'It helps to demonstrate the potentially far-reaching consequences of what might, at first sight, appear
to be an isolated or relatively small problem.’ – Tim Winters, National Engineering Contracts Manager,
Founded in London in 1848 Prudential is a leading life and pensions provider in the UK. Its UK Insurance
Operations provide a range of financial products and services including annuities, corporate and individual
pensions, with-profits bonds, savings and investment products and Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs)
to around seven million customers. The business currently employs some 7,400 staff located in offices
in Stirling, Reading, Belfast, London, Dublin and Mumbai, India.
A key element in helping the business to run smoothly and effectively is ensuring that all the everyday
facilities on which it depends are properly deployed and fully operational. These facilities include
the buildings themselves, power, heating, lighting, lifts and so on. At The Prudential in the UK Tim
Winter, National Engineering Contracts Manager is responsible for these facilities and works with external
suppliers to provide this support service to the Prudential.
On day-to-day issues Tim Winter and his team have the budget and the authority to simply take whatever
actions are needed to keep the Prudential’s facilities running smoothly. The challenge comes when major
expenditure is required to replace or refurbish buildings or equipment, which are a cause for concern,
i.e. they are no longer adequate to service the organisation’s needs because they have insufficient
capacity or because they have become prone to breakdown. The senior management to whom Tim Winter must
present his case are extremely busy, with a range of responsibilities that include core business issues.
The problem is compounded because those senior managers are generally not technical people. Their area
of expertise is the financial services industry. Any tool or technique that can help them to make the
right decisions more quickly is invaluable.
It is therefore essential to demonstrate the issues to these managers clearly, concisely and non-technically
and even more importantly, to convey the consequential effects of particular purchasing and maintenance
decisions. For example, if the number of staff occupying a given office space increases beyond the levels
anticipated at the planning stage, the air conditioning plant may no longer be adequate to control the
environment on those days when the outside temperature rises above 26°C. The result will be that productivity
will decline and sickness will increase. This in turn will have an impact on the bottom line, because
there are insufficient people available to take customers’ calls, process paperwork, etc.
Dependency Modelling (DM) is a method of demonstrating the critical issues clearly and precisely. It
quite simply breaks down, any operation, strategy or project to show each step and the factors on which
it depends, in other words its dependencies. The output of all this analysis is a tree diagram showing
how the dependencies relate to each other. It also provides a framework for managing risks.
Microsoft Visio-based Visual Risk Analyser (VRA) is a dependency-modelling tool, which is very easy
to use. More critically, the management level presentation generated by the dependency model creates
an immediate impact. There is no need to explain complex diagrams; the message is obvious and clearly
understandable to busy, non-technical managers. High-risk status is show by a red traffic light against
the asset, which is at risk and to the building systems, which are dependent on it. As Tim Winter remarked,
‘The visual impact of the VRA model is undeniable. Everyone understands the significance of red as a
danger signal. The real value of VRA, however, is that it also turns all the other systems and equipment
that depend on the at-risk asset, red. It helps to demonstrate the potentially far-reaching consequences
of what might, at first sight, appear to be an isolated or relatively small problem.’
‘In addition, VRA helps us with our regular monthly reporting to senior management who need to assess
all potential risks to the Prudential’s business. VRA enables us to present this information in a very
easily comprehensible form, which, almost at a glance, lets management know whether there are risks
that have to be dealt with and whether there are risks that exist, but which are currently being managed.’
The reception from management has in fact been so positive that there is already a pull developing to
expand VRA’s use. The existing models might demonstrate that there is a problem with the power supply
and the engineering impact of this. Prudential are exploring the possibility of extending the model
to demonstrate the impact on the business. By working with colleagues from the business side, Tim Winter
believes it will be possible to build such an extension, so that a power outage is translated into business
impacts such as the percentage of customers who will be unable to contact the company or a late payroll.
At this point, the VRA model will really be talking the language of management, making VRA even more
effective as a communications and decision-making tool than it already is.
Equally, the model is very valuable in helping in the management of the Prudential Partners who are
responsible for the maintenance and upgrade of the facilities. The model helps to focus them on priorities.
