Thinking full picture, whole-of-lifecycle, integrated and people centred

12th December 2020


Taking a systems-based view of infrastructure for managing complexity and uncertainty in the operating environment

Over recent years, we have seen a philosophical shift by infrastructure owners and operators, a move from an asset intensive focus to infrastructure as a service with an end-user/customer outcomes orientation. This has paved the way for organisations to understand their nested role serving the individual customer, the local community, and connectedness to the State and National economies, and the Global ecosystem.

Infrastructure providing a service within a system of systems

Interestingly, this opportunity of thinking bigger first before simplifying to a solution broadens the strategic conversation to encompass a systems-based view of infrastructure, and further, that each investment whether capital or operational is an intervention in the system.

A systems view brings into focus the importance of:

  • The connectedness of economic and social infrastructure, natural environments, and how these systems can be integrated for optimized outcomes
  • Having regard to value in terms of outcomes and whole-life cost, and therefore making people the heart of infrastructure is envisioned, planned and managed
  • Sustainability and how this contributes to secure and resilient infrastructure
  • Digitization for unlocking greater value from the built environment.

[Reference: Flourishing Systems, CSIC, 2020]

HKA has partnered with several Victorian Government organisations to examine their performance and effectiveness in planning and delivering their asset agenda, and how these metrics link to service level and asset reliability.

In 2020 we delivered an Asset Portfolio Investment Strategy for the Assets Division of the Victorian Health and Humans Services Authority (VHHSBA). Through review and analysis, the strategy was designed to optimise service delivery through an integrated asset investment model, driving efficiencies through shared benefits. Our assessment of delivery priorities and blueprint for strategic framework help to strengthen and streamline the capacity of the Victorian Public Health Sector to deliver services to the Victorian community.

We subsequently reviewed the asset planning and capital development programming processes and functions of the Victorian Ports Corporation Melbourne (VPCM). This process examined the authority’s approach to maintenance and refurbishment, making recommendations for improved governance, efficiency and value for money in procurement.

Our analysis drew connections between the VPCM’s purpose and vision, and the process, systems and relationships that enable the organisation to be more accessible and accountable to its stakeholders, strategic partners and supply chain.

Review themes

Key takeaways and lessons learnt

  • Move towards programmatic approach to investment and reinvestment.
  • Consolidate understanding of the asset base. Build from this an appreciation of the timeliness and quality of information on asset performance and obsolescence and how this supports investment decision making.
  • Develop strategic investment plans with long-term planning horizons to capture and respond to the factors that influence the value realized for any investment.
  • Good practice can be right-sized for the organization and set the agenda for capability uplift and improved management of the volume and complexity of its program.

As a basis for developing blueprint strategies, systems and tools that empower people to better envision, plan and manage infrastructure, a deep-dive into the focus areas characteristic of a systems-based approach is required.

This would build understanding of the beneficial impact of a paradigm shift to systems-based thinking would have on the human factors associated with infrastructure – internal capability and capacity, external stakeholders, partners and supply chain capability, capacity and integration.

About the Authors: 

Nicolette Cumbo is a Senior Consultant in the Victoria Advisory Team. She has led multiple initiatives that have achieved business improvement and change in the ports, transport, water, waste resource recovery and affordable housing sectors and has delivered procurement, contract and delivery strategies, and culture, safety and risk management outcomes on a range of complex and political or commercially sensitive projects.

David Foxley is a Director at HKA and Leads the Victoria Advisory Team. He has successfully delivered numerous major projects in a wide variety of sectors including social infrastructure, transport and aviation. His experience covers the full breadth of the project life cycle including management of the business case, stakeholder engagement, commercial models, feasibility, planning, design, procurement and contract management.

Please reach out to Nicolette or David in our Melbourne office if you would like to discuss this article or hear more about HKA’s Advisory Services in Victoria.

Taking a systems-based view of infrastructure for managing complexity and uncertainty in the operating environment.”
Nicolette Cumbo, Senior Consultant and David Foxley, Director HKA

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