Hard Skills

Image by Gregory Punshon

In February, I posted a request for input on what skills, experiences, aptitude we need to be an effective Asset Management practitioner.

I have been looking at this for a review of the IAM Competences Framework that’s about to kick off in earnest next week. But I’ve been thinking about it since I did a spreadsheet for the previous IAM professional development chair, of everything a well-rounded AM practitioner needs to know about – and therefore, maybe, what to teach them on an advanced qualification course such as the IAM Diploma..

But, this being Asset Management, this is made more complicated by ambiguities.

Who is an Asset Manager: someone in a team called Asset Management, or everybody involved with managing physical assets? What about an Asset Management consultant? What is more like general knowledge that we should be aware of, maybe speak the language (of finance, say) without actually necessarily being able to do it? 

‘Everyone involved’ covers a huge range of competencies, including all the technical disciplines and specific lifecycle skills such as design, project management, maintenance.  An AM consultant may need to be a specialist in something specific rather than a generalist in order to be saleable. Knowing enough about finance may be about knowing what wikis to look up for terminology.

So I have tended to go with the question of the core capabilities of a dedicated AM team inside an asset owning organisation – and increasingly, what they need to know that they wouldn’t get coming through the ranks of maintenance, or in an engineering degree.

There is understanding about the business of the organisation. There are soft, people skills such as communication and facilitation. Some of this can be taught on training courses.

But two interlinked areas that currently trouble me are risk and information.

I have sort of realised these are a problem for a while: how many of us have no real sense of information, and I don’t mean IT here; and what (high) proportion of us didn’t like statistics and probability in our degrees.

People are far, far more likely to ask questions of potential hires about their engineering backgrounds – or even test their Excel skills – than their usable skills with risk and information analysis.

And yet I recently had reason to think that most of us are not up to speed with the 17th century on using risk.  With the 17th century gambler-mathematicians who laid all the groundwork for risk-based decision-making, for decisions where we don’t know exactly what is going to happen because it’s in the future, which is basically all decisions.

And that the AM people I know who really use information well come are ex-military intelligence, or teach data science, or have highly educated librarian backgrounds. In other words, really high-grade information skills. Many of the rest of us seem to be floundering.

Asset management capabilities are not only not primarily engineering – what if there are major disciplines which we need, but fail even to reach for serious education on?

One Thought on “Hard Skills

  1. Ashley Bishop on August 18, 2023 at 10:36 am said:

    Ruth, one of the concerns I have with what you have written is the blurring of what is Asset Management and what is Management of Assets. I have been doing Asset Management for 20 years but I have never had to manage an asset in that time.
    I see this level of confusion exhibited all of the time, those of us who are employed to do Asset Management usually have a clear understanding, although hard to define, what we do. I think it is clear that Asset Management is a strategic planning function, whereas Management of Assets is an Operational one. The AM Team sits across the organisation as a resource to the managers and the top level decision makers. As for the team competencies I need are GIS, DBM, forecasting and statistical skills, things like Risk Management are more akin to the service managers function because its the impact on the service that will be measured in a failure.
    I have floated the idea of a Diploma in Infrastructure Asset Management in previous posts on various sites before.

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