IAM EdinburghI have been to a few asset related conferences recently. The contrasts between two of them were quite striking, so I thought this might be a good place to discuss them….

In June, the IAM held their Annual Conference in Edinburgh – a three day event with lots of presentations, seminars, workshops and networking. This was an excellent opportunity to find out how the world of asset management is maturing. Some of the key messages were:

  • In the 2 years since the release of the ISO 55000 series, the emphasis has changed from ‘what is ISO 55k’ to ‘how do we use ISO 55k to continue to increase maturity and capability whilst delivering benefits?’
  • Work with the Global Forum for Maintenance and Asset Management (GFMAM) continues to deliver results by ensuring that there are not different interpretations of asset management in different countries and regions
  • Wider organisational and financial aspects of asset management are critical – we need to be able to talk to financiers and insurers in their language
  • A number of themes seemed to be common across industry sectors with organisations able to learn from the achievements and experiences of others, even in different sectors
  • The conference also demonstrated that the IAM as a professional body is maturing rapidly with the establishment of Chapters and Branches across the world

So overall, the conference demonstrated increasing awareness, alignment and maturity.


A week or so later, I went to a sector specific conference, focused on Highways that provided an illuminating alternate view. Overall, the level of maturity in asset management and the key messages were quite different:

  • In the UK planning horizons for Highways England for budgetary purposes have just moved from an annual process to a five year settlement – something other regulated sectors have been using for many years
  • For other regulated sectors these five year settlements are viewed in the light of the forecast investment requirements for the subsequent 20-40 years. Despite the long lives of highways assets, there did not appear much evidence of such long term thinking. One council stated that they had an asset valuation of  £10bn, but their annual maintenance/interventions budget was around £50m which leads to an implied asset life of over 200 years
  • Capital maintenance appears to be a relatively new concept with higher value reactive maintenance activities having to displace other planned interventions
  • Maturity assessments are being undertaken in the sector, but since they are directly linked to future funding, there is a risk that these self-assessments may not be objective. Additionally, certain categories of authority were automatically receiving the highest level rating
  • Reactive approaches and inspection are based ‘near term’ pro-active approaches, but there is less evidence of long term thinking
  • Low criticality assets are in some cases being ignored – one authority stated that they had abandoned their signs inventory since they spent very little on signs. However, assets, as well as providing benefit to an organisation, can also be a source of liabilities, so this approach presents a risk to the organisation


Overall, this demonstrated that highways asset management appears to be continuing to follow a different road to other sectors, which raises a number of questions:

  • Does it really matter if highways follow a different approach to asset management to other sectors?
  • Highways professionals are just as passionate about ‘doing a good job’ as other asset engineers, would the adoption approaches more aligned to ISO 55000 allow assets to be managed better?
  • Could this difference be driven by central government concerns about budgetary  requirements and implications?
  • What is the likely consequence to society as a whole of this ‘near term’ thinking? 

I would be interested in your thoughts….

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