Beyond If Beyond If
Q&A May 10, 2022

Data storytelling: Making the most of capital investments

A Q&A with our intelligent asset management and consulting visionaries

Woman writing on a clear whiteboard

Whether it’s the rise of smart phones over land lines, television over radio, or ride-sharing over taxis, changes from an evolving digital world affect us all.

In many cases, embracing new technology doesn’t happen overnight, and actually implementing new technology can be an even slower process. But, as shown by the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world around us – adopting new technology and reaping its benefits can happen nearly immediately.

As we continue navigating the new, technology-forward world created from the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, today’s government agencies, infrastructure owners and businesses cannot afford to shy away from intelligent solutions any longer, especially with more critical infrastructure assets reaching the end of service.

Owners must make asset management a business discipline, embracing a whole life asset management approach to remain competitive for tomorrow.

Let's chat with some of our intelligent asset management and consulting visionaries:

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Jacobs.

Alexa: Currently, I’m the Vice President of Jacobs’ Strategic Consulting practice in the Americas, where I’m focused on growing and integrating our suite of advisory solutions across Jacobs’ client portfolio. Prior to this role, I led Jacobs Strategic Asset Management practice and throughout my career I’ve supported a variety of clients – from United Airlines to the U.S. Air Force – in all facets of asset management.

Jennifer: I am the National Director for Asset Management, North America.  I have been working in strategic asset management for over 20 years, the last 8 years with Jacobs leading staff and advising clients, on best practices, tools and industry standards.  I strongly believe strategic asset management in just as much about cultures change, as it is about physical infrastructure, data and systems.  My focus on asset management has always been on how all of these various elements come together throughout the entire asset life cycle to truly drive organizational transformation. 

What is intelligent asset management and why is it important?

Alexa: Intelligent asset management is about supporting the end-to-end lifecycle of assets and facilities to maximize return on investment, reduce total cost of ownership, and improve operational requirements while meeting the needs of an organization.

Our teams provide an integrated solutions approach when helping our clients to think about their overall approach to asset management, whether it be through leveraging sensors and data analytics to understand operational demands or establishing enterprise-wide asset management systems that integrate various software platforms together to make improved decisions around capital (CAPEX) and operating (OPEX) spend or helping our clients establish business policies and procedures that enable cross-organizational connectivity to inform decision-making. 

Jennifer: The power of data and digital tools are what allow intelligent asset management to drive organizational transformation, from increased asset reliability, optimized operations, reduced risk and reduced cost over the life of the asset.

Organizations that successfully leverage data and tools and able to realize these benefits, improving both customer service and growth. Intelligent asset management is about a holistic journey to transform the way organizations plan for and manage assets.

“Asset management is unique in that it can affect every part of a client’s organization. When done right, a mature asset management program can transform a client’s organization into one that enables agile decision making that best balances investment needs and timing with risk associated with the consequences of failure to optimize operational delivery to meet its business needs.”

Alexa Braun

Alexa Braun

Jacobs Vice President of Strategic Consulting, Americas

How has asset management evolved and what are some of the unique opportunities it presents?

Alexa: More organizations are recognizing the value in taking a strategic approach to managing infrastructure assets and embracing the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 55k, which provides an overview of the principles of asset management and its expected benefits.  Asset management incorporates all phases of an asset life cycle, from business case planning to creation or acquisition through to operations and maintenance and ultimately decommissioning.  It also provides unique opportunities (and really requirement) for organizations to work across silos to align activities with organizational vision, goals and strategic objectives.

Asset management is focused on helping to shift client organizations from having a reactive maintenance environment, which can result in a significant amount of “down-time” or costly, emergency repairs, to one which is more proactive, which improves overall equipment life, stability and effectiveness and reduces total cost of ownership. Asset management is unique in that it can affect every part of a client’s organization. When done right, a mature asset management program can transform a client’s organization into one that enables agile decision making that best balances investment needs and timing with risk associated with the consequences of failure to optimize operational delivery to meet its business needs.

Jennifer: Organizations are recognizing that asset management is more than an implementation of an enterprise asset management system (EAMS) or maintaining an asset day-to-day. It’s an integrated approach to managing assets over the entire life cycle and leveraging the data that is readily available to drive decision. Readily available data includes everything for utility consumption at the individual asset level, failures capture in building automation system, spare part and labor usage.

Large organizations spend significant amount of money collecting data on their assets. Organizations today have an opportunity to truly leverage data by combing various data sources, sorting and arranging it, and then presenting it visually to tell a story and drive key decisions that will transform the organizations. 

How can intelligent asset management help solve some of our client’s biggest challenges?

Alexa: Implementing intelligent asset management strategies is key to address significant issues that impact a client’s business operations to the day-to-day lives of many in our communities.  Concerns related to aging infrastructure and its impacts on health, safety, social equity, business operations and the environment are highlighted in the news on a daily basis.  Implementing a robust asset management program is critical to the safety of our communities, to providing continuity in operations for our client’s organizations, and to increase resiliency in business operations and infrastructure in the face of climate change, socio-political unrest and cyber threats.

