As business shifts all or part of the global workforce to working from home, we are all faced with new challenges. Employees are adapting to new working conditions and IT is addressing struggles on a grander scale in shorter timeframes. One of the biggest IT challenges right now is the tracking of hardware assets that have abruptly left our corporate offices.
Gaining control of that situation is a significant responsibility but taking on a new hardware asset management project may seem impossible right now. In this article, I’ll tell you why this might actually be the best time to tackle asset management.
First, let us frame up the current state of things.
The Reality of Managing Assets in a Post-Covid World
Recently, most organizations have informed employees that they must all work from home. But it was not as simple as sending a laptop home with them or, in some cases, having employees unplug their PCs on their desks and put them in their trunk. Most organizations had at least enough time to ensure their systems management tools were up to date.
Assuming there was some level of informal tracking going on, you should have a nice starting point to work with. The struggle now is to put all the formal processes in place needed to help the organization adjust to this new normal and it needs to be done in a very short timeframe. Every day that goes by without knowing where an asset is, or who is responsible for it, is a day that you could be losing money.
Addressing the Challenges and Regaining Control
There are three main challenges with Asset Management in general and they are just compounded when implementing in this rapidly changing landscape. Below are some tips on how to address these challenges in the current climate.
1) Collection of Data
In a regular asset management project, data would be collected from many sources and combined and reviewed before being imported into any new asset management system. However, with such tight timeframes this is not always possible. Instead, we should be looking for a quality data source that we can trust, and we know is going to have a reasonably high level of accuracy to create our data set from.
Most people that are reading this will have System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) deployed in their environment and should be regularly reporting on a long list of datapoints and attributes for each client machine. This makes for a great source of asset data as we know what devices are up to date (those that have a recent inventory date). We also identify what devices we know about but have not seen on the network for a while (those with an older inventory date).
As the hardware inventory also reports the last IP address that the client machine was using, we can track what subnet the machine was on at the time of the hardware inventory cycle. In most organizations this can at least determine if the client machine is in the building or connecting to the network via VPN. Some organizations even have subnets per building or floor, further increasing the value of the IP data to narrow down location.
Not all end point clients are contained within SCCM, but most machines that are used to work from home will be. Any additional pieces can be chased down after the bulk of clients are collected. In short, use the data that is already collected within SCCM to get the heavy lifting of asset data collection.
2) Rationalization of Data
Once we have the raw data from a source like SCCM we want to be able to report and use the data in a simple and easy to understand manor. When manufacturers change their names or the way they represent their brand, it can throw off reports quite significantly.
For example: HP, Hewlett Packard, Hewlett-Packard, Hewlett-Packard Company…. And so on.
Having a quick and easy way to rationalize or normalize this data to a single naming convention is important but does not have to be 100% accurate from day one. “Cleansing” this kind of data can be done as a secondary effort after the heavy lifting of the project is completed.
Having a product, like Cireson Asset Management, that can rationalize the make, model and manufacturer for you quickly and easily can really assist in achieving this not only with existing data but with new data as it arrives.
3) Maintenance of Data
Once data has been collected and entered within a central asset management system it can quickly become stale or out of date. Frequent audits can keep the data up to date, but these are time consuming and costly. Instead, try to use existing systems that return data from devices to automate updates.
For example, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or Intune can gather and report hardware and software inventory for clients on a regular basis. This inventory can be used to update assets but, just by reporting on this data, we can also assume that the client is still valid, in use and within our control.
This allows asset admins to target a much smaller list of machines that have NOT reported in recently. These audits are much faster and more effective in targeting the troublesome clients.
Asset Management does not have to be a lengthy, complex and expensive project when using the right tools and leveraging existing solutions already implemented within your organization. While the current climate might not be great for some IT projects, asset management might be the exception to the rule. I mean, what other project could you justify based on priority (getting control of our newly remote hardware assets) and potentially save the organization money (avoid loss of hardware and maybe identify unused hardware to reclaim/repurpose) in one shot during a global economic slow-down?
Please do not hesitate to contact the friendly team at Cireson If you would like to discuss how tools that you already own, combined with Cireson’s Asset Management solution, might assist you with your asset management aspirations.