By Nasrin Azari, Mobile Reach
ITAK V10 I4
Building a Business Case
If you are interested in a mobile solution for your ITAM program — one that incorporates barcode scanning and/or RFID for data capture by your IT Asset Managers while they are working in the IT environment — you are probably excited about the obvious benefits that such a solution will bring to your organization. And you should be because the benefits of such a mobile solution can be tremendous and game-changing.
However, the success of your endeavor will be heavily affected by how well you do your homework to understand exactly what will work best in your environment. It doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time, but doing the analysis to build your business case will allow you to design the best solution for your organization and make it easier to get the buy-in and support you need to turn it into the resounding success that you know is possible.
Use this guide to ensure that you’ve covered all the relevant components of your business case and confidently present your proposal to your decision makers.
Goals of an ITAM Program
An effective ITAM program gives IT professionals complete visibility into their environment so that the organization knows where all their assets are, can make better purchasing decisions, can stop paying for maintenance and lease costs on equipment they no longer have and can make the best use of the assets they do have. The foundation of an effective ITAM program is the management of all physical assets through their entire lifecycle, from acquisition to disposal. Until effective processes are in place to manage your physical asset inventory, higher level processes, such as managing financial and contract information and/or software licenses, are difficult to implement.
If your organization struggles with maintaining an accurate CMDB or asset inventory, it is due to ineffective or incomplete asset tracking. One of the things that makes it difficult to keep ITAM systems up-to-date is the fact that most assets move and change in “the field” (i.e. away from your computer where you typically access your ITAM application, database, or interface).
The Mobile ITAM Interface
This is why you must have a mobile ITAM solution. Your IT asset managers work in the field and they need a tool to enable them to track their activity where that activity occurs. Your mobile ITAM interface needs to allow you to create and enforce asset tracking processes while asset managers are in the field. It needs to be mobile, i.e. run on a smartphone, tablet, handheld barcode scanner or RFID reader, and needs to connect to and transfer data to your ITAM application / database / system.
Here are the ways that your mobile ITAM interface will drive a better and more effective ITAM program:
Consistency: your mobile ITAM interface provides a means to enforce consistent data entry and data management throughout the asset lifecycle. For example, when assets are being received (on a loading dock or at a receiving station) they can all be scanned in according to a well-defined process that creates or updates asset records in your CMDB. No more sneaking assets into the environment or assuming that you actually received equipment because it was listed by a vendor in a shipping report. Instead, you have a process that enforces a physical touch point for each and every asset that arrives so that you know that the asset actually entered your environment.
Accuracy and data integrity: the value of your CMDB / asset repository is completely dependent on how accurately it portrays your environment. Manual entry of serial numbers and/or asset tags, for example, is highly error-prone. Capturing data in the field where asset changes are occurring and then entering that information into your ITAM system later runs the risk of faulty data entry, missing data or possibly overwriting newer information with data collected earlier that is no longer correct.
Your mobile ITAM interface should fix both of these problems and more:
- Barcode scanning ensures accurate capture of serial numbers, asset tags, and other barcoded data
- Automatic time-stamping, location-stamping, and user-stamping provides an accurate history of when, where, and who performed an action
- Smart user interface controls can validate data entry, warn of possible errors, and force certain information to be entered
- Mobile solutions that support offline operations should provide conflict detection and/or resolution protocols
The entire purpose of your mobile ITAM interface is to control the ITAM actions that are occurring in the field so that you can close the loop on all of your processes: receiving, MAC, transfers, decommissioning, etc. These processes form the basis for a tightly controlled environment and maintain a database that can be queried at any time to get an accurate picture of your IT environment.
Decision-making: accurate information within the CMDB is the key to quick and confident decision-making about your assets. Do you really need to purchase more monitors? Should you renew an upcoming maintenance contract? How many laptops have gone missing this year? Can you identify where your servers are that require the latest upgrade? What about the ones that are currently offline? There are many diverse questions that CIOs and CFOs deal with on a daily basis that could be answered almost instantly by pulling a report from an accurate CMDB. If an organization does not have high enough data integrity within its CMDB to do this, then it is running at a significant competitive disadvantage.
