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Thinking

Data connected with technology and business purpose key to identifying assets that drive value

Globally, we continue to face greater uncertainty and complexity as we are forced to navigate the evolution of the digital world. Organisations are required to tackle today’s challenges and prepare for the future in parallel, turning to data to improve decision making and performance – and to achieve the most value possible from their Estate.

However, the reality when looking to data for answers is one where short-term or ad hoc approaches are not achieving that value. Many feel hamstrung by the amorphous and changing nature of data and are not sure what to do once they dive in, or are left confused when expected returns aren’t realised.

There is no denying, the landscape is a complex one, with challenges aplenty: from rapidly evolving technology and blending legacy systems with new layers of capability; to pressures of moving to a single source of truth and confusion around the role of people.

  • Constantly evolving and changing technology: The rapid rate of technological and digital advance presents the biggest challenge for decision makers. We all know we need to change, but where do we focus our efforts to improve business performance?

  • Blend of legacy systems with new layers of technology and capability: This blend becomes an elephant of a problem as to where to start, but the longer you wait, the harder it will get and this change will be exponential.

  • The idea of moving to a single source of truth is daunting for many: One single product or a single platform won’t solve all problems, we will never get away from having multiple systems, we just have to get them to work more effectively together – just as we do with people.

  • Confusion around the role of people: Most value from data is created when people are in the equation: artificial intelligence + people is greater than just AI. This isn’t about automating the most low-level tasks, however where we leverage people and systems each for the things that they stand to do the best, is where we will transcend any industry outcome.

These challenges are often – mistakenly – tackled either with more and more data (without knowing how to differentiate between good and bad quality or value), or investing sizeably in technology to manage and collect data, which doesn’t directly correlate with how a business is performing.

  • Constantly evolving and changing technology: The rapid rate of technological and digital advance presents the biggest challenge for decision makers. We all know we need to change, but where do we focus our efforts to improve business performance?

  • Blend of legacy systems with new layers of technology and capability: This blend becomes an elephant of a problem as to where to start, but the longer you wait, the harder it will get and this change will be exponential.

  • The idea of moving to a single source of truth is daunting for many: One single product or a single platform won’t solve all problems, we will never get away from having multiple systems, we just have to get them to work more effectively together – just as we do with people.

  • Confusion around the role of people: Most value from data is created when people are in the equation: artificial intelligence + people is greater than just AI. This isn’t about automating the most low-level tasks, however where we leverage people and systems each for the things that they stand to do the best, is where we will transcend any industry outcome.

Combined, these common ‘mistakes’ create a chasm – how can your business improve by following an ambiguous digital roadmap, collecting more data and more noise, and investing in technology without clearly knowing why? Do this and you run the risk of redundant investments and accumulating a whole raft of information that doesn’t even move the needle.

A different perspective must be taken to yield better results

For asset intensive organisations, achieving the most value from assets requires new ways of thinking, such as building a proactive and predictive vision of your ‘Digital Estate’. The starting point is to first understand what really drives business value, then linking that with data, technology and asset management. Data determined with purpose, connected to performance, and accelerated with technology, provides power to decision makers. Through such data you increase transparency, and transparency is the next best thing to certainty.

How can data analytics and information management identify what’s important for your Estate, and help calibrate operations better to achieve your goals? Those organisations constantly challenging the answers to these questions are the ones making the largest, and most rapid gains. They have a clear understanding of what drives their business performance (the purpose), their vision of digitisation is clearer (as it is assisted by the purpose), and they see people as critical to achieving higher value.

But value differs from one asset intensive industry to another. In aviation, it may be shareholder return, passenger volume, or customer experience. For the energy sector, it could mean cost per megawatt-hour. In mining, it may be around productivity or throughput costs – all of which can quickly change with volatility in commodity pricing. For manufacturing, unit production costs are critical. While for defence, it may be mission-ready status, an agile and future-ready force, or tracking utilisation efficiency – knowing what’s available, where it is and what can be called upon.

Whatever the driver, if the value and desired outcome is not understood, it becomes difficult to know where to focus attention, where to collect data, to whom to report information, where to prioritise decisions, and where performance matters to make a difference to your business. Without understanding the value drivers of your business collectively (i.e. if you don’t know what your data is telling you), how do you define what it’s good for? Whereas if you do know what you are looking to achieve, it gets the line of priorities right and informs how technology and data should be approached for your business.

How to realise value from data and assets

Organisations leading the way in their use of technology and data to realise more value from their Estate have three key things in common: a focus on developing a better business, not a better asset; valuing the combination of people and digital (processes, systems, data) in the decision-making process; going deep and not skirting around the edges.

  • Focus on developing a better business, not a better asset: this requires a shift from focusing on a single asset, to acknowledging that value comes from driving a better Estate. Understanding what drives your business performance and having a holistic view of your operation enables informed decisions to be made. To understand how to move, you need to clarify where the value lies and what interdependent variables directly contribute towards the overall success of your organisation. The key is to optimise assets, rather than maximise.
  • Valuing people and digital (processes, systems, data) in decision making: although technology is rapidly being used for efficiency and decision automation, true value realisation from data and technology comes from judgement intensive tasks – where people remain equally important compared to technology. When combined and understood correctly, this provides organisations with more power, rather than taking it away. Data is an enabler for the workforce to make informed decisions – to focus more on what matters most and do their jobs more effectively. The quality of people is the foundation of Defence’s capability, effectiveness and reputation. By focusing people’s effort on the things that really matter, and getting systems engineered to drive the things they are best at, we don’t necessarily end up with less people. We end up with people performing higher value, and more rewarding activities. We redefine the outcome that is possible from within our force.
  • Going deep and not skirting around the edges: disruption is inevitable and you can decide on whose terms this happens, however, you won’t reap benefits if you only skirt around the edges. Go deep to where the value is to be found – have the resilience and discipline to make digital ways of working part of the everyday, and a key part of creating a sustainable and effective business. Starting with digitisation, then digitalisation, then digital transformation. Going deeper will generate possibilities and opportunities that are meaningful. If you are just dipping your toes in the water, you never learn to swim.

Unlock the value now

Across the Defence sector, decisions about capabilities today will determine capacity to manage the challenges of the future. This underlies the importance of taking a strategic, long-term and connected view when it comes to decisions around data and assets. Identifying the assets that drive Estate value requires connecting clear business purpose, data and the assets themselves. Each can no longer be approached in silos, and organisations that adopt this shift in perspective will achieve maximum value from their Estate and be in a strong position to thrive in our ever-changing and complex world.  


About the Authors

Chris Needham is Digital Leader for Defence at Aurecon. He has worked in the architecture, engineering and construction industries for over 18 years in Australia, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Chris has a strong digital background, complimented by his leadership in strategy and change management.

Elisha Bellchambers has over 20 years of commercial experience in the areas of financial performance, data analysis, risk mitigation, business strategy and leadership and asset management. Elisha’s asset management experience allows her to draw on links between an organisation’s data analytics, business needs, and its high-level business decisions to drive business value and return. She has worked on numerous asset performance projects with decision makers around the world.

Elisha joined Aurecon following the company’s recent acquisition of asset management business Quartile One. Quartile One’s methodologies enable asset-rich organisations to extract greater value from their physical assets through data capture, synthesis and application of insights to technically complex operational environment. The acquisition is part of Aurecon’s growing capability in data-driven asset performance for asset intensive sectors.

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