CASE STUDIES AND VALUE OF RESEARCH
Understanding Utility Performance in Asset Management:
the Strategic Asset Management Gap Analysis Tool
Jeff Leighton, Portland Water Bureau
The Strategic Asset Management Gap Analysis (SAM GAP) tool (order/project #4013), accessible through the
SIMPLE: Sustainable Infrastructure Management Program Learning Environment Website can be used to assess
the technical maturity of a utility’s performance on asset management.
SAM GAP asks for responses to about 150 questions. The premise behind the tool is that the scores of level and extent
of practice to these questions reasonably define the utility’s overall progression in asset management. Scores are on a 0
to 5 scale, from innocence, to awareness, to low, modest, substantial, and world class practice.
The Portland Water Bureau (Bureau) first used the SAM GAP tool at the beginning of its formal asset management
program and later on to measure improvements. The Bureau has seen some areas where substantial improvement has
occurred (organizational and asset management plans), but overall, the Bureau’s low practice level has improved to a
modest practice level.
The benchmarking is organized into seven areas, and this article will highlight five; organizational issues, asset
management plans, information system, data and knowledge, and certain processes and practices.
The Bureau has made a dramatic improvement in its organizational approach since it started asset management. The
SAM Gap tool suggests that the organizational aspects that really matter are a steering committee of top executives
who consider asset management issues, a single coordinator of asset management activities, and that the organization
create and follow a vision. The Bureau has done all those things, in part because the SAM GAP results guided the
Does the Bureau estimate the effective lives of its assets, or forecast future renewal liabilities? That is another set of
questions from the SAM GAP tool. The Bureau has put in place an asset forecasting model that estimates future major
repair and replacement of all of its water system assets.
To many, asset management is about helping the utility to manage risk. The SAM GAP tool defines risk management in
terms of whether there is a process for quantifying the likelihood and consequence of failure of asset. The Bureau has
created a methodology for risk ranking based on a matrix using a
1 to 5 scale for likelihood and consequence of failure. It has a risk
service level that defines mitigation requirements and time limits
for compliance. For example, assets with a high risk of failure
rating must be tested or inspected annually, repaired within 12
months, or renewed or replaced within 5 years.
How to Access the SAM
GAP Tool and Report
The Bureau does not possess world class practices in all areas of
asset management; for example, in its work management and
maintenance efforts. It is still a “work-in-progress” for certain
data and information system tasks, but it has an idea of where it
The SAM GAP tool is a valuable resource to help the Bureau
understand its current performance in asset management and
where it can make improvements.
Log in to the Water Research Foundation
Website at www.WaterRF.org, search
for project #4013. Both the tool and the
report are available under Subscriber
Report Options. To access the tool, go to
the SIMPLE Website and select SAM-GAP.
The SAM GAP Report explains how to use
SAM GAP tool and discusses benchmarking
results from 37 utilities.