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A single source of truth
As digital transformation expands, there has been pressure in the field of asset management to consolidate, structure, reformat and create new data and align it with the business processes to create a systems approach for informed decision making, with the aim of providing structured data that can become a single source of truth for organisations and enable quality decision making for delivering value to the end user. Many providers of Asset Information Systems and IT promote this as their goal.
Logically, can there be a single source of truth?
While I am definitely in favour of IT solutions (#More code, less cement), I am struck by that phrase “a single source of truth” and ask myself ‘is aiming for it missing the point?’ We have, for a long time, argued that good decision-making requires good evidence. But good decision-making, as we are coming to recognise in these difficult times, is multi-layered and this means that the evidence needed for these decisions must also be multi-layered. No matter how clever our IT, we cannot rely simply on the information we can generate within our organisations, but we need to look without and beyond.
Consider what we have now learned from Covid 19
As the world has watched – and felt – the impact of Covid 19 in recent weeks, we have developed a new respect for Experts and the data, analysis and evidence that they can provide to help us feel our way through this problem. I say ‘feel’ advisedly. Because we are like the blind here, and will need to zig-zag our way forward, trying something and then retreating if the infection rate rises.
First there was a infection pandemic – a health problem. Here in Australia we responded with a national lock down that has been hugely effective in curbing the rate of new infections and thus deaths. But now we have an economic problem as 1.7 million are thrown into unemployment and factories, wholesalers and retailers are standing idle and interstate and international travel and thus tourism halted.
The government has sought to ease the impact on unemployment with its job keeper and job seeker allowances and this has been sound thinking. But later it will need to decide what to do with the debt it has incurred – a public finance problem. No-one knows how long the support will last or when they can go back to work. Many, particularly the most vulnerable casual workers, are not covered. Anxiety rises. Authorities are now anticipating serious mental health problems and a rise in domestic violence.
Sporting events have been cancelled and resumption of them is a major talking point in the media for all of us who would normally attend the football on the Saturday and yell and scream for our teams, (and discuss it endlessly on Thursday, Friday and Sunday) no longer have this opportunity to break tensions, relax and cement social relationships. The arts are particularly affected as few arts workers fall within the protected jobs range. What are we without the arts, without sports?
Yes economics is important. But it is not the only thing that is important.To solve a multi-layered problem it is not possible to have ‘ a single source of truth’
Now let us return to Asset Management.
Is it possible to make decisions based only on clever IT applied to our assets? That may enable us to determine our internal supply costs – but outside in the world how do we know how much will be demanded? What external costs – and benefits – will our actions create? What impact are we having on the mental health of our workers and on the environment? We may be able to make a profit in the short run but what of our resilience in the face of change in the slightly longer term?
Asset decisions are thus also multi-layered, so can Asset Managers really expect that in serving all their stakeholders they can rely on data for ‘a single source of truth’ – no matter how cleverly calculated? Or do we have to come to terms with the fact that all of life is a trade-off? And thus consider how we learn to deal with trade-offs?
If not a single source of truth, then what?
An important question! Talking Infrastructurebelieves that more is required of AM Leads than simply to follow an IT algorithm or a one point source of information. We need to be able to think through the ‘cumulative consequences’ of our decisions, and to that end we are developing “The toolkit for Leads” specifically for those who head up our asset management teams (or aspire to) and see themselves as being a more forward thinking and active part of their organisation’s decision making.
If you would like to know more, sign up now to be a member of Talking Infrastructure (it’s free) and we will advise you as soon as it comes online and keep you up to date with additions.