ITAM (IT asset management) helps manage hardware assets at all stages of their life cycle in a cost-effective manner. However, the implementation of ITIL affects not only the IT department, but also other departments - accounting, storage, and procurement. Andrey Valerievich Boganov, itSMF Russia expert and ITAM process architect, told us how to reach an agreement with everyone.
When the IT department spends money to buy servers or workstations, the business expects a return on that investment. Any IT equipment is bought so that people can use it to work and solve the company's problems. Which means the goal of the IT department is to ensure that hardware IT assets are cost-effective.
However, the IT system is involved in all business processes, and this complicates management as the interests of different departments collide. For example, the inventory of equipment is kept within the accounting, management, and IT departments. At the same time, the number of systems multiplies and chaos increases.
In this article, we will investigate what tasks for interaction with other departments arise at each stage of the lifecycle of an IT asset by equipment type. We will explain what to look out for when managing IT assets and how to agree with other departments on a unified procedure of IT asset management (ITAM).
Planning the purchase of IT assets
The first stage of the IT asset lifecycle is procurement planning. The task at this stage is to understand what equipment must be purchased, in what quantity and calculate the budget.
How to determine and justify the need for equipment
In the planning stage, the IT department must collaborate with the business unit and be aware of the plans for business development.
For example, if the company is planning to expand sales over the Internet, new servers and software will be needed. The IT department must plan the purchase of equipment, install it, integrate it with the existing IT infrastructure, and put it into operation.
The main task here is to understand the needs of the business and determine what IT assets will be needed to fulfill them. Success depends on the manager's ability to negotiate. Understanding of the following is expected:
- business objectives;
- way of IT team's thinking;
- specific features of financing and budgeting.
The most valuable tip here: Communicate with management and participate in the life of the business
I once observed the interaction between IT and the business in one of the banks. The IT department provided resources for all the business projects and received money for it. How did it work? The bank's IT director was on the Board. He always knew the plans for business development and was able to draw up the requirements for IT infrastructure: to determine what funds are needed to accomplish business objectives. At the board meetings, he was able to justify his proposals because he spoke the language of business. Plans for the development of IT infrastructure came from the overall plans of the company.
This approach gave a big advantage, because the bank's business processes directly depend on the performance of IT.
How to reconcile the budget
Budget reconciliation is a complicated stage in IT asset management. The IT department needs to convince management and the finance department of the need to purchase the selected equipment. All departments involved must make sure that the new IT assets will bring benefits and that spending on them is justified.
How a defense organization simplified its IT budget reconciliation
One of the big defense companies used expensive mainframes. Technical support serviced them: repaired them, and purchased parts. It required money.
Nevertheless, it was difficult to agree on a budget for an upgrade. The fact was that the useful life of the IT asset in the accounting system was significantly shorter than the actual one. The equipment was working and needed money for maintenance and upgrades. At the same time, according to the books, it had already been written off.
They were able to defeat the problem. The IT people came to the accounting department and said: "We are using large and complex IT assets. They are expensive, and the useful life according to the accounting data, does not match the reality. Let's coordinate them." The accounting department asked for objective information about the actual useful life of the assets.
The engineers did the research - they brought in five independent service companies. Each gave an opinion on how long this equipment would last if not upgraded. The service company has the right to do this because it repairs them.
The data from the five companies were then averaged and shown to the accounting department. The accounting department has agreed to bring the depreciation dates to the actual dates.
It became easier for the IT department to coordinate the budget for upgrades and monitor the useful life.
During the procurement phase, it is important to build relationships with all the departments involved. Usually it is the contracts department, the logistics team and officers responsible for acceptance (e.g., the warehouse). In some companies, the procurement involves tendering specialists - it all depends on the specifics of the organization. Make sure that all departments get the right information and requirements from the IT department, and that the IT department can monitor procurement. For example, for the tendering department there should be clear requirements for procurement and suppliers.
Keep control of the contracts with suppliers
A well-drafted contract is insurance against problems during the procurement and operation. It is necessary to ensure that the contracts be properly drafted and executed, and the payments on them carried out correctly.
Coordinate the delivery with the logistics department
The logistics department is responsible for ensuring that purchased IT assets are delivered safely, carefully and on time.
Identify those responsible for the acceptance of IT assets
Not all organizations have the IT department responsible for receiving the purchased equipment. This is often done by warehouse workers. If their work is not coordinated with IT, it creates problems. For example, due to improper storage, equipment can freeze, liquids can get on it, or it can break. I used to work with a heating company. She had a shared warehouse where everything was stored: servers, pipes, joint insulation material, and bags of cement. This was a poor example of storing machinery.
In order not to regret ruined equipment, write clear requirements for its storage. Determine who exactly is responsible for the acceptance of equipment and make sure that person is familiar with the rules.
If the infrastructure is geographically distributed, determine a strategy for delivering the equipment
If the organization has several branches, it creates additional difficulties. You need to determine where exactly the IT asset will be located. For example, if it is a bank with different branches - to decide how to organize the delivery. You can have the entire purchased lot delivered centrally to the warehouse, and then send it to the regions or have it immediately delivered to the installation site.
Determine who is responsible for the IT asset in the operational phase
The materially responsible employee is the person in charge, the person who will be held accountable if equipment is lost or coffee is spilled.
