Important Questions: The Assessment
The first thing is to assess where within the company is the IT Asset Manager (ITAM) role aligned.
Let’s start with some basic questions:
- Where within the organization has the ITAM position been “strategically” placed
- To whom does the ITAM report
- What is the current culture, environment and structure around IT asset management
- Who currently has responsibility for the 12 Key Process Areas (KPA)
- What is the maturity level of the IT asset management KPAs
- Running smoothly under the ITAM Program Management or
- Just starting and don’t know where to position the ITAM
- What is the “attitude / buy-in” toward getting an ITAM if the position/role is a new concept for the corporation and has never been implemented before
- Why and when was the position created
- What is the history and business drivers
- What are the major pain points and greatest losses
There are many more questions to ask around P&L, personnel, cooperative environment (or not), and current best practice use (or not). A company doesn’t just decide one day to create an ITAM position. There is usually a money loss involved and the company is looking to not have it happen again. Most of the issues involve instances such as hardware theft and software audits.
The Harder the Task, the Greater the Return
A well-positioned ITAM, in a mature environment, is the goal for every ITAM Program Manager. All ducks in-a-row and running well, but that is usually not the case. As we know, most companies today rely heavily on IT products (hardware and software), and the cost to connect, integrate, support, update, and maintain, as well as the personnel required to support the IT products and run the business.
Let’s look at the key process areas and how they fit into bringing the ITAM Program into maturity.
ITAM Program Management
Is there a defined ITAM Program Management governing body?
Some organizations have various pieces of the KPA running, but not under one umbrella. Having a procurement department is part of KPA Acquisition Management. If not centrally located and requiring everyone to purchase their IT equipment from one procurement department, the company loses out on benefits of major discounts, perks and support.
When all the IT hardware and software is purchased via one governing procurement department, the company benefits from the reduced costs and extras that can be negotiated through Vendor Management (KPA). The company will also have a better knowledge of:
- The IT products in the environment (KPA Asset Identification Management)
- Concise knowledge of how much money has been spent and where (KPA Financial Management)
Which in turn makes managing Projects (KPA) easier as the financial and IT assets (hardware and software) knowledge is readily available.
As a product reaches the end of its life, the question becomes how the IT product is legally allowed to be dispositioned (KPA Disposal Management). The proper IT disposal (ITAD) can bring a monetary return instead of just the cost of disposal. This is another area where a strong centralize ITAM program management benefits the company. This can also reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) when you figure in the costs to move the IT assets around the environment.
Issues also stem from not knowing the nuances around software licensing for example. The company may not know that the Policy Management (KPA) for license key proof of purchase / license retention is forever, and not just for a few years (Document Management KPA). This could get a company in trouble by not knowing the legalities around Legislation Management (KPA) to set the proper level of Compliance Management (KPA) to Communicate and Educate (KPA) the employees about the rules and regulations.
Let’s see how the KPA further define a greater control and return on investment (ROI) through their inter-dependencies.
Key Process Areas
The interrelationships of the key process areas (KPA).
Has the overall responsibility for the rest of the KPA as discussed above.
If the company’s Program management is not centralized or the KPAs identified are not considered as part of an ITAM Program, the new ITAM needs to identify the departments and personnel who perform the KPAs. Once identified, monitor the interaction or lack of interaction between the KPA owners.
A lot of kick back the new ITAM can receive will be around “you’re not taking my job away!” This happens when a company has been in existence for a long time, while at the same time not knowing the value of a full ITAM Program. The departments have attained their own maturity without program governance but have worked out agreed upon KPA among the departments. Metrics, rules and policies are created, reviewed and maintained, but the company may not know how all the KPAs work together or how the missing ones will assist in improving the overall maturity of the ITAM Program.
The gaps of understanding or lack of interaction among the KPA owners, legislation changes, business direction, all become the Projects required to bring the ITAM Program to maturity.
The main drivers of any business are:
- How lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
- How to raise Return on Investment (ROI)
- Increase revenue while lowering costs
- Reduce negative impacts to the organization
- Risk mitigation focus for each process
- Follow compliance and legislative rules and regulations
- Productivity enhancement drivers
- Brings smoother transitions to structure and growth changes
Look to the quick success projects to accomplish first. The harder the change, the less likely people are going to follow the new directions. Show the KPA owners how their departments and the company will grow it’s ROI and lower the TCO. Then train the company on the new process.
Communication and Education Management
“Communication is the process for sharing information and ideas using a commonly understood language that can be written, oral or nonverbal. (CITAM Manual 2008-13)” Education takes communication to a focused level pertaining to a particular subject or process in such a way that the person receiving the instructions can follow and perform the new task.
A solid communication plan can set the positive tone needed to get people to comply with the “education” that is needed to introduce common practice and change into the environment.
As the world changes so do the rules and regulations that govern business. These changes and the company’s infrastructural growth along with business direction bring about new practices in how you are “allowed to” run your business. The company’s Policy Management dictates the what and how processes can be used within the company to support the business.
