Regardless of the size of your municipal budget, enterprise asset management software (EAM) means more control, less waste. You make better decisions, faster. Budget size doesn't matter as much as you might think. No matter how much you're starting with, asset management software stretches every dollar.
Asset management 101
Before discussing how EAM software makes municipal asset management easier, it's worth covering some core concepts.
What's an asset?
There are a lot of ways to think about the answer. One idea: If something breaks but no one calls to complain, it's not an asset. Assets can be pretty small. For example, the desks in City Hall or the reading lamps at the local library. But they can also be significant municipal infrastructure, including:
- roads and sidewalks
- sewer systems
- heavy machinery
Instead of using size or cost, you can think of assets in terms of purpose. Assets provide the services residents need and expect.
What is asset management?
On an individual level, it's how we maintain the things we own to the standard we want using the least amount of money possible. Running a virus scan on your computer is an example. You're finding and fixing small problems before they have a chance to grow. Another example is saving up to replace your home's old windows. Long-term budgeting means your investment is not going to break the bank. And upgrading the windows raises the value of your home while lowering the cost of running it.
On the municipal level, asset management is about finding ways to deliver services both at the level residents expect and at a sustainable cost.
Why is municipal asset management important?
Municipalities are set to face a lot of challenges due to aging assets. According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM):
"A large portion of the infrastructure in Canada is nearing the end of its useful life... With this aging infrastructure, municipalities can expect an increase in maintenance and operating costs, and significant increases for renewal and replacement costs going forward."
Asset management helps because “Having a clearer picture of the current state of your municipal infrastructure can help you make more informed decisions about asset operations, maintenance, and renewal.”
It also helps in ways you might not realize. According to the FCM, a robust asset management plan helps you:
- apply for grants
- defend user fees and set tax rates
- negotiate better agreements and develop partnerships
Because you know exactly where you need funding and how you would use it, you're able to write data-packed, persuasive grant applications.
User fees and tax rates
Because you know in detail how much assets cost to run, you can better explain to residents the need for user fees. Because good planning prepares you for the future, you can also avoid unexpected, sharp increases. Because you have a clear idea of future infrastructure needs and costs, you can set tax rates to fund local budgets properly.
Agreements and partnerships
Because you have a complete, detailed list of your infrastructure, you're able to make bulk purchases from third-party vendors and in a position to share resources with other municipalities.
EAM made easier
At the core of successful municipal asset management is data. Lots and lots of data. And nothing stores and crunches data better than software. The FCM has a long list of EAM software's benefits. It's worth your time to look at a few in a bit more detail.
EAM-backed asset management helps you:
Keep all your data in one place
Instead of having critical data hidden in different spreadsheets, slideshow decks, and word processing files, EAM software makes everything easy to find. And keeping data up to date is a lot easier when it no longer involves scrolling through old emails looking for the most recent version of a file that now exists only as an attachment.
Older platforms required large upfront investments in servers, IT know-how, and training. But cloud-based EAM solutions take the weight of setting things up and keeping them running off your shoulders. Behind the scenes, providers backup and host the data, patch and upgrade the software.
Share data across departments
EAM software solves the problem of each department using its own idiosyncratic methods for collecting, formatting, and distributing data. Because everyone is using the same system, all data is entered the same way, allowing departments to share effortlessly. The data becomes not only easily accessible but also meaningful to every municipal department.
Track life-cycle costs
Life-cycle costs include the planning, buying, maintaining, sometimes rehabilitating, and then disposing of an asset. EAM software helps you track costs by keeping accurate, up-to-date records of all the work done on an asset, which can then be used to accurately calculate the total cost of ownership (TCO).
Imagine your municipality has decided to open a community pool. It'll cost money to design it and built it. But the costs won't stop there. Ongoing costs include cleaning, chlorinating, and staffing. Being able to track costs is critical for setting user fees and budgeting for future maintenance.
See data in a way that empowers decision-making
It's impossible to make good decisions by looking at endless columns of numbers. But once you've decided on a set of goals, EAM software can produce reports using nearly any combination of data points, including key performance indicators (KPIs). You'll easily know if you're moving in the right direction.
A concrete example can show how KPIs work. Since 2011, Richmond Hill, part of the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, has had a KPI-focused strategic plan. They define a KPI as "a measure of performance that tracks progress towards an established outcome for the purpose of continuous learning and improvement." So, they're tracking the use of heavy machinery with a snow removal KPI. The goal is accessibility for residents with mobility issues. They're tracking progress in part by measuring how quickly they remove snow from sidewalks. The goal might be a bit abstract, but they can see how close they're getting using hard data.
You've already begun. Doing some online research and reading up on asset management and how EAM software makes it easier is a great first step. Once you feel like you've got a good understanding of the benefits of an asset management plan, the FCM recommends recruiting colleagues. Any successful project needs a level of buy-in up and down the ladder, and in the case, the federation explains, you'll need allies among both staff and elected officials. Eventually, you'll want to talk with municipalities that already have plans in place. EAM software providers are also excellent sources of information and guidance.