Sixteen years ago, I took my first business trip to Europe. After two weeks of staying in a lovely furnished house courtesy of a corporate relocation company (for all things corporate relocation check out that page) and busy customer visits I returned home and proceeded to do my expense report. Back then, I had to itemize my expenses using a spreadsheet and then submit all the original receipts, along with the spreadsheet, to our office administrator. She would then mail them to our headquarters located 2,000 miles away. Typically, within two weeks I would receive a check in the mail reimbursing me for business expenses. Often businesses will use solutions like the Everlance expenses tracker in order to keep on track with company finances.
On this particular occasion, our headquarters claimed they did not receive my expense report. Was it lost in the mail? I know I gave it to the administrator and she claims she sent it to our headquarters. My company quickly resolved the matter by sending me a check; however, the missing expense report was a mystery for quite some time.
A year later, I received a large check in the mail for business expenses. After looking at my records, I realized the amount of the check was the same amount I had received the previous year from my trip to Europe. The new office administrator found the lost expense report that had fallen behind a desk, so she submitted the expense report through the normal process. The accounting department at headquarters processed the expense request, unaware they had already paid for these expenses the previous year. These sorts of errors are so common in businesses, and could be one of the main reasons why some business owners prefer to enlist the help of an outsourced financial company like Early Growth to work alongside the accounting department to ensure that mistakes like this don’t have the opportunity to occur again. The fewer mistakes that are made, the better it is for businesses. You see, paper expense reports can easily get lost in the multiple other documents that offices have lying around. Luckily, businesses can now benefit from expense tracking software, like this FileCenter Receipts software, to help them manage their expenses digitally. This reduces the need for paper documents in the office, ensuring that these reports get filed correctly.
Why did manual paper reports fail though?
- The process was manual
- The office administrator had been replaced
- The expense process did not plan for exceptions, so accounting had no method in place to be alerted of a duplicate expense request
An important part of ITAM is the process that manages the lifecycle of an IT asset. The objective is to track an IT asset from the time it is purchased until it is retired. Patricia Adams, a Research Director for Gartner once stated “ITAM depends on robust processes, with tools to automate manual processes. This data then enables organizations to effectively manage IT assets, vendors and a software and hardware asset portfolio from requisition through retirement, thus monitoring the asset’s performance throughout its life cycle.”
In a blog I wrote last year, I defined a three-tiered approach to asset management. I defined ITAM process management to be the third tier in an IT asset management solution. Be sure to understand tier one and tier two before taking on tier three. You will find that discovery and data intelligence are required for to build effective ITAM processes. When built properly, automated ITAM processes will enforce your IT asset management procedures and policies.
Gartner defines an ITAM process as follows:
“IT asset management (ITAM) entails collecting inventory, financial and contractual data to manage the IT asset throughout its life cycle. ITAM depends on robust processes, with tools to automate manual processes. Capturing and integrating auto-discovery/inventory, financial and contractual data in a central repository for all IT assets enables the functions to effectively manage vendors and a software and hardware asset portfolio from requisition through retirement, thus monitoring the asset’s performance throughout its life cycle.”
To build an efficient ITAM process, I recommend 5 steps in the following order.
- Understand the procurement process
- Define the lifecycle
- Solicit input and feedback from each department
- Define and build the process
- Test and adjust the process
Understand the Procurement Process
IT asset management begins when the asset is purchased. Many organizations do not begin to track an asset until it hits the network. This is poor asset management. IT assets should be documented in an ITAM database as soon as they are purchased. Do you purchase from resellers, direct, or even from the local store? How do you pay? Do you finance, use a credit card, or make an electronic payment? Do you purchase from an existing contract? To build an efficient ITAM process that tracks an asset from the time it is purchased, you need to know from whom you purchase and how you purchase all your IT assets.
Define the Lifecycle
An IT asset will go through different stages in its lifecycle. For example, a laptop might be purchased, shipped, received, available, assigned, and retired.
To build an efficient ITAM process, define the different stages of the lifecycle according to the asset and have the process change the lifecycle property when needed. For example, when a laptop is assigned to a user, have the process change the state of the asset from ‘available’ to ‘assigned.’ This will help to identify where the assets are in the process at any time.
Solicit Input and Feedback from Each Department
DO NOT force automated processes on employees outside of the IT department without their feedback and suggestions if you wish to be successful with your automated ITAM processes.
Unlike other IT projects, IT asset management touches everyone in the organization. Typically the people in IT evaluate, recommend, and purchase IT solutions with little input from other departments; however, ITAM processes will affect all departments such as HR, Legal, Finance, Sales, etc. It is important to solicit input from each department when designing your ITAM processes, especially if you will be automating any of their manual tasks.
Define and Build the Process
To define the ITAM process, use a whiteboard or a tool such as Visio to outline your process. Define ‘users’, ‘groups’, and ‘roles’ that will be assigned tasks in the process. For example, a purchase request for an IT asset may need to be authorized. Define a role or group with the power to ‘authorize’ in the process. Avoid assigning users to any task within a process since users often change their roles. Only assign users to ‘groups’ or ‘roles’ when building an ITAM process.
Choose an ITAM software solution that will help you meet your automation objectives. Be sure the solution can integrate with other databases including your ITSM solution. Furthermore, choose an ITAM solution that enables you to build B2B connectors so that you can directly connect and build automated processes with external partners.
Finally, prepare and plan to manage exceptions in your ITAM processes. For example, if someone purchases an IT asset on a credit card, instead of using the request portal, how do you plan to bring that laptop into the existing ITAM lifecycle process?
Test and Adjust the Process
Always test the process before soliciting feedback from each department. Make adjustments based on the feedback, then retest as needed. In large organizations, it is recommended a pilot group be created with representatives from each department. Test and retest with the pilot group before rolling out the processes to the entire organization. Be sure to properly train anyone who might be assigned a task from the process. For example, someone who authorizes the purchase of IT equipment needs to be comfortable performing that task prior to rolling the ITAM processes out to everyone.
The time it takes to actually build an ITAM process using available software solutions is minimal compared to the time it takes to understand and design the ITAM process. Be sure to dedicate resources and time during the design phase. Keep processes simple in the beginning to ensure success. Most importantly, measure ROI after implementing ITAM processes by showing before and after data analytics. ITAM processes will save your organization a lot of money; however, this is only evident if measured and reported.