Asset-management software can help not only with inventory but with acquisition, configuration, tracking and replacement of an agency’s gear
- By Edmund X. DeJesus
- Dec 15, 2008
A place for everything and everything in its place is a noble
sentiment, but agencies often have a hard time just keeping track
of what they have, never mind where it is. Asset management
software can help — and not only with inventory but also with
acquisition, configuration, tracking and replacement of an
Originally, asset management software was designed to deliver
simple inventories of physical assets. Its role has since expanded
to include nonphysical assets, such as software, and tasks in every
part of the asset life cycle.
“Asset management is now more strategic, including
planning and financial analysis,” said William Clark,
public-sector chief technology officer at CA. “If you do this
correctly, you can save millions of dollars.”
According to a 2006 Gartner report, “Through 2010,
customers that commit a minimum of 3 percent of their annual
operating budgets to [information technology] asset managemet
programs and tools can expect a 25 percent reduction in their total
cost of ownership.”
Of course, you could simply create a spreadsheet or database to
track your assets. But a good asset managemet system can do far
more than present a list. It can save time, effort and money by
actively managing assets.
For starters, it is important to define which assets you want
asset managemet software to handle. Only computer hardware?
Software? Licenses? Noncomputer assets? All agency assets? Your
decisions will simplify your choice of solutions but could narrow
the utility of the solution you choose. For example, a system that
manages everything from paper clips to aircraft carriers might not
have the depth to, say, track licenses for the software you
Keep in mind that you can choose not to manage everything.
“The cost to track every mouse and keyboard may be more than
the item is worth,” said Barbara Rembiesa, president of the
International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM).
On the other hand, inexpensive items, such as flash drives,
could be worth tracking because of the value of the data they
contain or their importance to the agency. Agency employees can
help you decide what to track.
Mind your assets
Asset managemet software overlaps with many other functions,
such as acquisition, configuration management, license management,
logistics, shipping, facilities planning, accounting, help desk,
maintenance and disposal. Because of that overlap, Rembiesa said,
it’s important to be aware of integration issues.
“Flexibility is essential to help your agency satisfy its
goals,” said Ron Lanzo, industry solution product manager for
IBM’s Maximo asset managemet tool.
Also, consider whether you need to coordinate data with other
agencies or even other countries. Be sure that the systems —
or at least the data — are compatible.
Reporting is perhaps the most important function of asset
managemet software. “It takes a lot of analysis to bring
common sense to assets,” said David Shannon, senior vice
president of marketing, product management and strategy at Savi
Make sure potential solutions offer the kinds of reports you
need in the formats you require. You probably don’t want to
see reports on all your assets all the time, but you do want to see
the problem assets that require timely handling.
“Most administrators prefer reports by exception,”
Rembiesa said. For example, if products offer on-screen dashboards,
make sure you can configure them to give you what you need when you
Alerting is a related function. When assets require immediate
attention, the product should be able to send administrators an
alert of some kind via e-mail or text message to a handheld
Before adding technology to the asset managemet picture, make
sure you have the proper procedures in place. “Agencies
should get their asset managemet workflows correct first,”
There’s no point automating a process that doesn’t
work well. In addition, be aware of the policies and standards
governing assets, such as rules on acquisition, deployment and
Configuring a generic asset managemet solution to your specific
needs can be difficult. Some solutions, such as IBM’s Maximo,
include design templates that let you drag and drop roles,
decisions, interactions and operations to customize your workflow.
Similarly, the ability to modify the user interface to mirror a
familiar form or application can be beneficial.
If you need to be able to manage assets remotely, a Web-based
interface would be a plus. For example, military aircraft engines
must be stored at specific levels of heat and humidity. Such
requirements can be difficult to track, especially with mobile
assets. The ability to define, modify and access an asset’s
metadata should be part of any solution.
If your agency uses bar codes or radio frequency identification
tags to inventory assets, make sure your asset managemet solution
can handle them. When it comes to implementation, a phased approach
is often best.
“Automating current processes is a good method,”
said Carol Piccus, principal consultant for technical sales at CA.
Afterward, the agency can expand from an established base of
processes to encompass a broader set of assets or a more strategic