ASSET MANAGEMENT CONTINUUM: “Implementation of asset management along with the associated evolution of local government thinking is a continuous process, not a discrete task. We needed a way to illustrate this diagrammatically. This led us to the concept of a continuum to illustrate sustainable service delivery,” stated Glen Brown, General Manager (Victoria Operations), Union of BC Municipalities

Note to Reader:

The approach BC local governments follow for their asset management process is enshrined in the document Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC FrameworkThe important and telling part of the title is that Asset Management is a process to provide a sound basis for decisions relating to the function of service delivery. Assets exist and are created, upgraded, replaced, maintained, and operated to provide a service. There is no other reason for their existence than provision of the intended service.  

A Living Water Smart Policy Objective is to Create a “Sustainable Service Delivery Culture”

“Released in 2008, Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan is government’s call to action, and to this day transcends governments. Living Water Smart has 45 actions and targets, one of which states that: Governments will develop new protocols for capital planning that will look at the life-cycle costs and benefits of buildings, goods and services,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“The Living Water Smart policy objective is the genesis for Asset Management BC — co-chaired by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities) — which rolled out Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework in 2015.”

“Eligibility for senior government infrastructure grants is the incentive for local governments to embrace the BC Framework and thus fulfil the Living Water Smart policy objective. The BC Framework establishes expectations; it does not prescribe solutions. The Partnership is a champion supporter of the BC Framework.”

“Through a Memorandum of Understanding with Asset Management BC, the Partnership brings a whole-system perspective to the unfunded liability issue that is associated with drainage and creek systems. As UBCM’s Glen Brown stated at the Partnership’s 2015 Annual Water Sustainability Workshop,:

The ultimate vision for Sustainability Service Delivery is that communities would manage natural assets in the same way that they manage their engineered assets’.”

“The 2015 workshop was the forum where Glen Brown introduced the Asset Management Continuum to illustrate steps in the Sustainable Service Delivery journey. Over the years, we have evolved the graphic to improve the visual presentation. However, the basic information remains the same. In other words, the concept is standing the test of time,” concluded Kim Stephens.

The Asset Management Journey

“Implementation of asset management along with the associated evolution of local government thinking is a continuous process, not a discrete task. We needed a way to illustrate this diagrammatically, and thus communicate, what the journey by a local government to the eventual Sustainable Service Delivery destination would look like. This led us to the concept of a continuum. Over time they can achieve the goal of sustainable service delivery for watershed systems,” stated Glen Brown.

‘Sustainable Service Delivery’ Explained

“Glen Brown coined the term Sustainable Service Delivery in 2010 when he was an Executive Director with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Formal branding came with release of Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework in December 2014, and rollout in 2015. The emphasis on service is a game-changer for local government infrastructure asset management,” elaborated Kim Stephens.

“At that time, and thanks to the early work of the then newly formed Asset Management BC, chaired by Glen Brown, local governments were just starting to wrap their minds around the ‘20/80 Rule’ – that is, the initial capital cost of municipal infrastructure is about 20% of the ultimate total cost, and the other 80% is an unfunded liability.”

A Synthesis of Three Ideas

“Under Glen Brown’s leadership, the Ministry introduced the term Sustainable Service Delivery to focus local government attention on two desired outcomes that flow from policy objectives in Living Water Smart:

  • Shift the spotlight from the infrastructure itself to the service AND the level-of-service that the infrastructure asset provides.
  • Implement a life-cycle approach to asset management AND eliminate the unfunded gap for infrastructure replacement.”

“During a curriculum planning session for a local government workshop organized by the Partnership for Water Sustainability, Glen Brown synthesized three themes – financial accountability, infrastructure sustainability, service delivery – into a single easy to remember phrase: Sustainable Service Delivery. The rest is history, as they say.”

Guy Felio – Source of Inspiration for Glen Brown

“My inspiration came from Guy Felio, one of the original gurus of asset management nationally. Guy said, ‘It’s all about the service’, because infrastructure assets are worthless IF they do not provide a service. That is what resonated with me. Also, for any asset management approach to be successful, it must not focus on the infrastructure asset by itself. That way-of-thinking applies to nature and the environment as well,” added Glen Brown.

A BC Framework

“The core document for asset management for BC local governments is Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework. The title of the Framework is deliberate and important. The ‘function’ and responsibility of Municipal Councils and Regional Boards of Directors is Sustainable Service Delivery. The process to support decision making is Asset Management.”

“The Framework provides the basis for the entire asset management process for our local governments to follow. Funding agencies, as part of funding applications, request communities to identify where they are within the asset management process using the framework.”

“While much attention and discussion focus on the Asset Management plan or plans, there is much more to the process than just the plan. In fact, for Council, the implementation strategy and long-term financial plan are more important documents than the asset management plan itself.”

“In 2019, we updated the ‘Framework’ and added new supporting content in the form of four Primers.”

To Learn More:

Read FLASHBACK TO 2010: What was the genesis of the phrase ‘sustainable service delivery’ a decade ago? What was the process for mainstreaming the approach in British Columbia? How did it become an ‘actionable vision’ for local governments? As an outcome of the Worth Every Penny Workshop, Glen Brown synthesized four ideas into a single easy to remember phrase that became a game-changer!

Read Introducing the “Asset Management Continuum for Sustainable Service Delivery in British Columbia”, posted in February 2016.

Read YOU TUBE VIDEO: Message from Glen Brown at ‘2015 Feast & Famine Workshop’: “communities will progress along asset management continuum to incorporate natural assets and water balance services into Sustainable Service Delivery”.