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The Accidental Asset Manager

In my role as Director, Online Services, my team is responsible to develop automation to support the different facets of the IT asset lifecycle, from acquirement through to retirement, and all points between. While we have built an asset register, an asset data collection app and series of asset change management screens and reports as part of our tool-set, the devising, implementation and management of a formal Asset Management Strategy (AMS) was not included in our mandate.

This all changed about a year ago when the organization realized, correctly, that the ownership of the AMS from a business accountability standpoint should reside with a single body as opposed to managed through disparate functions and roles. Within our organization, there were many good, viable options as to which ‘body’ could take on that mandate however it was ultimately decided that since Online Services did already play a pivotal asset lifecycle role from a technical perspective, and held a strong business analysis acumen to boot, it was suggested that the responsibility to model, craft and implement a successful AMS should reside with my group. We’d been nominated. And elected.

Clearly, successful asset management is not a finite undertaking. It is an ongoing process that over time aspires to reach an optimized operational state; continually measured by means of key performance indicators and supporting smart business decisions that deliver maximum value for the IT investment. In creating an AMS, the adage “well begun is a job have done” is key – that is, the thinking and planning must be carefully, and properly, conducted to set oneself up for success. While it would be naïve to expect perfection out of the gate – or even further downstream in the short term – there should be a positive continuum that over time proves the AMS is achieving expected and realistic results.

As we’ve developed and refined our AMS over the past twelve months, for our organization the lessons learned to-date are clear. Ten distinct elements stand tall in our minds and as we evolve our AMS in the drive for an optimized state, we refer back to each when we need to either level set, or reset in some cases, specific pieces that do sometimes trend outside the critical path alignment.

Following are the ten key elements explained that we have found are paramount to a successful AMS:

1. Top-Down Commitment
2. Clarity of RACI
3. No Such Thing As ‘E) All of the Above’
4. Data Snobbery
5. Process … Process … Process
6. Automate Sensibly
7. Eye on the Prize
8. Be Unique
9. Measure Twice, Cut Once
10. Complacency Is Not An Option

1. Top-Down Commitment
Support for your AMS must come from all levels within the organization – operational through to executive. Asset management – successful asset management – must become culturally inherent.

It is a best practice that without unconditional endorsement cannot deliver on a promise of an optimized IT investment.

2. Clarity of RACI
It’s one key step to initially publish a RACI model for your AMS, it’s another to constantly maintain indisputable clarity as to who is responsible, accountable, and essentially who is doing what. As the asset environment evolves over time – which it will very likely do – the supporting RACI must also evolve and there can never be one iota of confusion as to the conduct of the processes that comprise your AMS.

3. No Such Thing As ‘E) All of the Above’
Dispense with the notion of a one-stop solution, platform or tool to support your AMS. There is no magic wand, silver bullet or secret potion that will look after everything. There are many great asset management software platforms commercially available in the market as well as enough published standard best practices and methodologies to fill a library aisle but without the organization itself performing sufficient forward thinking about their goals and objectives and expending the effort to ‘process wrapping’, supported by qualified SME resources, any investment in tools risk becoming little more than expensive spreadsheets.

4. Data Snobbery
Having dozens and dozens of asset dashboards, queries and reports at your fingertips make for an impressive display however it is not an indicator of success. It is simply an indicator of data volumes. Capture, mine and leverage only data that directly supports your AMS outcomes. Invest in data that makes sense and clearly answers your key business questions.

5. Process … Process … Process
Process management is critical to a successful AMS. You can have the most powerful technology available, used by some very smart people, but without end-to-end processes your likelihood for success is greatly diminished. Process, People and Technology may have long become a cliché but a cliché starts out as a significant realization. I would argue that while all three aspects – People, Process, and Technology – are all critical to success, Process is of particular importance as it is the glue that connects the People to the Technology.

6. Automate Sensibly
Invest in automation where it makes sense. Your AMS – properly designed – will naturally expose where automation is most appropriate. However, don’t over-invest in tools if the business value is unclear or likely difficult to achieve. Automation will be key for data collection, storage, updates, dashboards and reports – align the automation to the level of complexity for your AMS particles.

7. Eye on the Prize
Simply put, understand and articulate your outcomes. Agree – organizationally – to your goals and objectives and establish your AMS to achieve those specifically. Outcomes can be fluid and be sure to amend what the critical success factors look like for each. The adage “You can’t measure what you don’t manage” comes to mind – if you don’t know how your success is to be measured, how to know what you should be doing on a day to day basis.

8. Be Unique
Not you, personally. I’m speaking of your assets. Make certain your assets are unique. We initially used serial numbers as the “uniquification” method for our hardware assets, then realized a number of serial numbers could actually be duplicates across different manufacturers. We also learned that if not carefully managed, asset naming could be erroneously duplicated. We’ve developed our own exception reporting that isolates duplicates.

9. Measure Twice, Cut Once
As any carpenter knows, measuring twice before cutting decreases your likelihood of a return visit to the lumber yard. I believe this a good analogy when baselining your data. Collecting your data and operationalizing it ‘out of the gate’ will probably lead to increased cycles of unnecessary work. We found that through staging our data, we could proactively and pre-emptively prepare our data that resulted in a far stronger starting baseline. To achieve 100% data pristineness is a noble goal however our experience is there will always be some asset data in flux and it is your exception management and remediation processes (there’s that “process” word again) that will maintain your confidence level in the state of your asset data.

10. Complacency Is Not An Option
What more can be said about this element? The moment you drop your guard, ignore your exception reports or fail to remediate data anomalies, confidence in your asset data is compromised. It becomes a slippery slope for which the return climb becomes increasingly more difficult. Constant vigilance is, quite simply, an accepted necessity. Embrace fully and do it right.

In summary, while the lessons described in this article are particularly important to our own AMS implementation, there is a wider array of other experiences, knowledge and practices available. Ultimately, organizations intending to implement a new, or improving their existing, AMS should identify the goals, objectives and needs and determine what will work best for them.

About Stuart Walsh

Stuart Walsh is the Director of Online Services at Compugen