Buried Alive in IT Assets (Part 2 of 2) – Key Points to an ITAD Process

Over the years, I have collected a lot of cell phones. Like many people, I like to have the latest technology when it comes to my smartphone. I know that when I purchase a new phone, I will probably only keep it for two or three years. I retire my phones by putting them in my ‘retired smartphone box’ located in my garage.

A smartphone that is two or three years old retains value, so what is the purpose of keeping those phones in a box? For me, my ‘retired smartphone box’ turned out to be a great strategy because I had teenage children. Together, they have broken their screens, dropped a phone in a deep lake, left a phone at a concert, and dropped one down a port-a-potty. In fact, this year, I ran out of spare smartphones due to the increased negligence of my youngest child.

IT asset managers face the challenge of having to do a refresh much like many people do with their smartphones. It is true that an asset refresh will keep the organization up to date with the latest technology, but there is also a higher cost that results from supporting older assets.

The costs of assets not only include the purchase price, but the cost of supporting the asset during its lifecycle. Many organizations have a 3-5 year lifecycle for their IT assets. To best determine a cost effective lifecycle for IT assets, analyze your support incidents. Some organizations might find that in year four and five of an asset lifecycle, the cost to support the asset is more than the cost of refreshing the asset.

After gathering information about the total cost of an IT asset, it is time to define and create a refresh policy followed by a process that will enforce that policy. The objective of the refresh process is to transfer IT assets to a retired state.

Asset Disposal 2 Graphics

The following components should be part of an automated IT asset refresh policy:

  • Identify Assets to be disposed
  • Inspect Assets
  • Wipe Assets (Security)
  • Tag Assets
    • Prep for Resale
      • Sell Assets
      • Prep for Donation
      • Document value of assets that have been donated for tax purposes
  • Recycle Parts

Identify Assets to be Disposed

An asset lifecycle should be set prior to the purchase of the asset. If the asset lifecycle is every three years, and the organization refreshes one third of their assets every year, then IT asset tracking tools should easily identify those assets set to be retired by running a simple report. Included in the report should be cost centers affected by the refresh and the location of the asset.

Important:

  • If an organization is not properly tracking IT assets, they will increase their costs required to perform the asset refresh process. Any manual efforts used to search for missing assets is a cost in manpower to the organization.

Inspect Assets

Inspect assets to identify if they are working correctly. Assets that do not work correctly might be recycled while assets that are working correctly may be assigned to be sold, donated, or recycled. It is also important at this stage to identify devices containing proprietary information so those devices can be wiped.

Wipe Assets (Security)

Many security standards such as HIPAA and PCI require organizations to track devices that contain personal health or credit card information. When these assets are retired, standards require these devices be properly sanitized of all personal information. Some standards do not allow hard drives that contained personal information to be reused; therefore, hard drives would need to be destroyed and disposed of properly according to local environmental laws.

Tag Assets for Resale or Donation

Assets that are to be resold or donated should be tagged for identification prior to their transition. Once the assets are tagged, the organization should document that the asset has been officially retired and transitioned out of the organization. Third-party companies that specialize in IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) can provide assistance, including physically removing the assets from the organization.

Recycle Parts

When there is no value in selling or donating IT assets, a method to dispose and recycle parts for material will be the only option left for most organizations. Be sure to use a partner that can certify IT assets have been properly disposed. IT assets not properly disposed or recycled can result in fines issued by the local government.

Summary

It is easy for organizations to focus on the acquisition of software and hardware because there is a clear link between acquisition and productivity. It is quite obvious that a faster PC with the latest software should make the end user more productive. Often overlooked is how older outdated assets that are still in use effect productivity. To support assets that are no longer under warranty, or that might have compatibility issues which lead to higher security risk, could significantly raise the overall cost of the asset. Therefore, organizations need to have an ITAD process in place prior to acquiring assets for a cost effective IT asset management solution.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Three Steps to Start Your ITAM Project

Everyone has experienced the terrible feeling that comes from losing something important, such as your car keys. Has your organization ever misplaced an IT asset? Does your organization know where every IT asset is located and who may have that asset? If not, you might have misplaced an IT asset in the past or worse, you have had to pay money after a software audit.

ITAM principles consist of processes and business practices to efficiently manage IT assets within an organization. They provide methods to manage financial, contractual, and inventory for both hardware and software assets. If ITAM principles are followed, organizations will save time and money by avoiding unexpected true-up costs as a result of software audits and they will avoid unnecessary purchases of hardware and software. If you haven’t started your ITAM project, here are three steps I recommend you follow:

  1. Understand ITAM principles
  2. Define organizational objectives and goals
  3. Choose the right partners

Understand ITAM Principles

When an organization desires to implement an ITAM strategy, it is important to have a trained asset manager that can help define the objectives. ITAM  recommends processes to manage the lifecycle of IT assets. An asset manager applying ITAM principles will help your organization realize the effort it takes to reach asset management objectives. ITAM processes typically touch every department within the organization, so a lot of preparation is required to understand how each department operates. With an accurate understanding of company processes, an efficient strategy can be implemented to migrate an organization to an automated asset management system.

Define Organizational Objectives and Goals

Once you have ITAM knowledge and expertise, you will be ready to define efficient ITAM objectives and processes that will help the organization reach their goals

High level objectives should always begin with having accurate inventory information. To obtain accurate inventory information, organizations need to control the purchase and disposal of hardware and software. There should be discussions about the type of meaningful inventory reports that are needed to help understand what assets are owned, where they are located, who is responsible for them, and if they are used for their intended purpose.

Another objective is to understand the cost of IT assets. Linking assets to contracts will help the organization understand the total cost, including any associated maintenance costs. Furthermore, it is important to gain an understanding about warranty information so that hardware refresh activity is planned and performed properly.

Automation should be part of an organization’s objectives. Automation reduces the risk of human error when applying asset lifecycle management. After goals and objectives are clearly defined, preliminary process information should be gathered in preparation for the next step, which will be to choose a partner that can help build the solution.

Choose the Right Partners

To reach the goal of complete automation, ITAM will require tools and services. A large percentage of the work will be defining the asset lifecycle processes. When choosing partners to help build the automated processes, it is important to choose partners with ITAM expertise so that best practices will be applied. It is important to refine processes so they are efficient and don’t create more work for the IT Help Desk. Poorly designed ITAM processes will increase the overall workload for the IT department, since they will have to spend much of their time troubleshooting problems, fighting political battles with the dissenters, and responding to increased support incidents.

Summary

Not only do ITAM software and hardware inventory tools need to be designed and setup properly, the processes need to be automated and work efficiently. Make sure all those involved, such as approval managers, are properly trained. Make sure all departments are trained to use processes when purchasing new IT assets. With the right partners, you will have the expertise available to understand how to interview employees from all departments in order to understand how processes work within the organization but, most important, they will be able to provide input to the ITAM design which means they are more likely to buy-in to the project.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw