Asset management software questions were so many that Heather and Ross decided to deal with them before the end of the webinar.
Let’s move on to software because we have quite a few people who did ask questions about, essentially along the lines of, what software should I use?
Is there a good one for a small system? What’s the best bang for a buck with software? What tools should I be using, off the shelf program, that kind of thing?
So, a lot of questions around software.
I was at APWA PWX (American Public Works Association Public Works Expo) and all the software vendors have stalls, and yes, there are quite several different vendors offering their products. Some very keen to sell software to utilities.
The answer to those questions is, what do you need the software for?
One of the things I did, I’ve been the section author for Asset Management Information Systems for the international manual on asset management for the last couple of editions of it.
And I put a little checklist in there that said, well first of all, what are your governance and your management tasking you to do and what are they prepared to resource and pay for.
Until you know the answers to those questions and the software question may not be relevant if you’re not getting any money for it then. And it’s ongoing. It’s not just an initial capital purchase.
The second question that needs to be answered around software is, what questions, what outputs do I need? What reports do I need? What reporting do I need to manage this asset well?
Once you’ve sorted that out, it’s then, what information inputs do I need to create these outputs?
And then what systems, business processes, and quality systems do I need around that, the inputs and the reporting to use the software well and give the right answer?
When you’ve got the answer to all of those four questions, then you’ve got the specifications for the software that you need.
And it might be very simple or more complex, or sophisticated, then you can start looking at the marketplace and go, oh well this one looks like it needs more requirements or this one doesn’t.
And one of the things, in the last 20 years, I’ve done a lot of consulting on software around New Zealand and the Pacific because that was sort of, one of the things I was very good at back in 1996 to a certain extent.
And we thought, I want to say this, I’ve done slides on this before, the software was the silver bullet when we started this asset management process in New Zealand in 1996. We will buy some software, and we will do asset management.
And a bit like the Lone Ranger. I had slides of the Lone Ranger with the silver bullet and stuff like that. And the thing is, there is no silver bullet.
The software is just a tool to help you do the analysis and collation of information that you need to present analysis and reports and understand what’s happening with your network and stuff like that.
And I think, we all run the risk in this current information environment, this information revolution that we can buy this vendor’s product, or we can develop the product ourselves and that will solve all our problems. And that is probably going to make you more problems than solutions if you’re going that way.
Start with the thinking process first before buying the software
Heather shared that what she found when she worked with utilities is that many times, they start with buying the software first, and then end up putting the asset management program in place that matches this piece of software.
So, this software needs this kind of information, so I go get that instead of the other way around, putting my program in place first and finding the software that best fits on what I am trying to do.
So, I don’t know how many times I’ve come into a utility and then they told me, I hate my software. And it’s like, okay. And some of them are still paying for the software that they say they hate and they’re not using it.
So, the first thing is, okay let’s take a step back.
What is it you wanted that software to do in the first place? And why do you hate it? Like what is the component of that software that you don’t like?
Well, is it not answering the question you want? Is it taking too much time? Is it not the right user interface? What’s wrong with what you have?
Because sometimes the program is fine, it’s just you haven’t taken the time to think through what you wanted to do and sometimes the program really doesn’t fit your culture and your organization.
But what’s most important is to start first with the thinking, what do I want to do? What do I want to answer? What questions might my elected leaders be asking me to give them and how will this tool help me answer those questions?
And thinking through what date do you have to put in it? What expenses would it be going forward? Will a spreadsheet alone answer the question? Or do you need something more robust? Do you need a maintenance work order system?
What is it you are trying to accomplish and how will that activity be enhanced by having a computer tool so that you are thinking of a tool that fits what you want to do instead of you fitting a tool.
So, the software should not be the first thing you do. It should come down the line after you’ve thought through your program and what you want to accomplish.