Maintenance and Asset Management Information Systems by Norman Eason

Today we uploaded Part 4 of this serial. See what is available – and come back next week for more. .. May 15. All remaining parts have now been added. This is now the whole thing. Enjoy!


Part One

Chapter 1, p.01  Scope of this book – what’s in it and what’s not

Chapter 2, p.12  Maintenance and Asset Management – the difference between them

Chapter 3, p. 22 Data and Information, Pt 1 – not the technology but the use

Part Two

Chapter 3, p. 35 Data and Information, Pt 2 – differing needs of Maintenance and Asset Manaagement

Chapter 4, p.45 Objectives of Maintenance and Asset Management Systems – differences due to the attitudes of company management and maintenance operations

Part Three

Chapter 5, p.58 The nature of the problem – and the problem of lock-in

Chapter 6, p.71 Codes – the way an organisation describes itself in an information system

Part Four

Chapter 7, p.83 Functions – how to ensure the functions you need are fhe functions you get

Chapter 8, p.87 Technology – trends to be aware of

Chapter 9, p.99 Culture – a new and different framework for thinking about information systems

Part Five

Chapter 10, p.110 Evolution – when does the implementation of a new system end?

Chapter 11, p.120 Interconnection – maintenance systems are not the first to be computerised

Chapter 12, p.130 Methodologies – with the maturity of methodology comes a new are of divergence

Chapter 13, p.135 Traditional approach to product development – evolution v revolution

Part Six

Chapter 14, p.142 Successful procurement for through-life effectiveness – 5 areas that need to be addressed

Part Seven

Chapter 15, p. 172 Objective assessment of progress – productivity is the act of bringing a  company closer to its goals.

An antidote to thoughtlessness

Nobody likes being told what to do. So ‘Maintenance and Asset Management Information Systems’ doesn’t. Norman Eason’s vast experience and insightful observations will simply help you think it out for yourself! Much more enjoyable.

Part 2 of our serialisation of Norman Eason’s ‘Maintenance and Asset Management Information Systems’ addresses the problem of data into information.  

My own experience – and I suspect yours also – is that when data storage became so cheap as to be ignored, we also tended to ignore data relevance.  Early tendencies were to collect whatever we could – and figure out its use later. Are we still doing this? 

Are you really sure?

Why not check? In Part 2 of Norman’s book, now available on the Talking Infrastructure website, Norman addresses the practical needs of both maintenance AND asset management – and makes a clear distinction between the two.  

His work is easy, and it is fun to read.

Norman Eason

Norman Eason, founder UK IAM, was not only an information systems innovator but a business strategist. Great combination!

We are now serialising Norman Eason’s major work “Maintenance and Asset Management Systems” and chapters 1-3 are already available.  Don’t miss this. 

I first met Norman in 1996 and later interviewed him for Strategic Asset Management when he visited Australia in 2000. In 2002, he came to Heathrow airport to see me off and gave me the manuscript of this work to edit and use ‘as I saw fit’.  I felt enormously privileged to be entrusted with this work. So I did a light edit and in 2004 I published it, serial fashion, with side annotations, a chapter a week on my original website. 

In the twenty years that then passed, that website was closed and I lost the original. It was only after he died, and thanks to my friends, Geoff Webb, who had printed out the entire thing as it was being published and sent me his hard copy, and Kerry McGovern, who patiently scanned the whole thing for me, that I again have a copy that I can share with the Asset Management Community.

Re-reading this work now makes me even more appreciative of Norman’s insight. For example, even some 30 years ago, when many were still thinking that asset management was simply ‘maintenance plus’ he was urging his readers to consider that: 

‘movement from a traditional maintenance operation to asset management will take much more than the procurement of an asset management information system; it requires a fundamental change in culture that could take years to achieve. Indeed, the procurement of an asset management information system by a traditional maintenance operation without an accompanying change in culture could have a negative, rather than a positive, effect on the organisation’. 

