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Jan 2015 | Asset Management

Building the Asset Management Team: A Survey of Canadian Models & Best Practices
TYLER SUTTON, PSD RESEARCH

Before a municipality can reap the benefits of effective asset management, an asset management team must be created. For some, that team might consist of a group of department heads meeting regularly to discuss asset management. For others, it could mean a full asset management unit embedded in a department. There is no one correct way to do asset management, and there are many ways to develop your asset management team that will create only divisions in your organization and impede results.         

 
We interviewed board members from the Canadian Network of Asset Managers (CNAM) to understand how their asset management teams work within their respective municipal organizations. From Kelowna to Halifax, these asset management experts vary in their perspectives on how to best build an asset management team, but all are in agreement that asset management is essential to an effective and sustainable capital works program. Some of the municipalities included in this series have firmly entrenched asset management programs with years of mistakes and iterative learning under their belts; others have only just started.   
 
Each municipality across Canada and beyond will have its own unique challenges and opportunities with asset management implementation, but these case studies provide valuable best practices to build upon for communities big and small. It is evident from the survey as a whole that successful asset management programs require collaborative teams, effective data-driven decision-making processes, and early wins to demonstrate results and secure buy-in from senior staff and city council. Not all municipalities can afford a full-time asset manager, but every municipality can adopt sound asset management principles that inform the work and perspectives of their existing staff.   
 
I. City of Kelowna 
 
Joel Shaw is a Civil Engineering graduate from the University of Saskatchewan. He has worked as a professional engineer for close to 20 years with extensive experience in the planning, design, and construction of municipal infrastructure. For the last ten years he has worked with the City of Kelowna and is currently responsible for the capital planning and asset management of the city's infrastructure.
Getting started.
It was a change of city managers. A new city manager came in with some new ideas and reorganized the corporation for a variety of reasons. He saw the value in having a branch of infrastructure planning devoted to asset management. Our branch is made up of three people; I manage it and I have two accountants who work with me. It’s a small branch and about a third of our time is devoted to developing the city’s asset management plan.   
 
What existed before your asset management branch?  
The structure before the reorganization was the typical ‘silo’ structure where transportation planning was managed independently of wastewater, which itself was managed independently of water and so on. The corporate reorganization broke down those silos and created a more layered structure with planning for all infrastructure areas in one department. Within Infrastructure Planning, we now have expertise in transportation, sewer, water, wastewater, solid waste, parks, and facilities so that all infrastructure planning can be handled in one department. Within the Infrastructure Planning Department is my branch called the Capital Assets and Investments Branch. We look after the city’s capital planning including the annual capital plan, 10 year capital plan, the 20 year capital plan, and embedded in those plans is asset management.  
 
Role of project sponsors.

Their job is to communicate with the senior leadership team the progress being made with asset management. One of our goals is to keep the senior leaders and council informed of our progress. Good asset management is about changing the way municipalities do business. You really need to have buy-in from the senior leaders otherwise people aren’t as willing to change. With directive coming from senior management, you get a lot better buy-in.

Pacing yourself.
Coming into this role, I did a lot of research. We went out and met with other communities, and I became a member of CNAM, which was very important in terms of the networking perspective. I would encourage all communities to do their homework and reach out to other communities and organizations like CNAM and Public Sector Digest who have that information about best practices and success stories. We found that a top-down, high-level approach to asset management was the best way to go, as opposed to a bottom-up approach which required more detailed asset information. Basically what we did to get started was to use existing asset information to develop our first asset management plan, which was communicated through a series of Infrastructure Report Cards. The goal was to bring together the best available information and report to council so that we could begin making more informed decisions on infrastructure replacement. Through the process we learned a lot about gaps in our existing asset data and processes. The report cards provided the justification we needed for infrastructure investment that was lacking before.   
 
As a result, our capital plans now have significant asset renewal budgets embedded and we couldn’t have done this without the report cards which were completed in less than a year. That was very valuable for us. It allowed us to start doing asset management at a high level really early in the game, as opposed to trying to solve all the minutia of asset management, which can be overwhelming with all of the data requirements that are involved. Now we’re going through our second iteration and developing more detailed asset management plans. The top-down approach has worked for Kelowna because it allowed for some early wins and buy-in from staff and council. I’m a big advocate of the top-down approach. We’ve had missteps along the way, but that’s part of the learning process.

