29 Sep, 2023
Nottingham City Council work with XAIS

How can a small authority demonstrate asset management best practice during a period of change with limited resources? Mark Bradbury has achieved exactly that with the help of XAIS Asset Management, so we asked him to share his story…

Nottingham City Council has approximately 800km of carriageway with a decentralised Highways function split across the authority. Like many other smaller authorities, they face a number of funding challenges which has a knock-on effect in terms of the number of specialists the organisation can employ on a full-time basis.

Mark Bradbury has spent nearly 20 years at Nottingham City Council. Starting out as a Design Engineer, he has worked through Highways to take up his current role as Contracts & Compliance Manager.

His remit includes being Asset Management lead, being responsible for plant maintenance, being responsible for the Structures Team and leading procurement across Highways Services – currently comprising 34 Framework Contracts. He also leads the Business Support Function, Stores and Yard plus takes responsibility for compliance for the Highways Service.

To deliver on all of these wide-ranging responsibilities – including asset management – he has a team of 7.6 FTEs.

“When I started in the Contracts & Compliance role in 2020, I knew the challenge that lay ahead of me,” Mark explains. “The reality facing many smaller authorities is the need to do more with the resources at your disposal. With the incentive fund here to stay I had to find a way to drive asset management forward.

“Not only that, I had to figure out how I was going to improve corporate buy-in. How could I engage two Corporate Directors, four Directors and seven Heads of Service with me to drive actual asset management from the top of the organisation and make changes to how things were being done?”

Having had some experience working with members of the XAIS Asset Management team in the past, Mark turned to them for advice and support. In the first instance, this took for the form of help with asset management documentation and resulted in moving certain items forward, but it didn’t solve the engagement challenge.

The answer to that was to embed a XAIS team member in the organisation.

“Lisa came across from XAIS and joined us in 2021 – she became part of our team. She was set up on our IT systems and was given a Nottingham City Council email address which, to be honest, that made a huge difference in all of this.

“Now we had someone embedded in the service when we were trying to organise and co-ordinate workshops and quarterly meetings with all of our working groups. Recipients recognised the Nottingham City Council email address and, very quickly, also recognised a familiar face.”

“I don’t attend the 14 working groups anymore. Lisa will organise and lead the working groups and, if the discussions are covering specialist areas like performance, for example, Lisa is able to bring in XAIS experts specifically for those sessions. It works very well and offers real flexibility in terms of access to specialist help.”

Importantly, it’s not just Lisa that has access to that team of asset management specialists.

If Mark has a problem or something he needs specialist advice on, Lisa can quickly connect him with the right person at XAIS for a 15-minute conversation to establish exactly what he needs to do.

“That resource was never there before but it is now,” explains Mark. “Within the XAIS team there is a wide range of asset management experts but, crucially, they have local government experience and knowledge, so I have the chance to talk with people who have been in my shoes. They get the fight that we are in.

“As a result, I get the answers I need quickly, and, in many cases, I can also get help producing the actual work too. Whether it’s DfT returns or incentive fund assessments, we can harness the expertise within the XAIS team to get things done. All of which means I have the time to work on engaging key stakeholders to drive asset management through the authority.

“By working in this way, with XAIS as an extension of our team, we have accomplished a huge amount in a short space of time. Most notably, we’ve completed a number of different surveys to improve the quality of data across multiple projects and, perhaps top of the list, was the use of condition projection modelling to help secure a huge amount of funding into local areas and infrastructure.”

As you would expect, even given the great strides made in recent years, Mark is focused on continual improvements and identifying new ways to do things better. With a direct link to the XAIS team, he can get expert advice as he finalises new objectives and refines his business planning.

“What I need to be able to do is have sensible conversations with informed people about what we should be doing the following year, what we want to achieve, where we should invest and what we should put into our business plan.

“Obviously we can’t afford to do everything, but I spend a lot of time with the XAIS team looking at subsequent years and costing up different approaches. It’s not about one year in isolation but looking further ahead to create a co-ordinated plan that builds step by step and maximises the budget and resources we have at our disposal.

“Without doubt we have a much greater appreciation of asset management across the organisation, I can see engaged stakeholders and we are moving asset management forward. Crucially, we also know the gaps in our knowledge and, with the help of XAIS, we have plans in place to deliver ongoing improvements to make a real difference on the ground for years to come.”