Policies are very high order and restrictive in nature. The Policies set forth determine the scope of Process requirements, which in turn are used to create the day-to-day procedures to follow to attain best practice, lower TCO, increased ROI, and be prosperous while staying compliant.
Compliance and Legislation Management
Responsible for keeping up-to-date on all legislative and manufacturer changes pertaining to the use, tracking, and reporting of IT assets. Policy changes are presented to the Process Owners who ensure the processes comply to the new Policies. In turn, the changes are communicated to the employees as their procedures change to reflect the new Policies.
Acquisition, Vendor and Disposal Management
These three KPAs follow the end-to-end lifecycle of the IT asset (hardware and software) and are a major factor in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Having these KPAs working well together the rest of the KPAs will be easier to manage. The larger the company, the more complicated the business, the greater the need to obtain the IT assets at the lowest possible cost and at the lowest possible maintenance and support while growing the business.
Acquisition and Vendor Management go hand-in-hand. The longer the company stays with one vendor for IT acquisitions, the deeper the discounts, better tracking and support of assets purchased. Manufacturers sell their products for much lower prices to a vendor than to companies. The reason is the manufacturers don’t want to focus their time on maintaining the relationship of individual companies.
Giving a better discount to the vendor, the vendor can give the company a better discount than the manufacturer. Selling through vendors, frees the manufacturer from having to deal with multiple individual companies and the required client management, and are able to focus their energies on their product.
As we said, assets have a life-cycle and so too does the disposing of an asset come with a large set of rules and regulations around IT asset disposition (ITAD). There are various chemicals and metals found in IT hardware assets that corrode and cause problems in landfills. Gases can be created that cause problems when released into the air.
Also, not all ITAD companies perform the same disposition functions. You may be paying more for transportation costs to sub-sites contracted to perform some of the features your company requires for disposal when not available to the ITAD you contracted. A well research ITAD that fits your company’s needs is well worth the time it took to research.
The best reason to find the right ITAD for your company results lower TCO because “there is gold in them-their IT assets! And copper, and tin, and aluminum, and silver, etc.” The metals may not be in large amounts, but there is enough to have a monetary gain with the right disposition process and the right assets.
Taking the resalable components and metals out to see if there is enough recovered to cover the cost of the disposal and/or to make a return. It costs money to legally dispose computer and electronic devices due to environmental regulatory Polices.
Asset Identification and Documentation Management
Fall within the scope of “Acquisition, Vendor Disposal Management,” but are separate functions within the mandatory chain-of-custody requirements.
Each piece of IT hardware can be identified by the individual manufacturer serial number assigned to it, and software has a license key, edition and version. IT hardware and software purchases are recorded in the asset repository. When a piece of hardware is deployed a person’s location (workstation) or to the location of servers, storage, telephony and network devices, the information is recorded in the asset record within the asset repository.
For this example, the Document management of the tracked asset is an electronic repository. Other documentation (hard copy and electronic) can be attached to or referenced with the repository. By continually updating the Repository documents as an asset is installed, moved, used, removed or reused, the chain-of-custody requirements will be maintained from acquisition to disposal.
Unless the company has an exceptional relationship with their ITAD company, one of the scariest practices is to send the IT assets to disposition without knowing what was sent. Clearing out a closing office doesn’t mean the company can just put the stuff in the trash bin outside and call it a day. IT assets are fixed assets and need to be taken off the Financial records; and by law, properly disposed.
Financial Management is the most important part of the ITAM Program management, which is why we saved it for last. Record keeping of the company’s IT assets have a different set of laws governing them than say the company’s furniture or building assets.
The ITAM Program Management’s primary focus is on knowing not only how much value is in an IT asset, but its location “at all times.” This is called chain-of-custody: knowing where every tracked IT asset is, what condition it is in, how it was moved, how purchased, current value (depreciation); a software concern would be is maintenance and support (M&S) being paid, what year is the company is within the M&S agreement.
The chain-of custody information is usually stored in an electronic repository. There are usually eDiscovery tools that report back to the electronic repository information pertaining to the data about the hardware and software: computer (desktop or laptop), server, database, and storage device name; and if applicable, the user assigned, location, asset tag, serial number, name of software installed…
Another consideration: How do you get the IT equipment back when the employee leaves? Many companies have remote workers. How tight are the company Policies that govern one of a company’s largest spend? Are there penalties for stealing or damaging IT assets (hardware and software)? Is action taken when discovered?
IT Asset Management’s Position Within Company
ITAM is the hub of the center of a cart wheel – the area where the axle is attached. The dynamics of the business are the cart and axles attached to the wheels needed to move the cart. The business cannot move on its own, hence the wheel and axle combinations. The number of axles and wheels are dependent on the size and complication of the business.
The spokes on the wheel represent the key process areas (KPAs) and technical support required to keep the business running smoothly. Lastly, the tread of the wheel is IT Service Management keeping it all together. ITSM is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to keeping the business running smoothly and growing.