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Study finds disconnect between asset management theory and practice

Big data, smart asset management and customer-centricity are driving the water sector, but the industry is just in the early stages of gearing up to embrace them, a new study has found.

The Water Services Association Australia’s latest Asset Management Customer Value Project 2016 (delivered by AECOM and CH2M) asked utilities and service providers around the world about what mega-trends were driving them and how well prepared they were to realise associated opportunities.

Ryan Signor, co-author of the resultant paper “2020 Vision: What's Driving the Water Services Sector” said the results were illuminating.

“When we asked the project participants what's important to them, things like a safe workforce and strong compliance with regulations are naturally deemed as highly important,” said Signor, AECOM’s Water Advisory Practice Leader for Australia and New Zealand.

“Most water utilities are fairly well prepared to respond to these through the use of systems and approaches built and continuously improved over decades.

“However, when we prompt them to think about 'what’s important that you are not prepared for?', that's where the real insights for the future of the industry emerge. For example, businesses are saying it’s imperative to place the customer at the heart of everything they want to do and achieve, but they're just formulating how to implement that in an integrated manner across the business and how it will unfold for the industry over the next few years.

“It's the same with understanding how to make the best use of big data and for developing smart, risk-informed decision systems so they can deliver prudent investment planning for their customers. These are the things the industry is seeking to realise over the coming years.”

The AMCV 2016 program had 44 participants, including 41 from the water, wastewater and stormwater sectors of Australia (24), New Zealand (three), UK (one), USA (nine), Canada (two) and Japan (two).

Signor said the findings described opportunities for research and investment that would drive productivity and efficiency gains in asset management.

“We’ve now got a very clear and articulated set of measures that the water sector itself is saying needs to be explored and on which research could be focussed,” he said.

“Targeted investment can unlock the potential of big data and knowledge management, assess new business intelligence and analysis technology, and how the customer and other stakeholders can be elevated to the centre of business decisions to make best use of precious water and other resources. This benefits the industry and the wider community.”

Signor and his co-author, WSAA's Greg Ryan, will be discussing what’s driving the water sector and how it might respond at the upcoming Ozwater’17 conference in Sydney.

To learn more about this session and others, and to register, click here.