Serious gaming strengthens collaboration in asset management

A digital serious game allows asset owners and asset managers to ‘play’ their roles in asset management for drinking water utilities, resulting in more mutual understanding and better-informed decisions about matters than influence stakeholders and strategic goals.

Drinking water utilities need to manage their assets – from sources and treatment plants to infrastructure. In doing so, asset owners operate at a strategic level: they draw up a system vision, they are accountable to stakeholders in society and they provide the financial resources for multiple assets. Asset managers work at the tactical level: they draw up the concrete asset management plans for specific assets and provide asset owners with feedback about the results. In the day-to-day practice of water utilities, it often proves difficult to bring asset owners and asset managers together effectively. However, that needs to be done in order to ensure that they work together to achieve optimal asset management and make sound decisions. This is why KWR has developed the Integrated Asset Management Serious Game as part of the Joint Research Programme of KWR and the water utilities (BTO).

Multiple rounds with strategic goals and ageing assets

The serious game distinguishes between five strategic goals:

  1. Ensuring that drinking water supplies are reliable;
  2. Reducing the depletion of the water table;
  3. Reducing demand for drinking water;
  4. Making water supplies more sustainable;
  5. Limiting disruption caused by maintenance work.

This digital game – which can be played remotely or all together in a room with a game leader – consists of several game rounds for asset owners and managers. Each round includes four phases:

  1. The asset owners set priorities for business objectives;
  2. The asset managers formulate several action packages for this purpose;
  3. The asset owners choose which action package to implement;
  4. Implementation: the game incorporates the choices that have been made and shows the effect on stakeholder approval (points added) and the impact on operations (points deducted when incidents occur). As in real life, assets age in each round, increasing the probability of incidents.

After several rounds of play, an evaluative discussion with both groups follows if desired.

Player ratings

Participants were mostly positive and they understood the learning goals: insight into the different roles of asset managers and asset owners, and the complexities of balancing different strategic goals in a context of limited resources. The game sessions experimented with the extent to which communications between asset owners and managers were possible in the various rounds. More communications proved to work better: in that way, the two groups understand each other’s intentions and considerations better and the difference in the availability of information is also bridged.

Do you want to know more about the Integrated Asset Management Serious Game? You can read the game instructions at Strategische besluitvorming, verkenning serious games ( (in Dutch).