How do you make sure that you meet your asset management stakeholder needs and expectations?
ISO 55001:2014, the global standard for Asset Management, places great emphasis on making sure that an organisation’s Asset Management System meets the needs and expectations of its stakeholders. In this article, we will discuss why this is important and recommend a tool that can help you to make sure that you understand what those needs and expectations are and identify the actions that are needed to be put in place to meet those needs and expectations.
Why are stakeholders important?
ISO 55001 defines a stakeholder as a “Person or organisation that can affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision or activity” with a note stating that “A stakeholder can also be referred to as an interested party”. Other management system standards including ISO 9001 (Quality), ISO 14001 (Environment) and ISO 45001 (Safety) refer to an ‘interested party’ rather than ‘stakeholder’, but the two terms are interchangeable. A common requirement across all of these management system standards is to understand the needs and expectations of stakeholders/interested parties (Clause 4.2).
Understanding stakeholder needs and expectations is important for two reasons.
First, at a strategic level, the needs and expectations of key external stakeholders are vital inputs into your organisation’s strategic planning process. Their needs shape the objectives (the “results to be achieved”) that the organisation sets for itself and the strategies and plans that it adopts for achieving those objectives. Indeed the organisation’s very reason for existence revolves around the need to meet stakeholder’s needs and expectations. Consequently, your Asset Management System needs to support meeting these needs and expectations.
Secondly, the needs and expectations of stakeholders also shape Asset Management decisions in a more tactical sense. The very definition of stakeholder tells us why we need to understand their needs and expectations, i.e. we can affect them, or they can affect us, by decisions made and activities performed. Consequently, if we don’t understand and properly manage the needs and expectations of stakeholders at all levels, then we run the risk of not delivering the required value proposition to the organisation. If some of the needs and expectations of stakeholders relate to compliance with mandatory regulatory or statutory requirements, a lack of understanding or management can potentially result in the risk of having your moral or legal license to operate removed. Increasingly we are seeing the rise in importance for organisations to have in place robust Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices that meet the community’s moral and ethical expectations and not just meet legal obligations. The recent incident involving Rio Tinto Iron Ore at the Juukan Gorge caves is just one example of the power of stakeholders to influence an organisation’s reputation and affect the future operations of an entire industry.
When you know who your stakeholders are, and understand their specific needs and expectations, you can then make decisions, perform actions and set objectives regarding:
- The types of assets that are needed, where they need to be located and the ownership model for those assets;
- The performance required from those assets, and how many assets of each type you actually need;
- The processes and/or procedures that need to be established and sustained within your own organisation to allow you to meet those needs and expectations, including the methods and frequency of communications with stakeholders; and
- The roles and responsibilities relating to meeting these needs and expectations.
However, before you can understand their needs and expectations, you first need to determine who you consider to be a stakeholder.
As an assessor, often the response I first get when I ask someone “who are your stakeholders?” is a pause…followed by an ‘umm’ and then a list of the most obvious broad categories of candidates, like ‘customers’ or ‘State Government’. However, within these broad groups, there is more than likely to be sub-groups who have unique and individually specific needs and expectations.
For example, your organisation may need to comply with different regulations that are administered by different Government Departments at a national, state and/or local level. Often these broad categories of stakeholders may be captured in strategic level documents with broad statements like ‘Comply with relevant regulations’, but this needs to be further refined so that individual regulatory needs and expectations are specifically identified and articulated, e.g. Comply with Regulation XYZ with annual compliance reporting by 30 November.
In addition, there may be situations where a legal contract exists between your organisation and a supplier/contractor that puts in place required needs and expectations of both parties. In order to ensure that the contractual obligations are met, you need to ensure that you have identified the key stakeholders to a level of detail that allows you to capture these needs. We have certainly seen instances where:
- The contract had missing, incomplete or ambiguous requirements for both parties;
- There were requirements stated in the contract that were not actually required, perhaps left in from using a standard contract template; and/or
- Both parties were not complying with certain contractual requirements, i.e. specified needs and expectations were not being adequately addressed.