This is a message which is as relevant today as it was then. So don’t miss our serialisation of Norman’s work. It seems appropriate that after 20 years, we again make this available – and in the original web format.  So enjoy!  

Chapters 1-3 are available now.

In the dark?

Don’t be!  Today we start a new serialisation of “Maintenance and Asset Management Information Systems” by Norman Eason, founder of the UK Institute of Asset Management whose ideas are as useful now as when he wrote them when Asset Management was at its beginning.

See Chapters 1-3 Here.

Norman Eason died two years ago today, February 24th.  Not only was he the founder and first president of the UK Institute of Asset Management, he was the most innovative thinker of his time on the subject of information systems. He was one of the earliest to apply computer technology to maintenance and his Rapier system won a European Award in the early ’90s.

When he realised that companies were buying computerised maintenance systems without having a maintenance strategy and without linking their information requirements to their business, he decided it was time to address this serious issue, which led to his lobbying and the founding of the IAM in the UK in 1995 of which he was their first President.

It also led to his writing one of the most interesting books on maintenance and asset management information systems you will ever read.  

In 2002 he gave me the manuscript of this work and asked me to do with it whatever I could as he now wished to spend his time in his garden. So I lightly edited it and, in 2004, I serialised it on the website but did not keep it permanently available in case he should change his mind and decide to have it professionally edited and published. But he never did. Which is a pity since it is such a valuable work.

It was his view that the reason for procurement of an information system for maintenance or asset management is to make use of the information that it accrues. Pretty basic, but there are signs that some have forgotten what should be obvious

“The system should be a fundamental part of the Data to Wisdom Ladder – Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom – and the choice of the system will determine its effectiveness. Without an awareness of how data and information interact and how best they can be managed, no system will be effective. Chapter 3 addresses this subject and also introduces the concept of data as an asset, whereby users of information systems are encouraged to view data (and information) as valuable company assets that should be managed in a similar way to all other corporately important assets” 

Read the first three chapters now.

Quantifying the Unquantifiable

Quantify the unquantifiable and you change the way that you are able to state goals, track performance, benchmark, evaluate,  communicate, and measure outputs not just inputs.

Costs are easy to measure. they are quantitative.  The aspects of performance that we are interested in, however, are nearly always qualitative.  We want to know what effect our actions have had. Has this action of ours made things better or worse?  Such qualitative measures are harder.  This is why we are much more likely to default to measuring efficiency (a supply side cost issue) than effectiveness (a demand or user side performance issue).  Consider some of the major measures that we use to track how we are going, as a country, or as an organisation – e.g. GDP, life cycle costing.  Even benefit-cost analysis will traditionally focus on the measurable dollar amounts and fudge the unquantifiable externalities (both benefits and costs).

We can tie ourselves up in knots trying to express everything in dollar terms and to the extent that we succeed, we may be unaware of the elements inadvently omitted.

So today I want to introduce a technique that was introduced to me 20 years ago by Norman Eason,  the Founder and First President of the UK Institute of Asset Management.  He gave me this work to publish and I present it to you.  If anybody would like to take up the challenge to develop it and take it further, now that technology has made tasks like this so much easier, maybe turn it into an App, I would be happy to put you in touch with the author.

Norman called his technique CAT – Comparative Assessment Technique.  It enables you to determine  whether qualitative outcomes are improving,  whether goals have been reached. – and, if not, how far we are away from the desired end-state (and how much it will cost to get there!)

CAT is based on the simple, but operationally powerful, idea that any qualitative output can be expressed in terms of its worst state, its best, and all possible states in between.

Being able to measure qualitative outcomes/outputs makes it possible to

  • Track developments over time
  • Compare outcomes with other organisations
  • Relate activities to outcomes
  • Relate the cost of activities to the improvement in outcomes

So how is it done?

