IT Asset Management

June 30, 2008

Even in the SME space – we spend a lot of money on technology assets. (I hear all the financial types saying too much!)

Yet too often we do not carefully and completely track the life-cycle of that hardware or software asset from the cradle to the grave – and that can waste money.

IT Asset Management is the concept of tracking and managing this asset life cycle.

How Does IT Asset Management save money?

1) You already bought it once – do you remember? Why buy it again?
2) Where is it now? – You think that the remote sales guy that used to work for you had a Laptop and cellular phone. (Sorry, he had a projector and printer too)
3) warranty & service agreements – You paid for it, don’t spend money again.
4) Service History – As detailed in my blog about ITIL reducing the cost of support by not re-inventing the wheel

Larger organizations can use dedicated asset or seat management tools and applications, smaller organizations can use free tools or existing software tools. The key is to identify and record all asset purchases with an asset number, plus all the details, both physical and financial of that asset.

The amount of data that you collect may be incredibly deep for larger organizations – to just basic information for smaller businesses.

The extra few minutes that is required updating your Asset Management tool after every Move / Add / Change (MAC) is miniscule compared to the long term benefits.

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The Elevator Pitch

June 27, 2008

A post on Cristina Favreau’s The Savvy Entrepreneur blog reminded me of an old event.

You do have a short, to the point “Elevator Pitch” that summarizes your business value proposition in that 30 seconds or less timeframe?

Do all of your staff know it? Or just sales / marketing?

I always make sure I am aware of the marketing / sales information our business uses – including that elevator pitch.

True story:  about a year or so ago at a social event I ran into a tech guy. I marketed our business using our corporate elevator pitch, and was able to expand on it.

Now a year later, this organization is in touch with our sales staff.

Coincidence? maybe – and maybe not.

The takeaway is that every one of your staff is responsible for your success.

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Don’t Automate Chaos

June 26, 2008

Julien Dionne on his Incentive, Compensation and Sales Performance Management blog has a good post called Don’t Automate Chaos

As I wrote in this Don’t Automate Broken Processes post, this bears repeating. The measures, metrics, and processes must be mapped out and identified first.

The “Way we always do thing’s around here” beast must be neutralized first. Failure in looking at how you perform these tasks can either make your software tool fail completely, or be so twisted out of shape that many of the benefits you hoped for will just never happen.

A good series by author Bruce F. Webster at Baseline;

“Metric” is just a shorthand term for “that which is measured.” The idea is that by defining and measuring one or more metrics associated with some process, you can reach conclusions about that process.

The articles are primarily about the software delivery lifecycle, but the concepts are applicable anywhere.

Useful and relevent metrics that quantitatively assess a process is a key theme for both the supply and demand side of IT. The frameworks such as ITIL are designed to provide metrics that can, in Mr. Websters words, be informative and predictive.

And metrics are key to using technology in the automation of any processes. As the old adage states; if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.

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IT and Ethics

June 23, 2008

This one pisses ticks me off – Reuters.com reports a really disturbing study, (I found it through Deb Perelman’s e-week blog)

The study states that one third of questioned IT workers admits to misusing their position of trust to view information that is not within their job description, or to just plain old fashioned snoop on other peoples personal information.

Personally I subscribe to the Code of Professional Ethics as set forth by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) , and I have zero tolerance for that kind of unethical behaviour.

This is one area where larger organizations have advantages over businesses in the SMB space. Larger organizations have the staff and processes to ensure that there are segregation of duties and the ability to deeply audit all use of privileged accounts.

All is not completely lost, there are methods for SMB’s to reduce this risk;

1) The Network Administrator accounts should have their passwords changed regularly

2) IT Staff are not to use these accounts in their day to day work. Administrator accounts are only to be used when those administrative priveleges are required.

3) For smaller organizations, keep those administrator passwords locked up somewhere and periodically check to ensure IT staff have not “promoted” their own Login account to the administrator level

4) For larger SME organizations, implement and monitor auditing of these accounts.

5) When hiring or contracting – ensure that it is documented that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable.

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The title is a quote from John Soat on Information Week (Canada), the quote continues

If you answered the former, congratulations, you are well on your way…

This people, process, then technology focus is a concept that I have attempted to articulate in many places on this blog.

In another article by Jack and Patti Phillips at Inc.com;

New projects, programs, or tools are implemented because some business measure is not doing so well. Maybe there are too many customer complaints, there are too many shipment errors, it’s taking too long to process an order, we have excessive absenteeism, or we have low productivity in a particular area. These are business issues and they are all defined by business measures.

The key takeaway here is that these issues are first and foremost process and business issues. As such they require business measurements,processes and metrics; not technology ones. Once the business measures are in place – technology implementations can assist in reducing the time to process that order, or to improve that productivity.

But it is critical to identify the business measures and processes first. This will enable you to find out why that order is taking too long, or why there are too many shipment errors.

If it takes too long to process your orders because a staffer cannot be bothered to follow the “rules” or there are no rules (or processes) then throwing technology at it will not help. However, if it takes too long to process your orders because there are too many orders to manually write, or the manual step of looking for the inventory to pack and ship is killing you – then automating parts of the process can help.

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From the May 19th print edition of e-Week

Number 1 form of data breach is dumpster diving

That is as old fashioned as it gets.

The article also states that for commercial organizations, the largest vectors of data breaches are;

40 % stolen laptops
20% are errors
15% insider theft,
15 % to fraud
hacking at 10-15%

So 35% fall into the accidental or malicious insider destruction of data.