One of the key responsibilities placed upon IT departments is the provision of IT hardware to its users.
On the face of it, this seems like a fairly simple task, but it is one which is fraught with challenge and complexity.
In a recent engagement, we helped a client overcome some of the common challenges and in doing so we developed these top tips to help you improve your own hardware asset management processes and delight your users.
- Give users single point of entry for new orders – Having multiple forms, portals or ordering methods introduces an overhead in the processing and update of these various methods and can be confusing to the users. Have a single place, either an intranet site or an online form, where users can request IT hardware
- Validate data entry at the time of ordering – If you’re lucky enough to have an online portal, use the underlying technology to validate the user’s input, to ensure that orders have undergone a simple sense-check prior to submission. This is will reduce manual checking and improve order response times
- Keep your request catalogue simple – Develop a request catalogue which contains items which users can order. These should be sufficient for the users to be able to perform their jobs effectively, but not indulgent. Critically, the items in the catalogue must be evaluated, tested and supportable by the technical support teams. The more catalogue choices you have, the more complex the support requirements in terms of product knowledge, warranty maintenance and hardware build maintenance.
- Automate business and technical approval – I’ve written in the past about the need to automate business approval as much as possible. This is by far one of the biggest reasons why user requests get delayed and it’s a simple one to resolve, provided that each request type has a list of required business approvals (e.g. line manager, Head of Department, etc.) and technical approvals (e.g. Security Analyst, Database Administrator, etc.)
- Develop a process and drive adherence to it – There is a risk that different process inconsistencies can occur when processing orders for different customer groups, departments or order types. Develop a simple process and DO NOT DEVIATE FROM IT! A simple process will contain logging, approval, ordering, receipt, delivery and installation steps
- Set an entitlement policy – no exceptions – In a similar vein, define who is entitled to which catalogue items and enforce this, either through restricting users to view only items to which they are entitled on the request portal, or by business approval rules. Making an exception on one occasion will undermine your process and exceptions can quickly become the norm as a result
- Develop a loan process – When a user’s device needs to be repaired, you’ll be expected to provide a loan device whilst they wait for it to be returned. Keep a shelf stock of loan devices, each pre-built with the base build and ready for deployment. These devices can be replenished on an ongoing basis as broken devices are repaired
- Use data integration to ease the burden of keying into multiple systems – Inevitably, there are a number of systems involved in hardware ordering, for example, the asset / finance management system, ITSM tool for logging requests and the hardware supplier’s ordering system. There will be a need to duplicate data in some of these systems, but try to avoid manual re-keying of data which is highly time consuming and error-prone. Use simple data integration approaches to reduce the need for manual rekeying of data, and reduce the risk of data entry errors
- Develop a robust Hardware Audit process – Knowing who has what hardware should be a simple task, but it’s complicated by users and hardware assets which don’t tend to stay in one place. Perhaps the most traditional method of hardware auditing involves a manual discovery exercise, but this makes the assumption that everyone is in the right place, at the right time with their assets. In most organisations, this just isn’t practical! We’ve recently seen success with a mixture of passive and active RFID tags, which can report upon the last know location of an asset, within the confines of an area with suitable RFID infrastructure. This approach makes audit far less time-consuming and more accurate, but it is dependent upon the initial investment in RFID being in place
Running an effective Hardware Asset Management process certainly isn’t simple. We’ve attempted to address some of the common challenges above, but we’re happy to discuss specific challenges with our clients. Every client is different, and the solutions developed need to be cognisant of the variety of complexity and objectives of every organisation.
Please contact us to discuss your specific problems.