here is understanding what constitutes document storage and at what point we meet the values in the statement above.

We can dig deeper……

I remember when I worked for a Local Authority a few years back creating a process I came up with called Gather, Improve and Maintain. Snapshot image shown:

Gather, Improve, Maintain

The purpose of this was to try and align my collective responsibility into an easy to capture and reportable process using the data we have and the data we will gather continuously. As you can see from the image it stretched across multiple compliance areas and each service area etc. This was my view, a building block for my Asset Management obligation as it contained information that wasn’t in any Asset Management Software but was essential for me to plan, check and act with regards my budgets and legal obligations as a Landlord/Provider.


Examples of this:


Electrical = Date installed and which regulations the system met at install, Any additional bolt-on wiring and an undertaking of each asset/device installed so that I can monitor industry recalls etc.


Gas = safety system operation, makes, models and locations of devices and appliances and specific defects like safety chains etc.


Emergency Lights = Types of system, types of lights, number of lights etc.


I’ve just typed that list above without checking any lists I have, I could fill this page and the next with details like that and I would challenge any provider of Asset Management Software to confirm they too manage and understand this information.


All of the above data is captured by engineers onsite whilst carrying out services as part of any cyclical maintenance regime. The next issue is how we capture the data from the other areas and how we gatekeeper cross overs. We read that these platforms enable you to monitor your assets in real-time but is that true? I guess it could be if you have implemented IoT tech (or the new IoE) and then somehow linked this with the database behind the Asset Management system.


Unfortunately, my experience is limited to technology that assumes compliance based on a timeline rather than an engineering understanding and this is something any organisation needs to fully appreciate. Having inputted data assigned to an asset that tells you when you should next visit is NOT Asset Management, it’s a document storage vessel with added profiling capabilities.


Ok, so, now we get into the interesting fluff around the next steps for Asset Tech and how people are getting clever. You can search and find pitches for these brands online and to get your attention they’ll use words that entice you.


“Our revolutionary Asset Management live tracking real-time AI functionality will streamline your legally required services pinpointing your areas of risk at the touch of a finger. Our advanced Machine Learning understands your asset and micromanages the areas of risk for you” 


If you take the items I’ve mentioned previously in this article around the use of real, useful data, you’ll start to understand why people who use the buzz words like AI and Machine Learning are only doing this to generate interest, it’s a sales tool. Fundamentally, the implementation of this new world tech comes with some serious consequences if left to run independently. The whole premise of AI and Machine Learning is to dehumanise the laborious process. However, legally and ethically we have to understand the limitations of technology not fully understanding the human aspect of risk and how sequential profiling some of the data you have will inevitably leave gaps that someone has to be accountable for.


Ok, so I’ve probably not made any friends with regard to this article (well, I know the Housing folk will appreciate it). It’s ok though, as the purpose is to arm people with knowledge and understanding so that they can plan, check and act in the best way possible to assist in corporate responsibilities and, most importantly, provide safe homes for people right across the UK.


Technology is great but repeating the words of one of TCW’s clients in a recent Sky News broadcast:


“TCW for me is a tool, it’s a tool with unlimited power”. 


Don’t walk into the trap of thinking your asset management system is there to replace something. It’s there to improve something, not to replace it.


Ryan Dempsey, CEO TCW


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