Infrastructure is a means to an end – but it is not the only means

pexels-photo-66134Infrastructure is a means to an end – but it is not the only means.

As ends change, traditional infrastructure may not even be the best means. In ‘Talking Infrastructure’ we consider technological, demographic, environmental and other change and its impact on criteria for infrastructure decision-making.

Do we really want a road – or do we want to get from A to B?  And what is so attractive about B anyway? Is it where we want to work, or shop, or play?  Technology today is changing how we do all three. The key to understanding what technology can do, and how fast it can do it, is to recognise that it must be accompanied by cultural or organisational change. For example, Geoff Hudson, speaking on the ABC radio show, Okham’s Razor, argued that technology has made it possible for effective working from home for many years now and yet few businesses use it. He puts forward a detailed and fascinating plan for overcoming disadvantages currently experienced – lack of connection, suspicion, lack of control amongst others.  ‘OK, so it is possible’ you might say, ‘but why bother?’  The answer lies in the interconnection of the new digital technology and physical infrastructure.  We build more roads every year, yet congestion gets worse, commute times get longer, house prices in the cities rise and become unaffordable for many. Now ask yourselves, as we adopt voice instruction for our computers over keyboards, can our open space offices cope? Working from home can aleviate many problems – if we can solve the cultural and organisational problems.

So our first question, designed to expand awareness, is this: 

Which technologies  – e.g. iPhones, driverless cars, 3D printing, nanotechnology, bio-technology, you name it, are likely to increase the demand for roads and which are likely to reduce it – and why?

Links welcome but provide a brief summary for each so that following the link is optional and limit them to two links or the system may think you are spam and throw you out!

The 1-2-3 of Strategic Asset Management

Tape MeasureStrategic Asset Management doesn’t have to be difficult.  It can be as simple as 1-2-3.

  • One principle
  • Two types of question
  • Three asset measures

The One Principle: All strategic questions are portfolio questions

In other words if the question you are asking relates to a particular asset or just one part of a portfolio it is an operational or a tactical question to be dealt with by managers at that level. Strategic questions, that is portfolio level questions, need to be addressed ‘at the top’.

The Two Types of Strategic Questions – Direction Questions and Decision Questions

Direction Questions are those that help the agency see its current position and the direction it is moving in, and the direction it wishes to move in
Decision Questions are those that evaluate a particular capital proposal (new, renewal, modification or disposal) – but always in the light of the total portfolio.

The Three Asset Measures

1. Capacity – answering the question “how much?”
2. Condition – answering the question “what state is it in?”
3. Suitability – answering the question “how fit for purpose?” or “how effective?”

All three measures need to consider the context of the question, for example, when answering the ‘how much’ question we are simultaneously looking at ‘how much do we need’ and ‘how much have we got’. Knowing one without the other gives no basis for action. Similarly ‘what state is it in’ must be answered in the light of ‘what state do we need it to be in’. And ‘how fit for purpose?’ means understanding the requirements of the desired purpose.

For today’s Infrastructure Decision Making, a key question is:

How long do we WANT it to last?

All contexts have an implied time line. We used to believe that this time line was, effectively infinite, or at the least, very long. We would aim for ‘sustainability’ interpreted as keeping the asset operational for as long as possible.

Today, our strategic decision-making requires realising that this effectively infinite time line no longer applies.

Much more effort is now required to determine not only how long could it last, but how long – in the light of changing demand and supply – do we need it to last. This could well be the most significant strategic asset management decision that we now make.

Feel free to post your comments and questions