Asset management refers primarily to the management of tangible (physical) assets. However, in order to follow the basic principles of this discipline, the other relevant assets of the organization must also be considered with the same attention as the material assets. These other types of assets include: human asset, information asset, intangible asset, financial asset.
Information is one of the most important “resources” in any infrastructure asset management. The inventory data, condition data etc. for all relevant asset types in the responsibility of the road authority must be recorded, managed and efficiently provided to the respective decision makers. The first two modules of the asset management plan are already dedicated to the collection, storage and provision of information.
However, it often happens that the way information is handled in many organisations does not comply with the principles of asset management. One of the fundamental mistakes is to strive to obtain the information with the greatest possible accuracy, timeliness and completeness that the market offers, without taking into account the requirements of the real decision-making processes in the administration. The information must, instead, be treated as an asset and all stages, such as procurement and management, should comply with the general rules of economy. Particular importance is attached to the provision of information to all actors active in the organization.
It is always helpful to look at the so-called knowledge pyramid. It contains three levels: data, information and knowledge.
Data represent the direct result of the survey. They are regarded as “raw material” and are therefore usually not useful for direct decision making. Data can be considered, for example, the speeds of individual vehicles or the coordinates of the road surface obtained during the condition assessment.
Only the targeted aggregation or transformation of the data into key figures leads to data becoming information. However, when defining the rules for the formation of the information, the objectives of the organization must always be in the foreground. Information is defined as, for example, the average speed on a given route determined from individual records or measurements or the average rut depth in an evaluation section.
The existence of information, even of the highest quality, is not yet sufficient in asset management. Information initially represents only a potential value, while the real value is initially zero. In order to increase their real value, the information must be incorporated into decision-making processes, i.e. it must be made available to decision-makers. The scope and form of this provision must be adapted to the respective objectives and tasks, to the respective decision-making level and even to the preferences of the respective decision-makers. Only then does information become knowledge.
The provision of information for decision-makers, which in asset management is referred to as a knowledge base, is thus considered a very important and unfortunately often insufficiently considered stage on the way to giving information real value.