 

What would you have done differently with your asset management program in Kelowna?  
It’s tough to keep momentum when developing an asset management plan. That’s why it’s important to get those early wins and get in front of council on a regular basis to keep momentum. There were periods of time where we lost momentum–some of it was partly due to the fact that I have other responsibilities other than asset management so I couldn’t always be focused on it. But the fact that we have a group devoted to asset management has allowed us to advance fairly quickly. Kelowna wouldn’t have advanced as quickly if we were trying to do this off the side of our desks. There’s an incredible amount of resources that go into developing asset management plans and organizations need to have an asset management advocate to keep things moving forward.   
 
When you came out with your first asset management plan, what was the reaction from council?
Kelowna has $2.5 billion worth of assets and significant long-term funding needed to sustain these assets. The magnitude of the numbers presented can be a bit overwhelming. If there was something I could have done better, it would have been better communication. Right from the outset it would have been beneficial to have a communication plan in place to communicate to council, to the community, and to staff, so that the information is presented at a level that people understand. We’re getting to that point now, but it has taken time to increase awareness. I’m always looking for better tools to communicate to council and the public because asset management can be too complex for people to grasp initially. 
 
“We found that a top-down, high-level approach to asset management was the best way to go, as opposed to a bottom-up approach which required more detailed asset information.”
II. City of Edmonton 
 
Bradley Leeman, P.Eng. is the Director of the City of Edmonton’s Infrastructure and Funding Strategies section. He is tasked with developing and implementing policy and tools to further work in closing the infrastructure gap within Edmonton. Bradley is a graduate of Queen’s University and has over 11 years  of experience in municipal infrastructure development. He is currently the Chair of the Canadian Network of Asset Managers
Who designed the asset management program for Edmonton?  
In 1997, we did a fundamental inward glance of the city and how it operated–we called it City 97’ at the time. In large part it was a glorified organizational review, but a lot of gems did come out of it. One was that we needed to look at asset management more seriously, so they struck a committee. Then in 1998-99 the committee recommended that we needed a focused look at how we were managing our assets because at the time the City of Edmonton wasn’t spending that much on its capital. The 1990s weren’t that good for Alberta economically. The city had tax freezes and hiring freezing, and not a lot of money was being spent on anything, let alone asset renewal. But creeping into the city’s psyche was the problem of crumbling infrastructure. In 2000, my predecessor Konrad Siu was appointed the head of an asset management group within drainage services to look at an inventory of the city’s assets and that’s where Edmonton’s formal asset management began.
 
The program has been evolving since then. We were a bit ahead of the curve, so Konrad was working nationally with Engineers Canada and the round tables on sustainable infrastructure to develop asset management in Canada. Fast-forward to 2008 and you’re into our Neighbourhood Renewal Program– the first big ticket implementation of asset management, putting pure theory into capital projects. A year later, the province came out with their Municipal Sustainability Initiative Grant which was a windfall for capital infrastructure. Our analytics were then used to determine what the split of that money should be between growth and renewal so we could have sustainability with our assets. Today, we’re setting all of our renewal budgets via corporate asset management. It’s the true integration of asset management infrastructure and budgeting. Konrad, given that he was so involved nationally, was vital. To some extent we were a Petri dish, with communities looking to us for best practices. The national infrastructure report card uses our rating system for assets. 
 
Your group, Infrastructure and Funding Strategies, is located where in your organization?
We’re in finance now. In our history, we have moved around, starting in drainage then moving to a corporate support function that doesn’t really exist today. Most recently we were moved into finance and that’s where we really got our legs because at the end of the day, as much as we’d like to think otherwise, the world revolves around money. What we do with the money is the ultimate expression of what we’re doing–it’s the budget. Being integrated into the financial services section, the first question was, what are all these engineers doing here surrounded by accountants? But as it turns out, it’s actually a nice marriage because asset management can’t exist without finance. Under my group is the capital budget; all capital budgeting is run through me. It took some time to evolve to that, and this budget is the first budget that is the child of that integration. So far so good. 
 
Was there any resistance on the part of finance to your relocation?
No, and I think that’s because Konrad was able to demonstrate how asset management would benefit them. We’re not just doom and gloom about failing infrastructure, we’re coming up with solutions to these problems. We worked to develop the data and the tools to manipulate that data to get a sense of what it was we needed to spend to get to our targets and achieve sustainability. We were able to convert that into something that could be used for budgets. The finance folks saw that they could use this for herding the cats, because otherwise everyone is fighting for their scraps of meat. One thing that was very clear was that the organization wanted a corporate approach to this type of decision making. They wanted a systematic, transparent approach to how we set the budget so we could recommend good sound things to council. We gave finance a way to do that.
 
