Use of Functional Silos to Optimize Agency Decision-Making

Available Documents
Quarterly Report December 2004
Quarterly Report June 2005
Quarterly Report September 2005
Quarterly Report December 2005
Quarterly Report March 2006
Quarterly Report June 2006
Quarterly Report September 2006
Quarterly Report December 2006
Quarterly Report March 2007
Quarterly Report June 2007
Quarterly Report September 2007
Quarterly Report December 2007
Quarterly Report March 2008
Project Proposal
Managing the Asset Management Process

Primary Investigator
Omar Smadi, PhD
Co-Principal Investigator
Research Scientist
email: smadi[at]

Tom Maze, PE. PhD
Co-Principal Investigator
Professor of Civil Engineering
email: tmaze[at]­

Project Objective
Typical state transportation agencies (STAs) tend to organize into functionally focused units. The common experiences foster professional growth, expertise within the functional area, and therefore becomes, how can an agency use these functional units to optimize agency resource allocations. If functional and geographical units or “silos” remain, how can a decision-maker compare the needs and priorities of one silo versus another? How can they foster communication between silos to ensure that employees understand the larger picture and that the function is not optimized at the expense of the larger system or service?

Project Abstract
While clustering professionals and support staff around functionally focused groups makes sense from an expertise development and efficiency ­­stand point, it may not make sense from an asset management perspective. Asset management takes a holistic view of all physical and human assets and allocates resources so that the return on investment is maximized. Returns on investment for public agencies are usually measured through user benefits rather revenues. This holistic view of asset management assumes that tradeoffs can be made between categories of investments to determine where return on investment is maximized.
In reality, moving financial resources between functional areas may have legal, administrative, and other institutional barriers. Even if the workforce is willing to be shifted, moving human resources from one functional area to another reduces the ability to build expertise and efficiencies. Further, the state-of-the-art of asset management is just beginning to evolve to the point where we are able to understand benefit trade-offs between different allocations of resources. Thus, it is often difficult to shift human and financial resources to functional areas where the most benefits will be earned, and we are only beginning to understand the implication on user benefits of shifting resources from one functional are to the next. The rigidity of the system makes it difficult to achieve the asset management objective of viewing resource allocation decisions from a holistic perspective

Task Descriptions

  1. A summary of best practices used to compare information received from functional and modal silos to make agency-wide decisions
  2. A synthesis of performance measure being used in the surveyed State DOTs and desirable measures that are not used within these functional silos.
  3. An analysis of the means (i.e. software, data bases, analytical tools and processes) and benefits of integrating, coordinating and communicating objective information across functional silos.
  4. A model and set of guidelines to help DOTs use or modify these best practices strategies effectively.
  5. A review of barriers that may exist that might inhibit or foster the use of these strategies.
  6. A set of guidelines to help local agencies use these best practices strategies in their respective states.

Each task will result in a written document, sometimes called a technical memorandum or synthesis. The final report will make adjustments to the chapters for flow and consistency and include an introduction and conclusion.

Relationship to Order Research Projects
Transportation Asset Management Pooled Fund Research Program TP-F(036)

Technology Transfer Activities
Technical memorandum and presentations to state DOTS. One of the focal points is a workshop involving the development of a set of guidelines to help agencies use or adapt the best practices strategies. The workshop will be scheduled either immediately before or immediately after an event where a number of management employees will be in attendance anyway (e.g., a regional or national AASHTO meeting). The workshop will allow the researchers to present the best practices and allow the STA participants to both discuss how resource allocation is conducted in their agencies and how they might be able to incorporate the best practices found by the research

Potential Benefits
Provides agencies with a way to optimize their decision making using resources already in place

Project Information

  • Milestones, Dates: Project Start Date: January 1, 2005. Project End Date: December 31, 2005; Extended to: December 31, 2007
  • Budget: $111,375
  • Student Involvement: 1 graduate student
  • TRB Keywords: Asset Management, Decision-making, Expert Systems
  • Primary Subject: Transportation Asset Management
  • Modal Orientation: Highway
  • Project Number: 05-05