At the core of every task is relevant data. To effectively plan, execute, and report on critical business activities you need quick and effective access to the right key facts.
This is a challenge for any business manager, but is especially difficult for IT asset managers where key asset data is spread across multiple applications, departments, disciplines, and sources. The IT asset manager needs to aggregate, analyze, and act on data from Purchasing, Finance, IT, Service Desk, Facilities, Security, Operations, Human Resources and others, and may be pulling data from spreadsheets, expert financial systems, word processing documents, PDFs, drawing or modeling tools, and even handwritten notes.
That’s a vast and complex stew of data, and attempting to order that data is a daunting task. The key is to start with a few key facts for each asset and to work forward from there, expanding as needed from a strong foundation. I call it the KOALA factor—
- Key costs
- Lifecycle status
- and Assignment
If you can track these core facts for your IT assets, you can provide an at least rudimentary response to the vast majority of the planning, compliance, and procurement tasks in the short term, and that data can give you the foundations for extended service delivery and support (CMDB) going forward.
Acquisition, maintenance, and replacement/retirement.
This is the most time- and effort-intensive element of IT asset management, and will require the most resource to implement.
The key benefit here is being able to quickly view approximate costs for individual assets, to aggregate that data by department or cost center, and to use that data in research and planning efforts.
These key costs are supplemental to the detailed cost accounting performed by the Finance team, and are intended to inform purchase, resource, and budget planning—not to provide detailed cost data to financial auditors. Understanding this intended use for IT asset cost data will help you reduce the complexity of your asset repository and keep expectations clear.
Whose books carry the costs; usually a department or cost center as opposed to an individual or a signing manager. For shared or infrastructure assets there may be more than one owner, with a percentage of ownership assigned to different departments.
The primary goal for this ownership data is to enable simple accountability for an asset’s use in providing value to the organization, to support approvals and decision making processes, and to enable simple cost aggregation for planning and budgeting purposes.
In conjunction with Accountability data, Ownership enables IT asset managers to support both compliance audit and strategic planning efforts by providing easy lookup of the high level group an asset belongs to. This also supports internal change control and provides insight for change advisory board membership for critical IT assets.
The goal here is to provide quick and easy lookup of accountable people for both audit and business management purposes. Simple analysis enables asset managers to identify gaps in coverage and ensure input to asset decisions by key stakeholders.
For end user devices or software, there may only be a single IT accountability—or the assignee and the accountable person may be the same. The goal here is flexibility to track any and all people who may be accountable for content, configuration, or maintenance of the asset.
Where in its functional lifecycle a particular asset is at the moment, and whether it’s capable of providing its intended value. This is the foundation datum for reconciling the asset’s planned use versus actual use.
Oddly, this is both the most important and the most neglected asset data point. If you know the current lifecycle state of an asset at any moment in time you can intelligently plan IT update/replacement, budget, IMAC (install, move, add, change), and procurement activities.
For example, if you know that an asset is available but not assigned, you can manage internal stores and plan inventory levels—or identify key assets that are not providing direct value. If you know as asset is ordered but not received, you may need to track a shipment status. If you know that an asset is retired, you can begin physical recovery and disposal activities.
Who physically possesses the asset.
This is distinctly different from ownership (financial burden) or accountability (who answers for asset integrity). Assignment tracks the actual possession—and presumable use—of the asset.
As obvious as this seems, many organizations can’t physically verify either the presence or use of many key assets. In conjunction with lifecycle status, assignment data gives the organization the information needed to physically account for critical assets and ensure effective use.
For active commodity assets accountability and assignment may be to the same person. For active service or network infrastructure assets they will tend to be different. For inactive assets accountability may be the asset team and assignment may be a store room. Having the data to physically locate an asset closes the loop on accountability and many regulatory requirements.
The key issue here is to resist the urge to track too much asset information.
Start Small and Grow To Meet Needs
Starting with the Koala factor will provide the core data most organizations need to demonstrate immediate and significant value to both IT and the business. Start small and track a few key elements, then expand asset data only to meet specific needs tied to specific accountabilities.
That will help tame the vast stew of available data and make it specifically and pragmatically useful.