There seems to be two common models for asset management: corporate asset management or an embedded team in public works.
There’s different ways to approach the problem. The way organizations do that is due in large part to history and to what extent council is involved in the day to day operations versus the strategic planning and oversight. There’s no right or wrong. I wouldn’t describe us as truly corporate because under me are teams of asset managers that make the day to day decisions on the assets. Those folks do actually sit at the department business level. What I do is I oversee the longer term network level planning and budgeting. My team determines how much we need to be spending each year for all of our assets to achieve the service standards for those assets that we’ve chosen to have. I don’t say of the $55 million we’re spending on arterial roads, so much should be spent on this street between this street and this avenue. The asset management that’s happening at the department level is determining that. My role is to provide oversight to make sure they’re spending money on renewal and they have a sophisticated enough asset management system in place that they’re determining the best fit for that money. So it’s a bit of a hybrid model. I don’t command things and control things down to the guy with a shovel filling a pothole. I’m helping with the long-term planning and making sure there are competent people in place and helping them develop their own asset management programs.
 
What’s next for your asset management program?
We have achieved a lot in terms of evolution. We’re still a rather large organization but we’ve made a lot of achievements in tearing down silos. We need to spend a little more time on data and process to make sure common standards are there. That’s not to say common standards aren’t there now, but once in a while you need to pause and not assume. When you’ve made a lot of progress, sometimes you have to step back and say, have we dropped anything along the way? This has to do with data and process, but also people and skills. Are they qualified and have they been properly trained to do their job? It’s time to take a look there. We also just tabled our budget last week, so we’re waiting to see how it goes. Council hasn’t approved the budget yet, but so far so good. We’re waiting with bated breath. Are they going to completely buy-in to the sacrosanct renewal budget and recommendations or just stay with the growth ones? How deep will they go into questioning the renewal? 

 

Generally, I would say we have a very good understanding of what our physical needs are in terms of condition and what we need to be spending on our existing assets to maintain them to the standard of the day. That’s fine for something as simple as a road. Where we kind of fall down a bit is on facilities, because we never blindly replace things in a facility. We’re looking at how the programming is delivered in a facility. Has the programming changed? The recreation centre we built in the 1950s is not one we could build today. If you look at assets, the physical condition but also the functional capacity of the asset, is this thing functionally still relevant?  
 
Then there’s capacity. Are people lining up to get into this place? Is this road four lanes but it should be six? We know that this road should be replaced every twenty years from a pavement point of view, but how do we integrate the functional capacity type improvements while still holding true to the ‘maintain what you own’ mantra? The slippery slope is that there is a finite amount of work that needs to be done to your existing assets, but there is an infinite amount of work that you could do to improve assets to add capacity and functionality. There’s only so much money. You might be lucky enough to have the money to look after the assets you have, but no one has enough money to do that and all of the things the community and council wants. We’ve refined how we make decisions on these things, but I can’t do the modelling to succinctly predict the capacity and function for the next twenty years. Now you’re moving from the quantitative transparent approach to a more qualitative one. That’s the real future for us. 
 
PSD + CNAM

Building Your Asset Management Team: A Survey of Canadian Models & Best Practices

With improved systems and technologies assisting cities with the heavy lifting in asset data collection and analysis, smaller communities are able to participate in asset management despite limited capacity. But before a community can reap the benefits of effective asset management, an asset management team must be created. This recorded PSD webinar features senior asset managers from across Canada - all members of the Canadian Network of Asset Managers' (CNAM) Board of Directors. The panelists review the asset management governance models employed in their respective municipalities, sharing with participants what has worked, what hasn't, and what communities just starting the asset management journey can learn from their experiences. 
 
Visit www.publicsectordigest.com/p/webinars to download the webinar. 
 
