Over the past few years almost everyone responsible for the management of public infrastructure has gotten used to the idea of considering risk and risk management as part of their budget allocation process. Risk and its management was certainly a consideration in the years when I worked in the public sector, so I wanted to share some of my own observations and thoughts on risk management.
More often than not we tend to think of risk in terms of the “bad stuff” that is easily identified. For example, some common risks that agencies face include running out of money before a project is completed or failing to build a road or a bridge or some other infrastructure at a sufficiently high enough standard and then having that piece of infrastructure deteriorate ahead of the curve that we had projected or even fail outright. Agencies are mostly adept at responding to easily identifiable risk, but agencies also face many other types of risk that are not so easily identified or managed.
The Hidden Risk in Your Budget
I was heavily involved in winter operations during my public career with the Indiana Dept. of Transportation and at the Indianapolis Department of Public Works. We always understood the risk of running out of money for winter chemicals, but we were less prepared if we had a mild winter and found that we had budget left over. Determining the most effective way to spend that extra budget proved challenging. Should we invest in new opportunities, or should we provide the money to an existing program? How would a final decision impact our overall infrastructure management programs and which option provides the greatest possible benefit and return-on-investment (ROI)?
The Federal Highway Administration’s office of asset management has published a series of reports dealing with risk management within transportation agencies. The reports broaden the scope of risk management out to the system-level and they echo many of the issues that we saw in Indiana. We’re already familiar with reports on the number of deficient bridges and the risks associated with not adequately investing to maintain our national and local infrastructure. Less well known are risks like failing to effectively allocate expected or unexpected funding to achieve maximum results.
If you are part of the public works team for a city or county agency, you might want to consider the following questions to determine if you have the right tools to make the most effective budget allocations:
- Are you using spreadsheets and or office suite software to determine budget allocations?
- Are you using an infrastructure management software system that ranks your needs based on a worst first approach?
- Do you have a toolbox that includes preservation techniques and a management system that helps you select the technique that best fits a particular situation, and can it maximize your ROI?
If you answered, “yes” to the first two questions above and “no” to the last, then welcome to AgileAssets. Our infrastructure management software tools are exactly what you need to manage risk and to project funding levels to match your desired level-of-service and to identify the optimum list of projects that will deliver the best ROI.
Our software platform is comprised of fully integrated modules that are GIS compatible and 100% browser-based to facilitate accessibility. We offer modules to manage just about any type of asset, and users can generate compelling, visual reports to share with agency executive staff, government officials, and managers across departments.