Jennifer: Intelligent asset management in its most simple sense is about harnessing and synthesizing data available on assets/infrastructure to tell a story and make decisions that align with a company’s vision, mission, objectives and core values.

Organizations that rely on physical infrastructure often aim to ensure their assets are available to deliver required service in a reliable, cost effective and timely fashion – and intelligent asset management strategies help to achieve these goals. However, more and more organizations are now thinking about assets management through a social equity lens which can at time tell a different story and result in different investment decisions.

Here are a few simple examples that demonstrate the intersection of asset data and social equity:

  1. Public schools houses – are they in the same condition and do they have the same amenities regardless of the neighborhood in which they are located?
  2. Light rail in urban centers – are the tracks equally above or below ground regardless of the neighborhood in which they are located? The above ground options present a higher safety risk to the public.

Intelligent asset management provides organization the information they need to see the full story and to make decisions on existing and future assets investments that align with their organization’s vision.

“Intelligent asset management in its most simple sense is about harnessing and synthesizing data available on assets/infrastructure to tell a story and make decisions that align with a company’s vision, mission, objectives and core values.”

Jennifer Mims

Jennifer Mims

Jacobs Director of Asset Management

What are some of the key challenges in leveraging whole life asset management?

Alexa: Intelligent asset management looks beyond the day-to-day operations and maintenance of any particular asset. Rather it is focused on how the entire organization works together to use a consequence-based approach to resource investment. By using a lens of risk to mission or business performance, organizations can better balance the need of investment with a clear understanding of the impact or consequence to the business, thereby optimizing investment spend and lowering total cost of ownership. Bringing different parts of an organization together from maintenance to IT to operations to C-suite leadership is needed to drive optimal asset management maturity. That takes time, money and leadership commitment to do it right.

Jennifer: One of the biggest challenges in leveraging whole life asset management is often the employees. For many organizations, whole life asset management requires changing their culture and as we all know, humans inherently resist change.

Whole life cycle management requires working across traditional silos such as planning, finance, engineering, IT, operations & maintenance, to collectively work toward achieving common goals and objectives. To do this, organizations need to be deliberate about managing the change, and implement communications and training strategies to support the organization as they evolve to become an organization that embraces whole life asset management and continuous improvement.

Can you share some of the innovative ways how Jacobs is leveraging intelligent asset management for our clients?

Alexa: In London, we’re part of an integrated team working on The Thames Estuary Asset Management 2100 (TEAM2100) programme, the Environment Agency’s largest flood-risk management effort. The assets in the Thames Estuary protect are 1.4 million people and some £321 billion worth of property from tidal flood risk. As lead delivery partner, we’re responsible for creating the asset and program management systems necessary to manage investment in maintaining the estuary’s 4,300 assets and we’re driving innovation at every stage of the asset lifecycle to better protect London from current and future tidal flooding.

Where do you see the asset management industry in 5 years?

Alexa: In the future, asset management strategies will increasingly leverage sensor technology, digital strategies, artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide even earlier insights to optimizing costs, risk and performance for client organizations.

Jennifer: In the future there will be more technology and tools available to help organization along their asset management journey. However, many large and public organization will still be focused on the basics of truly integrating best practices and standards into the organization so they can fully leverage the systems, tools and data available.   

What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs?

Alexa: I am passionate about making the world a better place.  What I enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs is the ability to connect expertise from around the world to tackle our clients most complex problems. Challenging the expected to make the world a better place is not something we just give lip service to, but something we deliver every day.

Jennifer: What I enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs is our employees.  We have so many smart and dedicated professionals working at Jacobs that I learn from every day.  I am continually presented with opportunities to work in teams, either as a leader or independent contributor, that leverage my knowledge and expertise and combine with others throughout the organization to develop innovative solutions to  meet our client most challenging problems. 

About the interviewees

Jennifer Mims - 504x504

Jacobs’ Director of Asset Management Jennifer Mims has 30 years of experience working in large, complex organizations, leading strategic initiatives and overseeing major programs. Skilled at helping organizations leverage technology and incorporating standardized processes, key performance indicators and various change management components, one of Jennifer’s greatest passions is working with organizations from the top down to make data-based decisions and create a culture focused on continuous improvement. 

Meet Jennifer
Alexa Braun-504x504

Alexa Braun is Vice President of Jacobs Strategic Consulting for the Americas. In this capacity, she leads a team of over 450 consultants and drives the growth and financial performance for Strategic Consulting services. Alexa has almost 20 years of consulting experience including conducting asset inventories, condition assessments, preventative maintenance, capital planning and investment prioritization for a wide variety of clients ranging from the federal government and municipalities to Fortune 500 companies such as the U.S. Air Force, United Airlines, Allina Healthcare, Amtrak, DuPont and many others. Alexa's education in urban planning, landscape architecture and environmental studies provides a broad understanding of the challenges clients face to create a resilient and sustainable built environment at a variety of scales

Meet Alexa