What every community should know about asset management

Bart Fischer, Senior Public Administrator, WSB

Bart Fischer, Senior Public Administrator, discusses how asset management can lead to better decision making with WSB’s Director of GIS Services Justin Hansen.

Asset management is incredibly important, but not often valued to its full potential. Gathering data is great, but only if that data is used effectively.

I recently sat down with WSB’s Director of GIS Services, Justin Hansen to learn more about Asset Management to get his perspective on how communities can use it to their advantage.

BF: Asset management is a big topic – I often find it overwhelming. What is the main thing a community should understand about asset management and GIS?

JH: Asset management is incredibly undervalued. Solid asset management can lead to more informed decision-making, proactive and practical planning, improved capital planning decisions and better resource management.

BF: What is one of the most common issues you see when it comes to asset management within a city?

JH: I think asset management is misunderstood by some communities. Many cities will go out and purchase a system, but they struggle to realize the benefits of it. The system becomes something that is just being used for data input and nothing of true value. It may be assisting a city with their day-to-day support of operations, but they’re not using it to its full potential as an organizational-wide decision support platform.

BF: What is the solution to that problem?

JH: Education and planning. Take the time to educate key staff about asset management and how it can be applied to your city. Include staff across the city; not just public works and engineering. Develop an asset management strategy and plan for implementation. This helps develop organizational goals and allows the city to make a more educated decision on how to proceed with asset management.

Some communities may only need to start with a GIS-centric asset management approach where they utilize tools like WSB’s Datafi. Datafi gives cities an easy-to-use tool to manage field operations using GIS. Datafi can help change the culture at a city to understand the benefits of using technology in the field to assist with operations. Other communities will want to invest in full-blown asset management systems that meet their needs for approaches to asset management, operations and planning.

BF: How does streamlining asset management benefit a city?

Cities have an immense challenge around how they operate efficiently and effectively. Balancing the needs of residents, planning for future infrastructure improvements and preparing for the unexpected are benefits that come from a strong approach to asset management. Data gives staff ammunition to back-up a decision or a recommendation. It provides transparency and helps align priorities. 

BF: How have you seen cities be successful with Asset Management?

JH: Cities that have been successful with asset management have always built a culture that embraces using technology to manage operations. It’s hard to think outside of the status quo when you’re driving forward fast and furiously but investing in these systems now will better prepare communities for the future. Also, successful communities get engaged and communicate the impact that asset management has on their organization to their residents while also providing ways for their residents to participate through citizen request applications.

There’s been a lot of chatter about Smart Cities and Smart Communities recently, but what I find the most interesting is that many communities are already smart. They’re using GIS and asset management to make data-driven decisions. Leveraging data to make informed decisions is the core tenant of a smart community. Don’t be afraid to embrace it!

Bart Fischer has over two decades of experience in public administration. Throughout his tenure, he’s worked in five Minnesota communities as the city or assistant city administrator.  Bart joined our firm in 2019 as a senior public administrator and focuses on lending his public service expertise to our clients.

[email protected] | 651.286.8484

Justin Hansen has over 13 years of experience in managing GIS projects, staff, software development, solutions design, integration and implementation. Justin works closely with clients to implement GIS-based tools and related systems that maximize value and foster engagement.

[email protected] | 763.231.4846

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