Speakers 
Joel Shaw, City of Kelowna
John Murray, City of Hamilton
Bradley Leeman, City of Edmonton  
 
What You Get  
Copy of the full webinar video recording
Copy of the presentation slide decks  
 
Cost of Webinar Recording
Members      Non-Members  
$50                $100   

 

III. City of Hamilton 

 John Murray is the Manager of Asset Management within Hamilton’s Public Works Department. John has been with the city’s public works department for 19 years and has extensive experience in infrastructure management practices and computer information systems. Prior to his current position, he held the positions of Senior Project Manager of Infrastructure Programming and Project Manager of Infrastructure Management Systems.  
How did Hamilton’s asset management program come to be?
Back in 2001, six area municipalities came together through amalgamation to form the City of Hamilton as it is today. At that time, there was a lot of restructuring happening internally and our general manager had the foresight to say, asset management is going to be big and it’s something we should be on top of. So he established a new asset management group within the public works department.   
 
Organizational structure.
They created a whole new division at the time: capital planning and implementation. This division was meant to centralize two functions: How you plan for your capital and how you implement your capital. The implementation group had a centralized service group, a centralized design group, and a centralized construction management group. The capital planning side needed an asset management section. That’s why we were put there–it was a central division within public works to look after all infrastructure within public works.   
 
How much of your work is internal to your group and how much are you working with the rest of public works and beyond?  
Our function is high level asset management looking at the state of the infrastructure, challenges, and opportunities going forward across a long-term strategic window. But our key deliverable is the ten year budget and the immediate needs of the budgets that go forward to the design and construction management area of the division. We develop the projects through various prioritization methods we have in our section and we also define scope and budget for those projects. That defines the ten year budget and the immediate projects that go to the design group. That is primarily an internal function within asset management. If we go back to the strategic asset management–the reporting to council and some of our predictive models we’ve done on our assets–much of that is sent out as consultant projects to experts in the field. 
 
Do you work closely with the finance department?  
What makes my group so unique is that I actually have two financial folks embedded in my team since we put the budgets together for the assets we’re responsible for. I also have four systems people to help with all the databases. We’re kind of unique in that way.   
 
Is it a luxury of a larger city to have this level of capacity in your asset management group?
It probably is. It would be hard for a small municipality to have things broken out this way, but an option would be to have standing committee meetings monthly or quarterly so that those people stay in their own groups but can stay on the same page in terms of asset management. It’s worth mentioning that back in the InfraGuide best practices, that’s how they said you should set up an asset management team: to be multi-disciplined with folks from finance, public works, and systems all working together. Our structure wasn’t just pulled out of a hat, it’s based on best practice. Asset management is somewhat different to different disciplines and it is multi-disciplinary by nature. This structure allows all of those functions not only to work together but to work in the same area to discuss how they’re going to tackle issues and problems as they arise. It allows us to move quickly. You need your engineering folks to understand the assets but there is a huge amount of data–inventories, condition assessments, risk assessments, and your algorithms –so you need your systems people to help them work with that. Then at the end of the day, it’s all about how you prioritize your budget, so you need your budget team there.   

 

 What are the pros and cons of the way your asset management team is structured?  
The pro is that we’re all in one group. The con is that while we do very well with the assets under my responsibility, we’re not as good at communicating with other asset groups in the organization not under public works. Social housing would be one example where we don’t have any control. The way we’re set up with a governance structure, we don’t get those same asset management philosophies in place elsewhere. Other municipalities may have better governance models to roll out across the organization, but because they don’t control the budgets of those client groups, they may not follow through all the way to the budget. Whereas with our model, I actually get control of the budget from finance for our roads, bridges, water, wastewater, and linear assets. I get a block amount each year, but once I get it, it’s up to me what I do with it, so I can make sure all the good asset management prioritization techniques are used to determine what goes into the budget.     
 
How can you overcome the cons for your model?  
The good thing is because we’ve been to council numerous times with the state of the infrastructure report and more recently with the asset management plan, they are very aware of what we’re doing at the highest level. The city manager’s office is also very aware. So through presentations at the senior level we have been able to build awareness and buy-in. They’ve even made us roll out our model to other parts of the organization. If you are up at the corporate level for asset management, the pro is that communication is obviously easier because you have the channels to roll out new asset management initiatives. Whereas with our model, we’re always working from the bottom up in that aspect.   
 
What’s your advice for a smaller community to get started with asset management?
One of the strengths of PSAB, but only if people did it right, was engineering and finance people doing the work together. Not everyone did. So if they didn’t, unfortunately they’re already behind. In many small municipalities just the finance people did the work. So my advice going forward for a small municipality, if finance is still taking the lead, is that they still need to meet, discuss, and communicate with engineering colleagues to make sure the right protocols are in place and are seen through to implementation. Without that balance of the two groups meeting it’s not going to work. Understanding a common language is key–deterioration versus depreciation and that kind of thing. It’s not hard. People just need to talk to each other to make sure the language is consistent throughout the organization. 
 
