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ERM - Assessing Financial Risk at the Program and Enterprise Levels
Financial risks can threaten the strategic objectives of transportation agencies - e.g., the safe and reliable and efficient movement of people and goods. For example, the Highway Trust Fund is tied to taxes on gas and diesel. However, the recent COVID-19 pandemic greatly reduced American consumption, thus dramatically reducing revenues. State DOTs have seen their budgets slashed by 30% or more, forcing delays in some projects. Furthermore, external mandates can impose both risks and opportunites. A well-funded mandate could mean state DOTs have additional funding for enhancing resilience, while an unfunded mandate could force a DOT to choose between maintenance and projects. The objective of this project is to help transportation leaders with decision-making tools for allocating limited resources when subjected to unpredicatable financial conditions.
Literature Search Summary
This research need was recommended and prioritized through multiple stakeholder engagements during the 20-123 project. No related literature was found that incorporated financial risk at the enterprise and program levels. In addition, the recent COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the consequences of income and financial instability in transportation agencies.
The importance of incorporating risk at the enterprise and program levels has been recognized, and AASHTO published a guide summarizing how DOTs can establish and benefit from an enterprise risk management (ERM) program (AASHTO Guide for Enterprise Risk Management, 2016). This guide divides risk into four levels: enterprise, program, project, and activity. Risks to the enterprise are identified as the risks that affect the organization and its strategic objectives; while risk to the program includes risks that are “common to group of projects that achieve strategic goals” or those that “could affect the performance of major programs such as safety, pavements, bridges, maintenance, information technology, local programs, project delivery, finance, and human resources”. The guide provides an overview on what enterprise risk management is, highlights the benefits, and also includes information of how to identify, assess and manage those risks. However, further guidance and methodologies on how to assess and manage financial risks at the enterprise and program levels are still needed.
The purpose of the proposed research project is to provide state DOTs with the necessary tools to assess and manage financial risk at the enterprise and program levels.
The specific research tasks to accomplish the main objective include:
• Task 1 – Conduct an in-depth literature review of all studies related to assessment and management of financial risks in transportation agencies, especially at the enterprise and program levels, including national and international examples as available.
• Task 2 – Conduct a gap assessment of the state of practice to determine what is still needed to incorporate financial risk at the enterprise and program levels.
• Task 3 – Develop a methodology for identifying and quantifying financial risks at the enterprise and program levels.
• Task 4 – Develop metrics and performance indicators for evaluating effectiveness of financial risk countermeasures.
• Task 5 – Develop decision-making tools for resource allocation under conditions of financial uncertainty.
• Task 6 – Develop methodology and guidance on consideration of program and potentially project-level financial risk within the enterprise.
• Task 7 – Pilot test the developed processes with multiple state DOTs and revised methodology as needed.
• Task 8 – Develop an implementation guide to help state DOTs to incorporate these processes into existing agency programs and projects.
Urgency and Potential Benefits
The recent COVID-19 pandemic greatly reduced American consumption, thus dramatically reducing revenues. State DOTs have seen their budgets slashed by 30% or more, forcing delays in some projects and reductions in workforce. A well-funded mandate could mean state DOTs have additional funding for enhancing resilience, while an unfunded mandate could force a DOT to choose between maintenance and projects. Not having the necessary funding for certain programs or projects may have a short or long term negative impacts on agency mission (e.g., lack of funding to continue or improve safety programs).
This project aims to provide transportation leaders with the necessary decision-making tools for allocating resources when subjected to unpredicatable financial conditions in order to reduce risks and increase the return on investment (ROI).
In order to implement financial risk assessments at the enterprise level, senior executives and policy makers need to take the lead and champion these initiatives.
Similarly, program managers need to take the major role on encouraging the implementation of financial risk assessments into program level.
It is key that senior executives, policy makers and program managers need to have a communication plan to communicate with peers on their areas in order to assess the financial risks to multiple programs and/or projects that may affect each other. In addition, providing staff training on the subject of financial risk, especially at the enterprise and program levels, is a key factor on successful implementation. Training material (including guidance, workshops, peer exchanges, etc.) to help implementation champions should be developed and used to create awareness and facilitate assessments.
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Rank 5 in 2021