An ITAM Occupational Hazard – Becoming a Victim of your Own Success, ITAM Program, SAM

By Lisa Wilson

I recently found myself complaining (again) that executive management was not hearing my recommendations on how to incorporate Asset Management best practices into our program. Again, I was strongly suggesting that these improvements would mature our program into one that a $1B company should have.

As an ambassador for Asset Management best practices, I am often suggesting that it’s “2011 and we should already be working in an electronic world, minimizing or totally eliminating the need for paper tracking.” Well, we aren’t. In fact, we are doing just the opposite. Our processes are very manual and rely on a financial system that ghosts or impersonates a “real” asset tracking system.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have a fantastic, energized, and committed staff that is on top of every piece of paper that passes across their desks. We have evolved to be expert builders. We build spreadsheets that track assets when they arrive and build more spreadsheets that track deployment locations. My team creates additional spreadsheets that are used to track where the assets used to be. I’m sure you’ve guessed what’s coming next. We build additional spreadsheets to track equipment disposals. We are the Gods and Goddesses of Spreadsheet Creation!

At this point, you are probably asking yourself many questions like “isn’t Lisa the IT Asset Manager at Harris County Hospital District who is responsible for tracking over 20,000 assets? Doesn’t she know about the ‘best practices of Asset Management’? Isn’t she an IAITAM Fellow? How can she possibly be controlling her costs and optimizing the use of hardware and software without the use of an asset system?” The answers to your questions are YES, YES, YES, and it’s very laborious and manual, but we are able to pull it off.

Trying to relay the importance of automating and taking advantage of a specific asset solution to the executives of a healthcare system is more challenging than you could imagine. I often start off with the benefits because manpower and real dollar savings should be attractive to them. Then I’m ported into a major league baseball game. After I market potential savings, I get to sit and listen to a discussion about the 6A Nursing Unit and their immediate need for six new beds… Strike One! Then I’m told that the Teen Mobile Unit needs two new chairs and four new laptops. I hear the umpire yelling… Strike Two! Next comes the reminder that the EC Phase 4 project, which was unbudgeted, needs equipment to open and that the date will not be missed and it will open on schedule. The virtual umpire in my ear is now screaming as he yells… Strike Three – You’re Out! I walk alone as I head back to my team dreading that once again I must tell them that there will be no Asset Management System purchase in our near future.

So what do I do? Well, I don’t have a pity party and mope. I continue to build and innovate our procedures, implement and institutionalize new policies, and develop yet more spreadsheets until next year’s budget cycle begins. I ready myself for the infamous Annual IT Inventory Audit. As manual as our processes and tools are, the following graph demonstrates the success of our program that clearly shows where we started with CNL’s (Can Not Locates) before I took this job and where we are now:

So we are literally down to only one CNL! Wow! While talking about my successes and complaining about our lack of a true asset solution to a peer, he looked me in the eyes and said “you are a victim of your own success”! Boy that was an eye-opener!

I’m currently managing over $2M of new equipment. I manage a disposal process that includes auctioning equipment that still has life, bringing in six-figure revenue that goes back into our budget to purchase more equipment. I have negotiated a scrap vendor that we literally pay pennies to dispose of equipment that has come to the end of its lifecycle. We have implemented the DOD wiping of all hard drives. This wiping is a cost savings of < $13/per drive.

Below is a graph detailing ITAM growth over a two-year period. With that growth, we must attain SLA’s of 98% or greater. For FY11 we accomplished 99% with no new additional staff. We cross-trained current FTE’s and requested contractor assistance for PMO (Project Management Office) approved major projects.

I continue to build the business case for the purchase of tools to manage the lifecycle of IT assets and software compliance specifically. The lesson here is that you shouldn’t wait to establish an ITAM/SAM program. Even though I have a manual program, I am successful.

So now what… Well, there’s always next year?

About the Author

Lisa Wilson is the IT Asset Manager for Harris Health Systems.