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Four strategies to improve asset management

Four strategies to improve asset management

If you don't know what you have and how it's being used, you can't manage it.That statement of the obvious underscores the importance of asset management

If you don't know what you have and how it's being used, you can't manage it. That statement of the obvious underscores the importance of asset management. Well-defined practices and processes governing the acquisition, maintenance, and implementation of IT products and services form an essential foundation of an effective long-term business and IT performance improvement strategy. Put differently, IT organizations that ignore the fundamentals of asset management have little chance of addressing loftier goals such as maximizing ROI of IT investment and ensuring IT/business alignment.

While clearly important, undertaking an asset management initiative can be like deciding to clean out an overly cluttered garage; namely, where to begin?

Based on analyses of large IT organizations, Compass has identified four "Quick Win" strategies comprised of specific steps, policies, and processes designed to produce immediate and measurable gains in asset management capabilities. In addition to delivering immediate and visible results, these strategies can establish a foundation for longer-term benefits such as better information for planning, and greater access to information for first- and second-level support personnel. These improvements, in turn, enhance productivity and efficiency of problem diagnosis, and enable effective chargeback programs.

Quick Win #1: Conduct a sample inventory audit to assess the true accuracy and validity of asset management records

While tracking the number of devices and their location is relatively common, many organizations do not track information on hardware make, model, year, software installed, or components attached. These details provide support personnel and planners knowledge about the environment that's needed to address basic asset management objectives.

The sample audit process is straightforward: A number of workstations, selected at random from throughout the organization, are examined. Detailed data on type of device, hardware and software configuration, and location is collected and compared against information residing in the existing asset management database. Through this comparison, discrepancies are revealed, root cause analysis performed, and corrective actions taken. Rather than merely fixing errors, the analysis should identify the process break-downs that allow inaccuracies to creep in over time. On-going evaluation and re-design of support processes relating to asset management ensures alignment between asset management systems and what's really in place. Absent such processes, the accuracy of asset management systems can deteriorate quickly as assets change hands, are moved, software and hardware is added or upgraded, or assets are lost or stolen.

Immediate benefits of a sample audit include identifying redundancies in hardware devices and software licenses - this can aid in efforts to reduce the number of suppliers, increase purchasing leverage with those suppliers, and lower costs over time. The initial sampling also quantifies the accuracy of existing asset measures (or lack thereof), and provides a baseline against which the success of other initiatives can be gauged. Finally, the sample audit can focus the business and suppliers on the various issues surrounding the accuracy of asset reporting.

Quick Win #2: Identify key performance indicators to highlight strengths and improvement opportunities and to measure performance and progress over time

Defining a manageable number of key performance indicators can be a critical first step toward addressing the daunting challenge of measuring progress in asset management. Basic measures to track include percentage of devices lost or stolen, and effort spent per week in investigation of unknown devices.

In leased environments, meanwhile, a complete set of metrics focused specifically on lease management processes is essential. These metrics should be reported weekly or monthly, and communicated throughout the organization and across vendors, with progress monitored over time. For tracking and reporting measures of, for example, lease returns and damages, sample metrics may include:

- Percentage of devices returned early, on-time, and late

- Percentage of devices for which damage charges are levied

- Monthly cost of damages per 1,000 returned devices

- Monthly cost of early returns per 1,000 returned devices

- Monthly cost of lease payments beyond end of lease per 1,000 leased devices

- Percentage of end of lease devices for which lessor does not provide notice within agreed period

Tracking key performance indicators can provide insight into issues surrounding asset management and how leading practices can support business objectives.

Quick Win #3: Refine the description of asset management services and introduce service level metrics to manage those services.

Few service providers - either internal or external - do an effective job at defining specific tasks related to asset management. In outsourced environments, this must be addressed within the master service agreement that outlines the services, roles, and responsibilities of the services provided. For in-house environments, the communication of services and setting of expectations is best handled through a customer-facing service catalogue. In either case, service level metrics and management targets can be used to proactively manage AM services, by defining the roles and responsibilities of each party at the task level.

Key activities include engaging business users to determine the required service levels related to asset management. This information can then be shared with the outsourcing vendor or IT organization to define the service, service levels, and detailed roles and responsibilities. Ideally, the service provider's responsibilities regarding asset management will be clearly spelled out, either in the master agreement or service catalogue.

In outsourced environments, a compelling incentive program can be an effective way to focus vendor efforts on meeting negotiated service levels governing asset management. Incentives and penalties should be focused on a small number of metrics aligned with top priorities. Penalties should also become increasingly severe with continued underperformance.

Benefits of defining service levels include allowing an organization to actively manage the provision of services, while providing an outsourcer with a clear target level of service against which it can measure its performance. Definitions of service provision also enable a client organization to, if appropriate, compare the asset management services provided by current vendors against those offered by other providers.

Quick Win #4: Communicate a renewed focus on asset management throughout the organization and to vendors

Make the benefits of effective asset management practices - and the consequences of poor practices - clear to both users and service providers. Executive commitment can generate a sense of urgency around asset management improvement and make it a visible priority.

Towards a Long-Term Strategy

The "Quick Win" initiatives outlined above can help establish a long-term device and supporting asset management strategy aligned with the needs of business units across the entire organization. Because many of the considerations involved are closely linked, the device strategy should be developed in tandem with the asset management strategy to ensure that objectives are properly addressed.

Such a strategy should consider the Total Cost of Asset Ownership (TCO) that includes acquisition, support effort, and tools, as well as indirect costs associated with end-user support effort. The strategy should focus on maximizing the value of IT devices over the entire lifecycle. All elements of the strategy - including refresh cycles, thin client deployment, standardization, and asset ownership - should be evaluated by their impact on TCO and how well they support overall IT and corporate strategies. Business units, meanwhile, should be engaged in a "demand challenge" process that validates the business value of all devices currently in place.

Defining a device strategy in an asset management context helps to maximize the overall value of IT spending through consideration of all TCO elements. Other important benefits include maximizing the value of assets over the entire lifecycle, defining objectives against which asset management success can be measured, and defining the information requirements of a central repository. -- CIO.com

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