In asset management it takes two to tango. Practices and technology have to work together to get the job done. Practices create information; software delivers it. Both are responsible for getting the operation the information it needs to make informed and educated business decisions—business decisions that help the organization accomplish its objectives.
Practices are the business processes and procedures that define how an organization conducts day-to-day activities such as managing maintenance work or procuring spare parts. These should be application-agnostic practices, independent of software functionality, that the organization has chosen to implement based on industry standards and organizational objectives. Practices can even be implemented without software (heaven forbid) using the paper-based method. That’s not an ideal method, but it will get the operation focused on the process. Practices contain business rules and define the what, where, how, when, and why behind the process.
Technology consists of the asset information systems (i.e., software) that collect, store, analyze, and report asset management data. In the world of asset management, the EAM software system is the main repository of asset management data. The remainder of the asset information team consists of critical supporting applications such as SCADA, BAS, HMI, and others that connect to the EAM system to share data. EAM software must be configured to support practices — not the other way around. Too often, an organization’s business process will be designed around what the software tool can or can’t do. Tying your practices to software functionality creates technology tunnel vision, preventing you from designing optimal practices based on the organization’s long-term needs.
At first glance, the marriage of practices and technology looks strange. One is stable, application-agnostic, and works top-down; the other is dynamic, application-specific, and works bottom-up. Steel toe meets pocket protector: not a likely couple. However, as with the Odd Couple, opposites attract. And once together, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.
The truth is, practices and technology perform different but complementary functions. They target the same objective but attack it from two different directions. The key is that they come together, integrate, and work in a unified manner. Practices bring the process, technology brings the tool set to execute it.
Like history’s classic duos — Lennon and McCartney, Laurel and Hardy, and all the rest — practices and technology are better together than apart. Each is good in its own right, but when they are brought together in a seamless manner, something magical happens and value is created. As with dancers, it takes two to do the tango.