A Technical Executive in our Advisory business, Toby shares his excitement about the increasingly broad definition of Asset Management, and the diversity that this brings to the discipline.
Meet Toby and the WSP Asset Management team at the AMPEAK Conference on 2-6 April in Sydney. Read more and register here.
Toby Horstead got his start as a civil engineer in the rail sector, but grew frustrated over time with the narrowness of viewing projects as isolated activities rather than taking a holistic and long-term view of organisations and systems. This has led to a keen interest in Asset Management, where as part of WSP’s Strategic Asset Management team, he is now leading the field, and challenging its very definition.
“Managing assets is more than maintenance, and Asset Management is more than managing assets,” Toby says.
By this, he means that Asset Management is actually about getting the most out of the resources available to an organisation, and no longer just about physical assets. Increasingly there’s a need to consider an organisation’s entire function, encompassing objects, systems, people, contracts, and reputation in order to do asset management well.
While traditionally, buildings, machines, and land might have been the main assets considered, Toby says that the definition of an asset is simply “anything that adds value to an organisation”.
Toby and our Strategic Asset Management team have even seen this definition beginning to extend to cultural institutions, such as art galleries, or botanical gardens, and have seen that Asset Management can play a key part in protecting cultural assets and looking after the people and knowledge embedded in these organisations.
A new kind of Asset Management
According to Toby, Asset Management has grown out of a very engineering focused space or a mathematician sort of area – however it has evolved to become more about culture and how an organisation operates to deliver. He says, “Having a good understanding of your assets and how they behave is still critical, but you also need to consider human capital, contracts, and organisational systems.
“There’s a lot of talk about how to maximise value from assets, but the more immediate benefit is that you see organisations start working together more effectively, and different departments talking to each other, so it’s a cultural benefit for the organisation too.” Says Toby.
To help organisations make this shift, Toby is passionate about encouraging more diversity in the Asset Management profession.
“We have people with backgrounds in economics, psychology, and change management joining the profession or collaborating on Asset Management work. It’s not only engineers anymore, it’s all about how you operate together as an organisation, so it’s important that we have a range of people from different backgrounds who can work together to understand the complex elements that make up the organisations we assist.”
Empowering an Asset Management mindset
Toby has been actively involved with the Asset Management Council for more than a decade. He has been a member of the Board since 2016 and is currently the National Chair. In this capacity, Toby has been working with industry to help governments and organisations build their capability in understanding and making decisions about their assets.
With organisations more and more commonly outsourcing the design, operation and management of infrastructure assets, Toby recognises the need to provide assurance services to give them confidence that third parties will deliver what’s asked, and that the assets are sustainable in the long-term.
Leading Advisory groups as part of the Asset Management Council, Toby has worked with industry proponents to educate decision makers on what to look for, and how to approach plans with an Asset Management mindset so that ultimately value is maximised.
“By helping build capability in this space, we are supporting decision making from a long-term perspective, and helping organisations to make sure they actually get what they need out of the assets they allocate resources to,” says Toby.
Furthering knowledge of Asset Management – in general – is also helping it to be deployed more effectively within organisations, as people learn that it takes a whole-of-organisation approach.
“It often takes a small team to manage a business system from an asset management lens, but it’s everyone’s business, everyone is an asset manager,” says Toby.
Taking on this mindset of shared responsibility, and assurance processes is important to ensure that due diligence is done, and unnecessary risks are avoided or mitigated.
Delivering a path for sustainability and resilience
Asset management offers incredible potential in delivering Future ReadyTM projects and supporting organisations to be sustainable. It’s embedded into the discipline itself, partly because Asset Management involves maximising an asset’s longevity and value, but beyond that it offers an opportunity to plan with future trends and events in mind. One example is mitigating the consequences of extreme weather events.
Toby points out, “We’ve just been through La-Nina and the associated flood events, and it shouldn’t have been a surprise because this is a recurring cycle, so really, we should be asking ourselves what we could have done better to prepare and manage assets, and maybe looking forward into what is likely to be a very dry period, how we can manage for those conditions in advance?”
Through this kind of thinking, we can ensure that assets like houses and infrastructure aren’t wiped out before they should be, and that they are fit for operational conditions. Asset Management teams can also embrace circular economy principles to extend the life of physical assets further, reducing the need for embodied carbon emissions to be produced by the creation of new physical assets.
For Toby though, sustainability is not just an environmental pursuit. He says, “We also need to ask, ‘Is the workforce sustainable?’ ‘Is the funding sustainable?’” Working through these questions, Toby and the rest of WSP’s Strategic Asset Management team help organisations to secure their ongoing prosperity so they can do what they do best.
If you’d like to learn more, contact Toby Horstead or visit our Asset Management page.