It is good when the role of the materially responsible employee changes at different stages of the life cycle of an asset. For example, during acceptance, the logistician is responsible for the equipment. During operation it is the data center engineer. Often the role of materially responsible employee can be performed by an upper-ranking manager (e.g., deputy director). Responsibility for the IT asset can be distributed not only in time, but also financially.
In Russia, it is a common practice when a person who is not related to the IT department is responsible for an asset throughout its lifecycle. For example, in an oil company, the person in charge of equipment was a specialist from the health and safety department. Meanwhile, the IT department had no way of influencing him, because he was reporting to another business unit.
Determine which system to enter data on the IT asset to first
The IT asset must be reflected in the accounting system of the IT division and in the accounting system. Nevertheless, these systems have different tasks and a different approach to management.
For example, for the IT department, the details are important: what parameters the server has, what components are installed in it. Meanwhile, this information only complicates the accounting department's work. Due to this, several servers can be recorded as a single inventory unit - a set of equipment. Therefore, it matters how the integration with the accounting system works.
It is important to determine which system the new IT asset should be entered into first: the accounting system or the IT asset inventory system of the IT department.
Engineers need more detailed information in the accounting system. Therefore, it is more convenient when the initial data entry is done by the IT department. Then, at the click of a button, the IT asset you have registered appears in the accounting system. This integration makes work very easy: only the data that the accounting department needs can be transferred into the system.
Integrate the inventory systems of the IT department and the accounting department
Setting up integration with the accounting system is not easy. The first difficulty is technical. The systems can have very different architectures. Because of this, it will take a lot of the developer’s time to integrate. If the accounting software has an API, the task is easier. The second difficulty is related to security. Accountants may not let you into their system for fear of data leak or data corruption.
One company solved the integration problem with the help of Excel. It is organized as follows: accountants enter data into their system, make an excel export and give the file to the IT department. Then IT specialists supplement the report with the necessary data in their system, upload it to Excel and send it back to the accounting department. Physically the systems are not integrated, but data exchange is happening. Both sides were able to reach an agreement.
How to agree with accounting departments on a unified system of IT assets accounting
One of the first IT asset management projects I was involved in was aimed at finding a common language between the IT department and the accounting department. We invited the accountants to tea, brought cake, and began to ask the accountants about the difficulties in their work.
It turned out that our colleagues took a lot of time to enter data: long and incomprehensible names of the equipment content (HDD, CPU, RAM, etc.). The accounting department does not need this information to work, and entering it is time-consuming.
Then we offered to take over the primary data entry. Then, if the IT asset is a fixed asset and costs more than 40 thousand rubles, then at the touch of a button the data about it goes into the accounting system. If it is less than 40 thousand rubles, the equipment falls into the category of "low-value" and is written off during the current accounting period.
We were able to become friends through our benevolent approach. However, establishing a productive relationship was also helped by the support from above. We secured the approval of management - and the accounting department received the command that the company would implement IT asset management.
Define the boundary of accounting detail
The more information is taken into account, the more labor-intensive it is to register. So enter only the necessary data in the accounting system. Expand your accounting coverage as needed.
Define the data source
Determine where you will take the data for accounting from. It must always be the same source. For example, a bill-of-lading or the electronic base, or the purchasing system.
Use systems for automatic inventory keeping of equipment
If you have tools that simplify the initial data entry of IT assets, it is worth taking advantage of them. Especially if you have a large fleet of equipment - manually entering all the data on the components is labor-intensive.
It is important that in doing so, you can organize the normalization of data. In the accounting system, the IT asset may be called differently than in the automatic inventory system. It is convenient when you can match a piece of equipment, for example, according to a bar code.
Use automation to simplify the work of the technical service
Cooperation with technical support services is simplified if records are kept of what equipment is installed. The IT specialist needs to see:
- where the equipment is installed;
- its configuration;
- how it works;
- who is responsible for warranty support.
- it is good to have a system that can detect changes in the IT infrastructure in real time.
Train the users
For an IT asset to work, it must be used. Sometimes you have to train users to do this. For example, if software is installed on the server, users need to understand which buttons to press, and so on.
Be careful how you interact with the security department
Interaction with the security department can be difficult. In some companies, information security specialists can close any projects.
For example, in one of the oil companies we were implementing IT asset management. The project was initiated by the IT department. We were asked to let the security department know as little as possible about it, or else the security department would cut the initiative off at the root. We tried to build the project so that it did not have to coordinate with the security service.
Set up the work with external vendors
External vendors play an enormous role in IT asset management. They provide technical support for IT assets: maintenance, performance monitoring, and upgrades. For example, if you run out of disk space on the server - they change or expand disks.
The contract department is involved in the maintenance and support of IT assets. The quality of their work and the level of authority depends on how the contract with external suppliers is drafted: will the suppliers be responsible only for the equipment availability, or also for data storage, how often and in what period maintenance will be carried out, etc.
When the equipment has worked its due date, it can be sold to your employees, to another organization, or disposed of. Here, too, many units need to be involved. For example, the warehouse determines where to store the equipment and the contract department prepares documents for disposal through outside contractors.
The key secret of IT asset management
The "airplane" of hardware IT asset management consists of many parts. And it will "take off" only if all the business units involved can agree and work in harmony. Unfortunately, often different business units are different "peoples," speaking different languages and not really understanding each other. The talent of the ITAM manager is to understand the languages of different peoples, and to be able to make friends with them for the common good of the company. Nevertheless, for everything to succeed, you have to involve management in developing processes and creating an IT asset management system - and that is the main rule.
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