IV. City of Ottawa 
 
Since joining the city in 2008, Patrick Brisson has been a key player in the development of the city’s Comprehensive Asset Management program.  Patrick is currently involved in advancing work on the Capital Investment Planning process, Levels of Service definition, and finalizing the city’s first Asset Management Plan. A graduate of the University of Ottawa, Patrick worked with local engineering firms specializing in geotechnical and municipal infrastructure prior to joining the City of Ottawa.  
Program origins.
There has been a movement towards asset management for the better part of ten years now in Ottawa. There had been some work early after amalgamation, probably leading off of the InfraGuide that was released by the NRC in 2000-2001. Around 2008 and 2009 there was a realignment in the organization and as part of that process the asset management branch was created within the Infrastructure Services Department. That branch was tasked with having a corporate role to play in developing tools and assisting and implementing practices across the board with partners in other branches. There is now a comprehensive asset management steering committee that reports to sponsors and the executive committee. 
 
What was the rationale behind the placement of your branch?
One of the big reasons was probably that our asset management champion was in that department, so it stemmed from there. The steering committee from the beginning was meant to have representation from across the corporation, so we have finance, planning, public works, IT, engineering, and all the major asset consumers sitting at the table. We also have representatives from groups that are more service focused than asset focused, like libraries and recreation.    
 
Designing a branch.
The asset management branch has essentially three groups. One group is Data and Applications – these are the folks responsible for our inventory and GIS that work with other groups to make sure the development information is accurate and will update our data. We also have the Capital Planning Unit, which is the group responsible for the annual budgets and compiling the program forecast for the next couple of years. Finally, we have the Strategic Asset Management Unit that I manage. The main focus for our group is supporting camp, anything that has to do with setting up best practices, like aligning to ISO or PAS 55 guidelines. We’re a small group, and we prepare the material that gets discussed at the Steering Committee and ensure that the roadmap that we devised a couple of years ago is being followed. 
 
Top-down or bottom-up?
We’re probably leaning closer towards the corporate model for asset management because we do have really good discussions at the higher level, but our implementation side is a bit more difficult to put in place. Is a top-down or bottom-up scenario better? It’s hard to say. In some cases asset management has benefitted from having a push from the top, being able to say ‘this is how we are going to do asset management from now on.’ Getting buy-in through the bottom-up approach can be a bit harder, but having the subject matter experts contributing on these different initiatives does help. In some cases they’re the ones leading change. Wherever we can, we bring in work groups of subject matter experts to push horizontally and impact a greater number of people.   
 
Having those champions to keep asset management front of mind seems paramount.  
In Ottawa, we’re very fortunate from that perspective. Our Deputy City Manager was formerly involved with the InfraGuide and our Chief Administrative Officer has a very good understanding of the benefits asset management can bring. So at the top we’re very fortunate. At the other extreme, take up has been a bit harder. We’ve had an active asset management program now for the better part of five years and attendance wasn’t always easy to come by at our meetings, but we now have a core group that will disseminate information. We have people that are further removed from asset management that are asking questions about it. We’re slowly progressing and asset management is being mentioned elsewhere, not just in the asset management sphere.   
 
 Does your branch handle the capital budgets for each asset category?
No. We’re still very much siloed, but we’re working on moving away from the asset view to the service view, so that we can have different groups that are responsible for the same service sit in and review the same budget. That is a very preliminary thing in the works. Our focus has been to move away from an asset base more towards a service base as we try to shift the way we report in some of our communications to the service and not just the assets that support them.   
 
With Ottawa’s Light Rail P3 project underway, have you considered the impact of a P3 on your asset management program?
It has to be considered. It has to fit in and the approach might be different because the asset might not be ours for a number of years, but you should still be very aware of what it is and how it was built and what you can expect when you do get handed this asset. So absolutely, the P3 project has to fit and it has to be incorporated at some point in time.   
 
What is the most significant challenge facing your branch?  
The biggest one is probably capacity since there is now some traction with regards to asset management. It’s maintaining that forward motion and not being lulled into a false sense of security, because asset management is an ongoing process and you have to keep working and moving with it. Now there’s an expectation for us to deliver on asset management as an organization.   
 