Suppose we use as an example of intangible factors the difficulty in measuring the Cleanliness of a Reception Area.  We could list all the possible states, from worst state to best state, as follows: –

Ladder Cleanliness of a Reception Area

  1. The filthy nature of the area is seriously affecting our relationships with staff/clients.
  2. We are always receiving complaints about how filthy the area is.
  3. We often receive complaints about how filthy the area is.
  4. We have had complaints about how filthy the area is.
  5. Although we have not yet received complaints from staff/clients about the dirty condition of the area, we know that this is likely to happen.
  6. We feel that as a company we are embarrassed by the dirty condition of the area.
  7. We feel that staff/clients believe that the area is very often dirty.
  8. We feel that staff/clients believe that the area is usually clean, but is often embarrassingly dirty.
  9. We believe that staff/clients think that the area is almost always clean.
  10. We believe that staff/clients think that the area is always clean.
  11. We never have any problems with the cleanliness of the area.
  12. We believe that staff/clients think that the cleanliness of the area is always excellent.
  13. We are always receiving favourable remarks from staff/clients about how clean the area is.

There is no limitation on the number of steps to be used

Note that we have not attempted to limit the number of steps to ten; this would have been the natural tendency, but it is pointless and an artificial irrelevance to the definition of the states. The CAT term for this list is a ladder and each listed state is a step on that ladder.

Setting Target Step

We can now designate the Target Step that the user and supplier agree should be met. Suppose this is Step 11.  We never have any problems with the cleanliness of the area.

Setting Actual Step

The user and supplier can now select a step that matches the actual position at any one time. This is the Actual Step. Suppose this is selected to be Step 5. Although we have not yet received complaints from staff/clients about the dirty condition of the area, we know this is likely to happen.

Comparing the Two Steps

We can now obtain a measurement of the actual condition in relation to the target condition, thus Step 5/Step 11 = 0.45 so we are 45% of the way there.

Client-Contractor Relationships

Ladders such as this, especially if developed with joint input, have the potential for far better communication and understanding between client and contractor.   It is possible for both to see clearly when a goal has not been achieved (with potential for service improvement) and when it has been over- achieved (with potential for cost savings)

Two interesting things become obvious from our earlier calculation. 

  • We now have a numerical value of something that previously could only be considered in subjective terms. (Target 45% achieved)
  • We now have a decimal value of the relative position of the actual state against the target state, even though we did not start with a scale of ten.


  • Any ladder can be of any length. In fact, the user and the supplier of the service determine the length by incorporating as many steps as are required to fully describe the activity.
  • It doesn’t matter that the Target Step is not the top step of the ladder. Target Steps can be moved as new goals are agreed. Note also that there need not  be  equal  increments  between  steps,  although equal steps would be ideal.
  • The technique is not restricted to Building Services. Ladders can be used to measure any activity in any one of a number of areas. These areas are not limited to commerce or industry; Local and Central Government are also relevant.

CAT can be applied to the measurement of anything that is intangible

What do you wish to measure?

In assigning CAT to an application area, it is helpful to consider what precisely is being measured. This may seem to be an obvious statement, but there is often confusion in this respect whether tangible or intangible measurements are required.

For example, do you wish to measure the performance of a group, or the results of their work? The two are not necessarily the same. CAT accommodates these more precise definitions of activities by providing for three types of ladder.

CAT can measure

  • the performance of a task,
  • the effectiveness (or result) of the task, and
  • the  consequence  of  the  overall  activity,  e.g., what do the users think of the results?

These ladders can be used separately or combined into groups – any groups that the user organisation feels are important to measure or compare. Also, the activities associated with  ladders  can  have  parent/child  hierarchies  so that, for example, measurements can be rolled up from individuals to groups, to departments, to sites, to divisions and ultimately to the overall company or organisation.  In both cases, users also need to agree the weights to be given to each ladder and activity.

Ladders can also be used for comparison in benchmarking exercises. For benchmarking, it is necessary for user organisations to agree on the standardisation of ladders.

 If you would like to see the complete report, which contains examples of CAT ladders for consequences, performance, and effectiveness, email me at

Do you know of similar work or perhaps other means of quantifying the unquantifiable?