Client profile: Blaine Parkin

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Name: Blaine Parkin
Title: Director of Corporate Asset Management
Company: City of Barrie, Canada

Tell us about yourself.

I’ve been working with the City of Barrie (City) for almost eight years. Five years ago, we embarked on an asset management journey and prepared an organisation-wide plan for all city-owned assets. We developed a strategy and implementation plan, and that’s when we engaged GHD to assist us with the initial policy, business framework and procedures. We are now two years into the implementation and it is progressing well. We are a small group, but we coordinate all the asset management activities across the City, as well as the capital planning and capital budgeting activities.

What prompted the City to turn to asset management for answers?

One of the biggest challenges we face is trying to balance the large demand for our services with a very small supply, and spread that small supply as best as we can. We realised we needed better knowledge to allocate the limited capital funds we have to the right projects, while at the same time sustaining service levels across the City. Asset management was the answer.

Two years on, what are the outcomes?

By far the biggest outcome is that we have made sound decisions to deliver the right projects. The rationale behind our decision making is sound because all those decisions are based on good analysis and accurate data. As a result, we have improved the accountability and transparency we provide to our residents. After all, it’s their tax dollars that fund our salaries and determine the work that we’re recommending. We want to ensure that those tax dollars are utilised in the most efficient way they can be, and that’s why our asset management approach is so valuable – it gives us the confidence we need to make critical decisions.

What's the key to the City's success?

We have been extremely focused on our asset management activities and managed early on to get organisation-wide support for our objectives. Municipalities tend to be very siloed, so at the onset we worked closely with GHD to communicate to our people that we are all on one side, working together towards a common goal to provide the best service we can to our constituents. The second key to our success is that we have aligned our business planning to our capital planning processes. This is a very service-based approach that begins and ends with the community in mind, and that's why we've been so successful.

What's the future direction of the project?

Well, the ultimate goal for us is to ensure that everything is managed in the most efficient and effective way possible. In getting there, we have some work to do on the data management side and also around some of our business processes. We also need to continue working towards tying the different levels of our asset management approaches together. That is, ensuring that at an operation level, we're marching in the same direction as the strategic level.

What's your tip for working with consultants such as GHD?

Be as open and honest as you can and approach it as a partnership. The true benefit and real value that the City has derived from working with GHD is that we’ve partnered together to achieve a common goal. Two years on, GHD has a deep understanding of our business. The team is familiar with our people and processes, but more importantly they understand our challenges, strengths, and weaknesses. On the flip side, we can leverage GHD’s specialist knowledge in asset management. This partnership approach with GHD has served us well.

What's next on your agenda?

I certainly see myself continuing on and advancing our asset management practices for the City. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a fair bit of work to do. We have assembled a tremendous team and their achievements are shining through. They see that they’re making a difference and are committed to advancing our asset efforts. That's what the future holds at this point.

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