The VRA dependency models are very easy to generate and maintain. It takes perhaps a day to model one
of the Prudential buildings, although the task of gathering and verifying the information to populate
the model does take a little longer. In the case of the two buildings that have so far been modelled
the task took about four weeks, tapping into the knowledge of the experienced team at the Prudential,
plus some survey work. Tim Winter expects other buildings to take less time, because the team has now
really understood how dependency modelling works and the relationships between different building assets.
This had to be worked out from scratch on the first two projects, but it will be the same or very similar
for the third and subsequent buildings.
In general however the recognition of how VRA works and its benefits come very quickly. A further encouragement
to its use has been the ability to import existing MS Excel-based information into the model without
re-keying. As Tim Winter commented, ‘Engineers want to do engineering, not fill in forms. If we had
provided a new category of form to be completed I think we would have had some resistance, but they
are already familiar with populating spreadsheets. So, what we have effectively done is give them a
great piece of software that expands on something they have been doing for years and turns it into a
new, powerful and inherently more useful format.'
The ability to publish VRA models as web pages will be important for the delivery team of 30-40 people,
who often never see each other because of shift working. It enables them to share information rapidly
and conveniently. At senior management level there is still a requirement to produce paper-based reports.
However, VRA allows all the key information to be presented on a single page, replacing the bundles
of complex information that so often fail to make the requisite impact.
VRA allows users to create a single model, which can effectively be viewed through different windows.
At the top end, the presentation level, it provides a corporate view of the whole organisation, with
the risk status clearly signalled by the use of the well-understood red-amber-green traffic light analogy.
With VRA the Facilities Management team are able to very quickly engage senior management attention
and get the decisions necessary to remove risk.
Downstream VRA helps to manage the partners responsible for carrying out the work on the facilities.
The contractors can be made aware of the priorities very simply. Similarly, Tim Winter’s team can tell
at a glance whether the risks are being reduced. More importantly it can help to align the partners
with the Prudential’s wider business objectives, so that they too understand the priorities for the
business. Tim Winter believes that this ultimately will lead to a much better and more productive relationship
with partners, because everybody is ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’, satisfying the customers’ needs.
This transforms the relationship with the supply partner into a genuine partnership.
The ultimate aim is that the partner will populate the risk models, publish them and discuss them with
the Facilities Management team at the Prudential on a monthly basis. Far from being sceptical, once
they were shown the VRA model, the contracting partners were so impressed that they already looking
to roll VRA out into other organisations for whom they provide building services. They see VRA as a
solution to a contractual obligation, which requires a partner, within the first 90 days of contract,
to tell the Prudential about anything they think is risky. This is as much a protection for the partner
as anything else, so that they are not penalised at some future date for problems that they inherited.
It is also a powerful way of getting Tim Winter’s attention, in exactly the same way that he uses VRA
to engage his senior management.
Indeed, Tim Winters and his team intend to use the VRA risk model as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI),
which will form a service deliverable.
VRA models can be generated very quickly once the data on the facilities has been collected and verified.
This in itself is a useful discipline, ensuring that all the necessary information has been collected
and that it does represent the very latest situation. Once this task has been completed, maintenance
of the model takes very little effort. As replacement, refurbishment and maintenance take place, the
information is updated in the model, ensuring that it remains a true and accurate representation of
Ease of use, minimal training and the ability to populate VRA models from existing Excel spreadsheets
has been an enormous plus factor in gaining acceptance of the new software. Users readily appreciate
that they are getting huge benefits for a very minimal effort.
VRA has the potential to change the way that Facilities Management see their task. They are beginning
to think about the broader business objectives, rather than simply their own, rather narrower property
objectives. The positive benefits to the business in such a change of attitudes leads to a better working
relationships and a more proactive approach to dealing with building problems. Facilities Management
become fully engaged in meeting business objectives.
The ability of the model to include so much information, while keeping top-level presentations so simple,
means that many other supporting information repositories can be pensioned off and all the key technical
delivery information can be channelled through a single document, the VRA model. The VRA model becomes
the bible that provides a range of information – management presentations, monthly reports, risk mitigation
and management status, contractor monitoring, etc.