A question of discipline

Asset management involves tracking the physical attributes - the make, model and version - of an organisation's hardware and software, but there's a lot more to it, says Daryl Frost of systems integrator Gen-i.

Asset management involves tracking the physical attributes — the make, model and version — of an organisation’s hardware and software, but there’s a lot more to it, says Daryl Frost of systems integrator Gen-i.

As an application service provider, Gen-i has a three-year contract with Tranz Rail to provide asset management, installation support and management of more than 1600 PCs and a large number of servers throughout New Zealand.

Is IT asset management widespread, beyond entering hardware and software into a database?

Definitely. Asset management is the discipline applied to the financial aspects as much as the physical aspects of assets. Having a spreadsheet with asset data is just that, a spreadsheet with data. Asset management extends to all areas of an asset’s lifecycle and all the associated processes. It means proactively managing your entire asset base from a cost, contractual, support and inventory standpoint.

Do many New Zealand organisations use IT asset management software?

Assuming that asset management software means an asset system rather than an inventory tool, only a limited number of organisations have a complete system or register available, as a fully functional system is expensive and requires experts to gain the most from it.

Many organisations use spreadsheets, bespoke databases or attempt to make use of leasing or financial systems. The reality is such practices require a lot of customisation, multiple data source systems and multiple resources to achieve a lesser result.

A system only provides, say, 20% of the effort with asset management. The most significant part, 80%, is the policing of processes to support the asset management disciplines.

Why is it important?

IT budgets are becoming smaller as business realise the IT phenomena isn’t delivering the business benefits first thought. Most businesses now realise that IT is an important tool to assist their business process rather the total solution.

Because of reduced budgets it has become even more important that IT managers know exactly what assets they have, what can be disposed of as redundant technologies, what is supportable today and their likely projections in asset quantity and cost for tomorrow.

We have also seen an increase in the number of companies that have equipment coming off lease from the Y2K period. Understanding lease options and returning equipment can be enhanced if you have asset management in place.

How much of an IT budget would asset management consume?

This depends on the size of the organisation, the degree of asset management required and support level from management.

We have seen an increase in companies wanting to gain control of their assets but unable to afford the system cost. Which is why we now offer an ASP asset service, allowing small and large companies to leverage off others to gain price breaks.

Is it just tracking hardware and software? What about financial and contractual information?

AM follows and records all aspects of an asset’s life from planning/forecasting through procurement and purchasing, into storage and installation, any repairs or additions and on to the removal and disposal of the asset.

A good service will offer such information as:

  • Lease costs, terms and conditions
  • Rental costs tracking
  • Recharge cost tracking
  • All one-off costs
  • Software licence usage

Does it provide much of an opportunity for cost reduction?

IDC suggests that savings of 15% on staffing costs can be made for sites that practise asset against those that don’t. Gartner estimates a 30% saving can be expected when implementing asset management in the first year with annual savings of 5% to 10% for the second to fifth year.

What size does a company have to be before it benefits from IT asset management?

Any site can benefit from asset management. It’s the degree and complexity required that has to be tailored to individual company’s requirements. A small company can implement minimal requirements whereas a company of 200+ devices will have other requirements.

Again, all companies should manage their assets, as they are a cost incurred against the profit line. Companies with 100 assets or more need to seriously consider the cost of not managing their assets.

Who usually does IT asset management — the accounts or IT department?

Many of the key functions of asset management fall to the finance department. However, there needs to be strong links to the IT department because of the data retained in the system. It can be particularly helpful to integrate the system to the IT service desk as means of assisting with first level resolution and decreasing the return to operation time.

Do you need to formulate a policy? If so, what should it cover?

Definitely, and the policy needs the support of senior management to be at all effective.

Areas it should cover include:

  • Support from management.
  • The responsibilities of asset owners.
  • The effect of non-compliance.

What are the processes of IT asset management?

Some basic areas to be considered are:

  • Decision processes for technology requirements.
  • Catalogue update processes.
  • Processes for purchasing of non-standard items.
  • Asset moves, adds or changes processes.
  • Resolution of non-recorded asset change processes.
  • Asset ownership dispute resolution processes.
  • Standard and non-standard software compliance processes.

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