Assessment framework to involve stakeholders in asset management

The sector study ‘360° stakeholder management’ systematically mapped out and analysed stakeholder involvement in three practical cases in asset management projects. It emerged that there are clear differences between the optimal involvement of stakeholders in the three different project phases (strategic, tactical, operational). The strategic phase is generally a ‘behind the scenes’ processes; it is only from the tactical phase onwards that consideration is given to whether opportunities to link assets are on the cards. Active stakeholder management is also important in the operational phase, especially to meet the expectations from the tactical planning phase. A new assessment framework simplifies an explicit assessment of the desired stakeholder involvement by drinking water companies.

The Dutch drinking water network requires constant maintenance, renovation and adjustments to changes in things like water quality and availability. Water companies therefore need to be able to work well together with other utilities, municipal authorities, clients and other stakeholders.

Stakeholder involvement is essential

Coordinating asset management activities properly with local stakeholders is essential in the increasingly complex context of climate change, restrictions on the surface and in the subsurface, and increasing stakeholder participation. Coordination with stakeholders can lead to alliances with other stakeholders, new integrated solutions and robust long-term relationships. The last element is also valuable in view of the implementation of the new Environment Act (expected in January 2022) because this Act requires water companies to play a pro-active role in the locality. Local authorities can also set out additional rules in their environment plan. Vewin describes active locality management as crucial for water companies under this new Act, and so the deliberate consideration of involvement in their own projects would therefore seem to be indispensable.

Assessment framework

In this sector study (Integrated Asset Management theme), a concrete assessment framework has been developed to consider stakeholder involvement explicitly for each project phase.

Considerations relating to stakeholder involvement in asset projects, including explanations of the various axes.

The assessment framework answers the key question for stakeholder involvement: why do you involve whom, when and how? The ‘why’ question goes to the heart of thinking about stakeholder involvement because more stakeholder involvement is not always better. Stakeholder involvement continues to be something that should be considered in the light of specific situations or projects. The assessment framework supports thinking along two central axes: a material and a relational axis that represent the central considerations in asset management projects.

  • On the x-axis, there is a substantive consideration of a sectoral approach – in which the focus is on the core business of asset management (assets for the extraction, treatment and distribution of drinking water) – as opposed to an integrated approach – in which the focus is on combining functionalities and taking advantage of opportunities to link assets.
  • On the y-axis, there is a relational consideration of a unilateral approach – involving stakeholders only for the required procedural coordination – as opposed to a multilateral approach – in which stakeholders are involved and contribute to decision-making.

The position on these axes can differ in the three phases of the process: (1) strategic phase – defining the objective; (2) tactical phase – whether and how a project can best be implemented in a specific location; and (3) operational phase – the realisation of the new asset.

Three cases

The assessment framework was tested in three cases: an extraction project (Luxwoude), a transportation project (Katwijk) and a treatment project (Bergsche Maas). Twenty-nine semi-structured interviews with parties in the drinking water company as well as stakeholders in the different cases (such as Staatsbosbeheer, the Dutch Agriculture and Horticulture Organisation LTO, local interest groups and municipal authorities) reconstructed the arrangements for stakeholder involvement in these cases.


On the basis of the analysis of these cases, a checklist was drawn up to encourage a conscious consideration of stakeholder involvement in asset management projects. Important elements here are the establishment of a project team with an eye for, and familiarity with, local developments; the identification and external monitoring of stakeholder expectations and needs; and the testing of these expectations and agreements made during the implementation of a project.

Work on the new intake pump station on the Bergsche Maas. Photo: Evides