The value of digital asset information management
26 November 2021
An opinion piece by John Adams, Head of Product, Glider
Asset management is the process by which data and information is collated and stored to obtain maximum value from the built asset itself, striking the right balance between performance improvement, risk reduction, cost optimisation and operational maintenance.
The most effective way to store this data and project information is in a common data environment (CDE). A CDE is the digital home for project information, where all data and details of a project come together and are stored in one – typically cloud-based – place. With vast amounts of digital data being created and shared during a project’s lifecycle, the CDE becomes the ideal environment in which to promote a collaborative working culture.
The CDE also stores and shares geometric information, such as drawings and model information, as well as documents like registers, schedules, contracts, reports, building on the concept of a “federated” model by bringing all project actors information together in a shared space. Hence, the CDE is the foundation from which to facilitate, manage and disseminate information between the project team to allow effective management of the whole project lifecycle.
With the growing number of smart buildings which are highly connected, the concept of building operators needing a CDE to manage their asset data first emerged in PAS1192-3:2014 and has gained significant traction ever since. This type of CDE is often referred to as an Asset Information Modelling (AIM) CDE. It is important to note that setting up an AIM CDE must happen significantly prior to handover to allow for data testing, systems integrations and validation and verification processes to be successfully managed. This will allow the project team to work towards a first-class digital handover which started with the end in mind.
To understand more about how CDEs can be configured to support the use of ISO 19650 processes, there is an excellent UK BIM Framework Guidance Part C document: Facilitating the common data environment (workflow and technical solutions).
Information Value Chain
At Glider we have taken steps to produce our own process for asset information management and developed the Glider Information Value Chain. A five-step process for effective management of project and asset information.
On a project there is always a need to ensure that the flow of information is not only connected, but to be confident that the process only requests and creates information that has value. Understanding and communicating the client’s/project’s ‘level of information need’ is an iterative process which will be refined over time as the project progresses. To add structure to this iterative approach Glider has devised this five-step information value chain.
When starting to build the AIM CDE, we first start with defining and communicating the data. We do this through a suite of information requirements documents which become the foundation for creating an information value chain. Structuring and managing information in this way will make it more accessible and improve levels of use, trust and transparency.
Step two in the process is collate and verify information, ensuring we build the right system to efficiently collect and securely store verified and trusted information. Step three is to connect and share. The project information can be used to facilitate information exchanges into other key operational systems at handover, which can avoid tedious data entry and remove human error. Moreover, the value of creating system integration which maintains links between the AIM CDE and key client systems, are significant as built assets undergo significant amounts of planned and unplanned change. The upkeep and alignment of data across multiple systems offers significant business benefits including providing empirical business intelligence metrics.
The fourth step is to evaluate and analyse. The federated data architecture of connected master systems of data records provides a wealth of information points throughout the asset lifecycle which can be aggregated and understood through the use of analysis and business intelligence software. However, these are only tools and cannot provide answers to unclear or incomplete questions.
To gain full benefit from this type of business intelligence system there is a need to structure the data in a manner that reflects the insight needed. The creation of a Common Data Model which defines the discrete information points that can be programmatically combined to answer defined business questions, as well as defining the source systems of the values provides a powerful underpinning for information analysis. This allows us to understand the performance of the asset as well as the performance of the project, whether its on time, on budget etc.
The fifth and final step is to exploit and act, using the information gained to understand where to improve the project, as well as which opportunities to explore next either on this project or take lessons learned to the next.
Once the information value chain is completed from the structured request for information to the inclusion of verified deliverables in business intelligence reports, there are a number of opportunities to exploit this insight for business improvement.
The continuous improvement of each element of the information value chain is akin to the tuning of a mechanical system, which can yield significant benefits to the current processes.
Furthermore, using this insight to prioritise investment in new opportunities is a key benefit of this approach. The creation and maintenance of an opportunities matrix, describing areas of key business challenges and potential solutions provided by existing or emerging technologies, can be supported by business intelligence reporting.
Value in practice
We have started using the information value chain on our work with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), an operating arm of the Ministry of Defence which plays a vital role in supporting the UK’s armed forces by building, maintaining and servicing the infrastructure needed to support defence.
The DIO manages around 1.8% of the UK’s landmass, including 115,000 non-residential buildings and 50,000 houses.
We have been working with the DIO to fulfil its requirement for an ISO 19650-compliant CDE, the need for which was originally identified under the BIM project as part of the GCS.
The Glider team, together with DIO, has worked to define a holistic set of requirements to be implemented using the gliderbim® CDE. This has become a key component of the DIO’s Asset Information Architecture to manage asset information for capital delivery projects and their existing estate.
The use of the information value chain has played a significant part in the development of the DIO’s CDE for its asset estates management. From the deployment of the AIM CDE to the development of bespoke DIO software platforms which now adhere to ISO19650-3 and creating the Definitions Catalogue to combine DIO and Industry concepts.
It’s evident the value digital asset information management brings to a project when done well and in a planned, methodical process, from design stage through to hand-over and into operation. Having a complete history of an asset, from acquisition to end-of-life, provides the basis for an accurate assessment of obtaining operational costs and peak running performance.
The information value chain is a structured and repeatable framework in which to effectively manage the information contained within any built asset.