Like many, I was sad to hear of the passing of Steve Jobs. I didn’t know him, but I know his products and mourn the loss of his unique creativity and dedication to product excellence.
Like many, I also watched some of the documentaries about his life. I doubt that the impact of his inventions will exceed Edison’s, as some narrators opined, but every asset-intensive organization should take note of his approach to design and business and use this to improve their ALM programs.
I began my career as an engineer and was taught that form follows function – ensure that your designs meet every functional need first and only then worry about how they look to the user. But Steve Jobs showed us that form and function are inseparable and both have to be considered from the outset if you want truly excellent products and processes.
Development of an asset information management (AIM) program is a perfect example of how this principle can be applied in ALM. Most organizations focus their AIM dollars on improving the functional aspects of asset information, like completeness, accuracy, and consistency. But they will only reap the benefits of these efforts if people use the high quality information to improve their effectiveness and efficiency, which only occurs when access is convenient and easy. Furthermore, sustaining information quality depends upon people developing a vested interest in keeping the information complete and up to date, so usability and quality have to go hand-in-hand. If Steve Jobs was designing your AIM system I suspect that he would also tell you to include 3D models and GIS in your user interfaces, just to make it fun to use and ensure that it becomes a vital part of every ALM activity. As an iPhone and iPad user I concur.
Another lesson from Steve Jobs is the importance of completeness. Under Jobs direction, Apple controlled everything about their products. This enabled them to guarantee high quality in every aspect of the customer’s experience and, as we all know, they reaped tremendous benefits from this strategy. In ALM, smart organizations reflect the same principle when they adopt a holistic approach to the management of their assets. They recognize that design, operations and maintenance are equal contibutors to good returns on asset investments. And they strive to integrate these programs and break down the natural silos that develop and undermine collaboration. If they are like Apple, they also apply these principles in the way that they manage the ecosystem of companies that support their programs with products and services. They understand that they have to outsource work to gain efficiencies, but they remember that they still have to manage these companies closely to make sure that everyone always does everything the right way. Just like an Apple product launch, driving the maximum returns from asset investments demands excellence in every aspect of asset management and even a single misstep can be incredibly costly.