Building the Business Case
It is not difficult to see the potential value in a mobile ITAM interface, but it’s not always readily apparent how to communicate that value in the form of a business case. Next, this article presents the five critical sections of your business case in order to effectively identify the need, propose your solution, calculate the resource requirements and estimate the Return on Investment (ROI) for the mobile project.
1: Identify the COST of Existing Issues
What does it cost to have a CMDB that is only 40-50% accurate? What are the true costs of not knowing what your environment really looks like?
Quite possibly the most difficult part of your business case is assigning actual costs to your existing inefficient or inaccurate processes. Here are some examples of ways to do it:
- A maintenance bill comes due for renewal and you cannot verify that all of the assets are in use in the environment. You must pay the bill or risk losing important coverage. But… if 10% of those assets are not actually in service, how much are you overpaying?
- A particular asset has come to its end-of-life and you are planning to upgrade to a newer model. You want to run a report to find out how many new assets you need to order and then you want to know where the old ones are and who is using them so that you can schedule the upgrades. If you cannot count on the data within your CMDB, how many people do you have to query to get the information you need? How much of your time does it take? If you over- or under-order replacements, what does it cost to rectify that mistake?
- How long does it take to perform a physical inventory? How often are they performed, what does it cost, and how accurate are the results?
2: Map Out Before and After Processes
The entire purpose of your mobile ITAM interface is to create mobile apps that close existing gaps in your ITAM processes so that you can enforce complete and accurate data capture throughout the asset lifecycle. A side effect of this effort should be an increase in efficiency and productivity of your mobile workers, but the focus should always be on the process improvements and closing existing process gaps. To do this, you need to map out both your existing processes and your proposed new processes and compare them.
The following diagrams show an example of how you might do this:
Diagram 1: Ordering Process
Diagram 2: Existing Receive Process
Diagram 3: New Receive Process
3: Identify Expected Improvements
In this section, you will estimate the effect of your new processes and create the criteria that you will measure success after implementation. Ideally, these measurements will be directly related to the issues that you identified in section 1 of the business case. For example:
- Reduce overpayments on equipment maintenance and lease contracts
- Reduce the time, effort, and cost of a mass equipment upgrade by x%
- Reduce the time and cost of physical inventory by x%
- Increase the accuracy of the CMDB to 95+%
4: Calculate Initial and Ongoing Costs of the Solution
On the flip side from the benefits, you must identify and estimate the costs of your intended solution. A mobile ITAM solution may include the following components:
- Infrastructure: wireless infrastructure, additional servers, etc., if necessary
- Mobile devices: barcode scanners, smartphones, tablets, etc.
- Mobile software: licensing and maintenance, installation
- Services: mobile app development, integration, training
- Software maintenance
- Device upgrades
- Mobile app upgrades
- Internal management / support
5: Measure the ROI
Once you have completed steps 1-4, this section is a piece of cake! This is where you take the costs of implementing the solution and spread it out over time to find out how long it will take for your calculated benefits to pay off your investment. For example, if the total initial cost of your solution is $50,000, your estimated ongoing expenses are $24,000 per year, and your benefit is $15,000 per month, then you’ll achieve a return on your investment within the first four months, and achieve savings of $13,000 per month for every month thereafter!
Summary and Takeaways
A tightly integrated mobile solution for your ITAM program that enforces desired improved processes can have a tremendous positive impact on the effectiveness of your organization. Selling the solution upwards takes some effort and preparation, but the effort will be well worth it, as the work will ensure an optimal implementation that continues to reap benefits year after year.
Your business case for a mobile ITAM solution should always include:
1. A summary of existing processes, their problems, and the current cost of those problems to the organization
2. A new process diagram that includes your mobile apps and closes the gaps of your existing workflows to create a complete, closed-loop, system that supports accurate and timely data capture of all asset operations
3. An estimate of expected improvements and the true effect of those improvements on your organization and company as a whole
4. A realistic and thorough estimate of solution costs that consider both initial implementation costs and the ongoing upkeep of the solution
5. An ROI calculation supported by all of the previous sections that identifies costs and gains as well as the risks of alternative actions
By following this guide, you will find yourself in the position to not only acquire a mobile solution for your ITAM program, but to effectively track results and ensure a success!!