Advice for smaller communities.  
Start with the basics. Understanding what it is you want to do and understanding what you have, where it is, and when you have to do something about it will help you move away from being just purely reactive.   

 

Has the Ontario government’s approach to municipal asset management been effective, mandating the completion of AMPs?  
Seeing what Ontario has done, it has increased awareness. If you’re impacting somebody’s pockets they’re typically more likely to react and in this case there was definitely an impact to the financial side of things. Is it the best way of going? I’m not the one to say, but it does have its merits. Whether capacity is being built up or not, I’m not sure, but awareness is definitely increasing. I think in the larger municipalities capacity is being built up, and maybe to a certain extent the smaller ones, since they have had to prepare an asset management plan for some funding. But I think there’s still a lot of confusion out there as to what asset management is.   
 
V. Halifax Water 
 
Valerie Williams graduated from the University of Guelph in Water Resources Engineering and has been a professional engineer for 20 years.  In 2006, Val began working with Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) in the Environmental Services Department as a Project Engineer.  Val is now the Manager, Asset Management with Halifax Water and is responsible for asset management program development and long range planning activities. 
What is the general level of asset management capacity among Nova Scotia’s municipalities?
In general, asset management is underdeveloped. What I mean by that is day to day municipal operators and utility operations are doing asset management, but it’s just not pulled together under the umbrella of a formal asset management program. It may or may not be articulated as a specific function or it may be embedded in other duties assigned. We think we’re doing it every day when we’re working on assets, but it’s just not a formal program. 

 

Asset management at Halifax Water.
Initially it came from within. We decided there were certain aspects of asset management that we needed to deploy. We were originally just a water utility, but now we’re a water, wastewater, and storm utility, effective August 1st 2007. Pre-merger, the water side had been doing some asset management activity. Again it was less formal but still consistent. It was more of an annual review of where they were with their vertical infrastructure. Engineering would sit down with operations to chat about what things were causing them grief and they would document that and use it to develop a unique intervention of some sort. They also had a very consistent and systematic approach to keeping track of breaks in the watermain, using that information to help drive the priorities for which watermains needed to be replaced. That was also coordinated with what the City of Halifax was doing with their own road program. Then post-merger, we decided that we needed a more formal program and it was tasked with me. I was one of the senior engineers on the wastewater stormwater side. Asset management was part of my portfolio, but it was assigned as just one duty in my spare time. In mid-2008, we had our first pulling together of asset information and presented it to our executive to get some buy-in. Their initial reaction was lukewarm. Then late in 2010 we put together an RFP to do an assessment of our program, looking at what was already being done, particularly with our water infrastructure, and how we could leverage what was being done there for our wastewater and storm infrastructure. In 2011 we were mandated by the Utilities Review Board to do our Integrated Resource Plan, which has some significant overlap with our asset management planning. So what started off as an in-house project became a long-term planning project.
 
How does your group function within Halifax Water?  
My team is embedded in the Engineering and Information Systems Department as a subgroup. We are tasked with putting together the framework, tools, techniques, and practices that relate to asset management. We facilitate the gathering of information and then we present that information according to our models and data. We provide recommendations for where we should be investing our money next and perform a reality check with the rest of our engineering team and operations team. Often there are things we don’t know, like an opportunity to integrate work that we’d be looking at it in isolation otherwise. Our team actually develops the capital program, which is a five year outlook on our capital needs, and then we focus in a little more detail on next year’s priorities. We don’t do it entirely on our own, but we provide the templates to do the follow up and make sure the supporting documents for projects in year one get done. Other people who have ownership of the implementation of the projects have responsibility for putting the documents together. We’re the watchdogs who say, is that paperwork in yet and what can I help you with?   
 
How do you integrate your capital budgets with the finance team at Halifax Water?
Whoever is the owner of the original project is tasked with putting together the cost estimate and the budget for the project that gets put into our five year program. We work with our finance department to confirm that the budget numbers we’re proposing are in line with our available funds through our rates or debt financing. To be honest with you, I understand little from the financial end of it so we’re grateful there’s a department that looks after that. They’ll give us an envelope of funds and say, based on what the available funds are you have to make things fit. So it’s a bit of an iterative approach. You may have a year one that’s super heavy on projects, and a year two and three that are light, so we might have to shift around some projects to maintain that overall funding envelope for that period.

