Asset Management consulting in the infrastructure sector has come a long way over the last two decades. Organisations now understand that optimising the lifecycle of their assets reduces both CAPEX and OPEX, improves productivity and customer satisfaction, most importantly, it gives them the capability to plan ahead and manage risks better.
Why hire an Asset Management Consultant?
There are many reasons why an organisation would hire or appoint an Asset Management Consultant. Here are some to consider:
They don't have the capacity to undertake a specific asset management task.
They want an independent assessment of their asset management capability.
They want to mitigate their asset management risks.
They want to benchmark themselves against other sectors or competitors.
They want to improve asset performance and generate efficiencies.
They want to undergo digital transformation.
They want to understand their assets better.
They want to make better asset management decisions.
Used rightly, the value proposition offered by an Asset Management consultancy can be immense, short or long term. When all is said an done, organisations are responsible for getting the best out of their consultants. That only happens if you ask the right questions and agree project outcomes before any work starts. Here are some pitfalls to avoid when working with Asset Management consultancies:
1. Client Brief doesn't always equal Project Outcomes
Working with an Asset Management Consultant can be likened to building a house. If the foundation of a house isn't steady, everything else falls down. Similarly, if you start off a project with an Asset Management Consultant and you don't agree on project outcomes, you won't get the best out of them. Some Consultants won't mind going back to the client to clarify their scope of work, but most of them would be concerned that going back to the client means they never understood what the client wanted in the first place. So, they take the initiative and end up delivering a subpar product, all because they want to keep the client's perception of their brand intact. In a summary, always agree project deliverables with the Asset Management consultancy before starting the project, and even if the deliverables are expected to change.
2. Avoid Asset Management Consultants with no client side experience
We can't over emphasise this point. It is impossible to garner the right level of operational experience as an Asset Management Consultant if you haven't worked client side before. The last thing an organisation needs is a consultant advising them on what good looks like when they have never experienced it before. The client side experience helps consultants provide the right type of solutions tailored to the client. Organisations should aim to hire Asset Management Consultants that have either spent a significant amount of their career as the client or have spent a significant amount of time seconded to clients. It's most likely that a consultancy would put some graduates and some slightly experienced Asset Management Consultants on your project. This might be fine as long as their is an experienced Project Lead running things. Hiring an Asset Management Consultant with client side experience could be the difference between an organisation receiving a pragmatic solution from a consultant or a gold plated one that would cause them a fortune to implement.
Don't hire quantity over quality, as it could cost you
It is not the total number of consultants assigned to your project that determines the quality of solution you would get. Make sure the right level of senior oversight is provided by the Asset Management consultancy for your project. Don't get deceived by numbers, in short, aim to reduce the number of consultants working on your project. A typical consultant resource plan for a project should have a Project Lead and that person can also be the subject matter expert. If the consultancy is charging you for a Project Lead and a separate subject matter expert they must provide strong justification for it or they are just making money off you. Additionally, a project would require a Project Manager to manage stakeholder engagement, the resource plan and the project budget. The Project Manager role can also be done by an Asset Management Consultant. Consultancies may try to make additional money by adding a Junior Asset Management Consultant to the mix for admin purposes. This is a waste of money because the Project Manager can also draft reports or contribute to analysis or information. This can also be done by the Project Lead. We spoke to an Asset Management Consultant who pointed out that drafting of reports is usually left to the Junior Asset Management Consultant and the subject matter expert. The Project Lead then reviews and adjusts the report. Organisations should remember that their jobs are not to make the consultants life easy, it is to ensure the consultant is utilised efficiently and productively to deliver key business outcomes on time and to scope.
Don't give into the Digital Solution Hype everytime!
At some point being a great sales rep became a requirement for being a good Asset Management Consultant. A lot of Asset Management consultancies now create in house digital solutions which they claim would help their clients. Simply put, they know it is bad business to assume demand for a product, so they decide to create one! Some of these digital solutions work but be careful that the consultancy isn't trying to use a tractor to mow a lawn. One big risk of buying into bespoke digital solutions is that they are "bespoke". In most cases they use methodologies only known to them to solve client problems. On the plus side, it is good for the consultancy's brand and depending on the solution, they might get an annual license fees. On the downside, the client may have no way of validating or comparing the consultant's work to industry standards because it is bespoke. You might also lose interoperability of the data they provide you because their digital solution is bespoke. Organisations should weigh these risks before agreeing to any digital solution provided by an Asset Management Consultant.
Avoiding hiring Asset Management Consultants that procrastinate to manage client expectations
Don't expect too much push backs from Asset Management consultants. They are there to "please the client", or that is what they always say. If you expect them to tell you your idea or proposition is wrong, senseless, impractical or unrealistic, then that will never happen. They will explore all options to provide a solution tailored to your needs. This attitude is usually great most of the time, but it isn't one you want on safety critical projects. Time is a priceless commodity when it comes to safety, cost and reputation. Asset Management Consultants that beat around the bush to manage their client's expectations might be exposing their clients to unnecessary risks.