Various templates can be used for identifying stakeholders, but the process typically starts with a brain storming activity. However, the key to success is ensuring that stakeholders are identified to a sufficient level of granularity to ensure that the specific needs and expectations can be articulated; particularly if these relate to regulatory or contractual requirements.
A suggested tool for capturing stakeholders’ needs and expectations
A tool that is frequently used to capture stakeholder needs and expectations relating to mandatory requirements is a Compliance Register, however, this register tends to focus purely on legislative and regulatory requirements, typically those mandated by Government Departments and related agencies. While these requirements obviously represent great risk to the organisation if they are not complied with, they represent an absolute minimum level requirements that need to be satisfied. Indeed, the Global Forum on Maintenance and Asset Management(GFMAM) The Asset Management Landscape document contains a subject called ‘Technical Standards & Legislation’ which is aimed at ensuring (amongst other things) that these mandatory requirements are captured and addressed at all stages in the asset lifecycle.
However, under the broad requirement of ISO 55001:2014, stakeholder needs and expectations also need to be considered elsewhere when developing your Asset Management System. This includes the requirement for these to be considered when developing your Organisation’s Strategic Plan, Strategic Asset Management Plan (SAMP), Asset Management Plans. Your asset management processes and procedures will also often need to address stakeholder needs, especially those involving the provision of mandatory reports to key stakeholders. Often relevant stakeholder needs and expectations are captured separately in each of these documents.
Our suggestion, however, is that all stakeholder needs and expectations should be first captured in a consolidated stakeholder register/database. We have found that this is something that typically doesn’t exist in most organisations. This consolidated stakeholder register/database would:
- Be authorised and controlled, assigned an owner(s), and periodically reviewed and updated;
- Be communicated and accessible to all the parts of the organisation, e.g. by being placed on the organisation’s intranet web page;
- Provide links to any relevant plans, procedures, agreements and/or contracts that contain details regarding specific stakeholder needs and expectations and actions required; and
- Assist in providing evidence to support compliance with Clause 4.2 of any applicable ISO management system standard.
Keeping it simple, our suggestion is to create the stakeholder register using MS Excel. The following are suggested fields that could be used in your Stakeholder Register spreadsheet:
- Stakeholder name, e.g. Mister Aircon;
- Stakeholder category, e.g. Contractor, Customers and Community, Government. This could be a dropdown field in the spreadsheet or, depending upon the number of stakeholders you have, could be separate sheets in your spreadsheet for each category of stakeholder;
- A summary of the relationship and key requirements, e.g. a 3 year maintenance contract for air-conditioning with options of 2 x 1 year extensions, monthly performance reporting;
- References and hyperlinks to key documents and agreements that capture these requirements, e.g. Aircon Maintenance Contract;
- The expiry date of any agreement or contract that specifies the stakeholder requirements, e.g. 30 November 2020 with agreement on an option extension by 31 August 2020;
- Identified plans, processes and/or procedures (with hyperlinks) that may be influenced by the identified stakeholder needs and expectations, e.g. Air-conditioning Asset Management Plan, Incident Reporting Procedure; and
- Your organisation’s main point of contact for managing the relationship and ensuring any renewal or updates of requirements are communicated to relevant stakeholders within your organisation, e.g. Joe Bloggs, Engineering Manager.
As a controlled document, processes also need to be put in place around the management of this Stakeholder Register to ensure the information remains current and accurate, information quality is maintained and the contents of the register is available and communicated to your organisation to support your Asset Management System and subsequent asset management decision making activities.
In this article, we have discussed the importance of understanding the needs and expectations of your stakeholders, how to identify stakeholders and suggested using a consolidated Stakeholder Register to capture and communicate their needs and expectations. Developing such a register will support your organisation’s ability to demonstrate alignment/compliance with the requirements of Clause 4.2 in ISO 55001 and many of the other ISO management system standards. More importantly, developing a tool like a consolidated Stakeholder Register with allow your organisation to deliver greater value and understand and mitigate any stakeholder related risks.
If you would like further guidance or assistance on this, or any other matter relating to Asset Management, please contact us. We would be delighted to try and help.
 GFMAM, Mar 14, The Asset Management Landscape, Second Edition, English Version