 

How does your group impact asset management for the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and vice-versa?  
We have separate asset management programs, mostly because we have separate asset classes that we’re dealing with. That being said, we do have a process for integrating capital works. At the moment it’s driven largely through the roads program. They give us a first look at the capital projects for the next fiscal year, and we look at how that may integrate with any of the projects we may need to do. Often there may be some roads they’re doing work on that we don’t have on our horizon, so we’ll go and do some investigative work on the condition of the sewers and watermains, and look at some of the lateral replacements. We do have some integration with the city. I’m hoping at some point there will be a switch and it will be the underground assets driving the above ground work rather than the other way around. 
 
Room for improvement.  
What works well for us is that we are a group that’s together and not distributed throughout the organization. We’re not out there saying that we’re in charge and what we say goes. We understand that our relationship with the rest of the organization is very much a collaborative environment, and all we’re doing is facilitating data analysis and presenting information to other groups so we can make the best decision going forward. Generally speaking, a lot of people still see asset management as a buzz word. Asset management is the flavour of the day today but what will it be tomorrow? That’s why we try really hard to get the message out there that asset management isn’t some newfangled thing. It really is all about managing the infrastructure that we have, and making it as efficient as possible to intervene as we need to. One of the things we need to do is sell asset management better. It’s beneficial to people in all parts of the organization.   
 
“We’re not out there saying that we’re in charge and what we say goes.”
VI. Government of Northwest Territories 
 
Sudhir Jha is a Professional Engineer and recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Sudhir provides community infrastructure planning and implementation support to communities in the North Slave Region of Northwest Territories. Previously he managed engineering projects in the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut for the Government of Nunavut and has served as the President of the Northern Territories Water & Waste Association (NTWWA). Sudhir has a master’s degree in civil engineering from Concordia University. 
What is your mandate as the Manager of Community Infrastructure?
I work within Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) for the North Slave Region and I also volunteer with CNAM as a Board Member. As the Manager of Community Infrastructure, I work to bring asset management to our communities. Our biggest priority is to keep our infrastructure safe and sound. 
 
Are your communities aware of the importance of asset management?
Yes, they understand quite well as we’ve done several workshops with Senior Administrative Officers (SAOs) and their public works staff. They are really starting to understand. In my region in particular, they understand that asset management will pay for itself. Asset management improves the decision making process for local governments and it reduces the risk of asset failure. Most of all, it improves public confidence in government. Once you have an asset management system in place it makes it easier to do capital planning to prioritize your projects. In North Slave Region, everyone is very optimistic about asset management.
 
Are local governments completing asset management plans?  
Yes, many of them already have asset management plans in place. The community of Gameti has an asset management plan and is implementing it. Part of my job has been to help local governments develop their asset management plans. Consultants of course have helped too. Councillors, chiefs, and public works staff have done a lot of the work contributing to these plans. 
 
Have any communities in the North Slave Region procured asset management software?
Some communities have purchased asset management software but what I’ve heard from them is that the vendor is no longer selling the system.  Communities bought the product themselves. In Gameti, they’ve had thorough asset management training so they are using the software.   
 
Do any of your local governments have full-time asset managers?
I don’t think they have extra money for that, but they do have operational money from the Territorial Government and they are required to do proper planning and budgeting. In smaller communities we don’t have a lot of infrastructure, so a town foreman can do the asset management work on the side and then go and do their other job. They have to make it a priority.  
 
Why has the Government of Northwest Territories made asset management a priority?
We understand the importance of asset management. As we build infrastructure we want to make sure our communities are safe and sound. It’s good to have an asset management system in place in our communities so we can track our infrastructure and make the right decisions at the right time. Asset management has been helpful for maintenance too.  We are up north and remote, so if something goes wrong with our infrastructure we have to call in maintenance from another community and that takes time. We are very interested in having asset management in all of our northern communities. 
 
Asset management in Yellowknife.
They have an asset management system in place and they’ve hired a consultant to build out the program. Anything we do here in Yellowknife and in the Northwest Territories as a whole we try to share with Nunavut as they are trying to build asset management at the community level as well. I’m trying to promote asset management across the Territories.   
 
What other unique challenges do your communities face?
Capacity building – we train our people and then they move on to somewhere else. We need on-going capacity building at the community level. We have a hard time finding the right person in some communities to operate the necessary software and tools, so we need to call someone down south to get assistance. It will take some time, but I’m confident that we’ll get there.