Making the case for what you want

Irina Iriser, wikicommons, pexels.com/photo/tilt-shift-lens-photo-of-blue-flowers-673857/

Is it our job to defend resources and projects for the things we fancy doing?

Two encounters in the past month got me thinking about business cases.  Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

One was being asked by a team to prove they need more resources; the other was from a team desperate to defend the resources they have, post Covid-19. Both are perfectly understandable impulses. But not, I think, necessarily good Asset Management.

In the first example, a small group had been putting in place some good, basic AM foundations – sound techie things, like proactive maintenance. They want to go further, but they are having trouble persuading top management to support them. “All the exec cares about is finance, so we have to make the case by showing how much operating cost they can save immediately through Asset Management.”

They wanted us to give them hard evidence of maintenance savings, based on fully quantified examples from not only their own sector, but from organisations exactly like theirs.  And full details of how those other organisations had achieved them.

I’m not complaining here about the argument about maintenance – I have moaned enough about that often enough.  What struck me was this group’s belief that only immediate opex savings would convince their top management, because ‘everyone knows’ top management only thinks about money.  But the AM team itself was not interested in any case based on the medium and longer term.

When we asked them if they had any reason to believe their organisation was currently wasting money on the wrong maintenance, or had more maintenance people than they needed, the team was very offended.  They did not, themselves, care about costs; they just wanted to do some more cool AM-y things.

They wanted to be handed a business case for what they already wanted to do. 

Without looking at the data in their own organisation; without being made to think about the real business priorities, which didn’t much interest them.

The other example was a capital projects department putting forward their reasons why the team – developed to design and construct major growth assets – should stay the same as their organisation cuts back on any growth in response to a calamitous lose of income from Covid-19.  I was amused, if that is quite the right word, by how they used the language and principles of whole-life Asset Management to justify no cuts to engineering.  When what they really care about – is building shiny new things.

As I said, I can understand both motivations.  But – I believe – it’s focusing on what you want to do, fun techie things, and then coming up with a justification for it afterwards in whatever ‘business’ language you can find to hand, even if you personally don’t believe it, that plagues our infrastructure decision-making. 

And exactly what good Asset Management should not be doing, right?

One Thought on “Making the case for what you want

  1. Jeffrey Roorda on July 30, 2020 at 8:10 pm said:

    Great ideas here Ruth. I would ask “how do we measure success”? If it is growth measured by new projects, better data, better asset management, we are measuring inputs. Not wrong, but not always of interest to those allocating resources. If we ask better questions like “how can we reduce the service life cycle cost and improve risk and better meet customer needs” we may have a completely different focus – and get the attention of executive and political level at the same time. It comes down to return on investment and communicating what the return will be.

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