Data Management


Operational procedures and maintenance activities need to be documented in some way. There are several options. A system can use a written program, a generic computer-based program, or a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS.) Any type of written or electronic maintenance program needs to include a mechanism to document the work that has been completed, so managers can track maintenance activities and costs on an individual asset basis.

A system can have a lot of data and very little knowledge if the data is incomplete, poor quality, inaccessible, or the wrong type. The system must determine what data is needed to make good management decisions for the assets, where that data will be stored, and who should have access to it. Once those decisions are made, it should be communicated with the staff.

Just as there might be data that is needed and is not collected, there might be data that is collected but not needed. If data is not useful for operations, maintenance, or capital decision-making, and there is no other compelling reason to obtain the data, it should no longer be collected.

At the beginning of an asset management program, it is unlikely a system will collect all the data it needs at sufficient quality, organized in an accessible manner. Most likely, system staff will need to determine what data they need to improve decision-making. They will also have to establish parameters for the data quality and determine the best method to store the data.

The system should consider data gathering and decision-making to be a cyclical process. Data will be collected and analyzed to gain knowledge and inform the decision-making process. This analysis will also point out weaknesses in the data, data quality, or data storage system. The system can address weaknesses and repeat the process. For the first several years of the cycle, considerable gains will be made in the ability to make decisions about the right way to manage the assets each time through the data gathering and decision-making cycle. After that, the system will still make gains, but the increments will be smaller.

A data decision-making cycle that includes data collection, data analysis, decision-making, and action followed by data collection, data analysis, revised decision, and action can be used to address many operational and managerial concerns within a system.

Data collection will look different for each phase of the asset’s life cycle.

Table 2 – Data collection tools that might be used in each Life Cycle Phase

Life Cycle Phase
Data Collection
System needs, growth rates, environmental conditions, general location information, possible options for construction
Information from other systems (roads, utilities, etc.)
As-built drawings
Operational procedures, maintenance activities, costs, staff time to complete
Track all repair information: asset repaired, date, how it was repaired, repair costs, repair time
Rehabilitation is often completed by a third party. System will want cost information and estimated asset life extension.
Replacement costs, reason for replacement
Disposal options and costs
Data Management
Widely available to system and community for input
Easily shareable with engineers and contractors
Incorporated into mapping system
Used internally, accessible to operators, maintenance crews and managers
Used internally, accessible to operators, maintenance crews and managers
Used internally, accessible to managers
Used internally, accessible to managers
Used internally, accessible to managers