In an ever-evolving landscape of technology, managing hardware assets is a critical concern for IT managers. Hardware assets are valuable investments, acting as a backbone for organizations to run their operations smoothly.
Hardware assets are any tangible, physical, and company-owned technology assets, currently in use, or stock. Hardware assets play a crucial role in supporting various tasks and processes within an organization. They provide the necessary computing power, storage capacity, and connectivity required to store and process data and facilitate communication. It can be divided into four categories:
- End-user devices: These are hardware devices directly used by employees in their day-to-day work, such as computers, tablets, and smartphones.
- Network devices: This is support hardware equipment that facilitates digital and analog communication, such as telephone and video conferencing systems.
- Data-center devices: These assets help data centers function effectively and include servers and security devices.
- Peripheral devices: These are significant support hardware devices that are used within the organization, such as scanners, printers, keyboards, etc.
The need for hardware asset management
Since these assets play a crucial role for organizations to operate, it is also essential to efficiently manage hardware assets. This is where managers focus on hardware asset management – defining processes, tools, and strategies for managing hardware assets. Each asset needs to be tracked, monitored, and maintained accurately to ensure it is used effectively and provides the highest return on investment.
Different types of hardware devices can be at different lifecycle stages. How can managers move these assets without any hindrances? Following a step-by-step hardware asset management process can help IT managers focus on efficiently moving assets between stages. A process is established on what steps are to be followed and the process checklist is completed before moving the assets. For example, a hardware asset is deployed and is ready to be returned. In this case, the process defined will prompt managers to move the asset to a new location where the asset is returned.
Hardware Asset Management Challenges
Managing thousands of hardware assets can be daunting for managers, especially when they rely on outdated information and inefficient tracking methods. Here are some of the challenges that they can face:
1. Lack of visibility on hardware assets
IT assets are hard to monitor as they constantly change because of frequent software upgrades and new device installations. Companies trying to resolve these issues resort to manual methods such as spreadsheets or keeping records on paper. However, these methods are time-consuming and prone to human errors, leading to outdated asset information.
IT managers relying on inaccurate inventory data lack crucial information on which hardware assets are present in the organization, who owns these assets, and how these assets are maintained. They are likely to make wrong decisions based on incorrect information that can lead to inefficient asset management.
All hardware assets follow a lifecycle that ends when it expires, either the asset can go kaput due to usage over time, or there’s an upgraded version that must replace the incumbent one. When there’s a lack of visibility and it is difficult to keep track of changes in assets, their timely maintenance and replacement almost become impossible.
2. Poor resource allocation and budget planning
When managers do not know which assets exist in their IT infrastructure, it becomes difficult to decide which assets to buy and how many to buy. Recurring IT purchases or duplicate applications pose financial risks to organizations. When the organization purchases the same or equivalent asset that it already owns or purchases applications of the same functionality even though they don’t need them, they end up spending unnecessarily.
3. Ghost, stolen, or lost assets
IT admins lose a lot of their valuable time on manually discovering and counting asset stock. As their network and user base grows, it is difficult to keep track of hardware assets on a one-to-one basis. It is also likely that assets are being ghosted, stolen, or lost if not accurately tracked.
Ghost assets are hardware assets that are purchased and recorded, but they are either lost, stolen, or unusable while showing active in records. These assets are mentioned in the records but are not available physically.
In the employee offboarding process, the company must retrieve the assets that the employee used. If the company hasn’t discovered that the assets are not returned and the data is not updated accordingly, it will fall into ghost assets. Since the company still views these assets as available in its stock sheet, managers can’t make an informed decision regarding the allocation or disposal of these assets.
Most educational institutes provide school-owned laptops to students. What if these assets are not returned back to the school IT admin after their use?
If these computers are not tracked, they may disappear or even be stolen within a few days. Assets stolen or lost can pose serious risks for organizations – the loss of one hardware asset can be low cost at first, but as tracking becomes inefficient, the cost of lost assets can tremendously increase and the organization would incur additional expenses on replacing these assets.
4. Irregular maintenance and delayed service tickets
When an unexpected breakdown occurs, it decreases productivity – workers are rendered idle if the laptop is not working properly. IT teams that do not keep tabs on regular maintenance can face unexpected downtime that can lead to high repair costs.
Asset maintenance can be daunting if the managers are unaware of which assets are under maintenance. Most service tickets are related to hardware assets. Without sufficient information on the history of assets, their configuration, and previous IT issues, more time would be spent figuring out these issues, delaying service resolution time and making the helpdesk management process challenging.
How can a hardware asset management system help mitigate these challenges in each stage of the hardware asset lifecycle?
Organizations are focused on managing hardware assets throughout their entire lifecycle. The hardware asset lifecycle involves several stages from planning to retirement, all of which ensure effective operations. Adopting a hardware asset management system can help organizations streamline asset management. Here’s how it can benefit each step of the lifecycle:
Organizations planning to purchase hardware assets focus on various factors that help them decide to buy. These factors include employee and business preference, compliance, and budget allotted. Once all factors are considered, the IT team looks for hardware solutions available and requests are submitted for procurement.
IT hardware assets can be requested by users, teams, or IT admins based on their different needs. Hardware asset management systems integrated with helpdesk systems make it easier to submit asset requests on helpdesk.
For example, the onboarding of employees requires the IT team to deploy relevant new hardware assets to users. They can create a centralized hardware asset repository in the system, which when integrated with the helpdesk, can be searched for item requests. This expedites request tickets and ensures timely onboarding of employees.
The next step is to procure hardware assets. As the IT team selects the hardware assets to procure, they also look into which vendors are available, what warranty and technical support they offer, and whether their provided hardware is compatible with other IT hardware assets in the company.
A purchase order request is raised in the hardware asset management system with item, price, and vendor details. The request goes into approval – the organization can set a specific set of approvers to view all related information, verify details, and approve requests in the system. The requester is informed of the approved request and can move forward to procure hardware assets.
The order is placed with the vendor and the purchase order status on the system provides complete visibility into items received or pending. Once payments are processed, the purchase order is marked complete. The system automatically updates inventory after procurement and also saves vendor details, saving time and providing accurate information when needed.
3. Configuration and deployment
The hardware assets are received by the IT team to check quality, label, configure, and deploy assets to relevant end users. The asset is checked for any defects, design specifications, and compatibility before it is deployed.
Once the assets are tested, they can set up barcode labels in the hardware asset management system, for example, laptops can have LAP-001 added as barcode labels, which also serve as an identification number in the system. When scanning the new hardware assets, the IT team simply scans this barcode and these assets will be categorized under Laptops.
When they have added assets to the system, they can easily be scanned for their configuration and usage. IT team can create and configure discovery agents in the system to be deployed on all assets. This will provide real-time hardware details at any time, from anywhere.
After successful configuration, these assets are deployed. The end user must ‘sign out’ the device and accept any use policies. The hardware asset management system allows IT admins to assign assets to users and maintain records on the system. This streamlines the onboarding and offboarding process, where they can easily view which devices are used by which user, and when to remove user details to complete offboarding.
4. Tracking and monitoring
It is important for IT managers to ensure effective hardware asset management. Ongoing monitoring and accurate tracking throughout the hardware asset lifecycle then becomes essential.
A hardware asset management system provides IT teams with complete visibility into all company-owned assets. They can view custody, location, and discovery source in a snapshot on the listings page. The system also provides quick action buttons to sync assets with different agents, add and assign to different users, or check in and check out based on verification requests. With the help of the system, IT teams stay updated on assets and prevent unauthorized access to these assets.
5. Vendor management
Organizations have different vendors for different types of assets. When it comes to hardware assets, the vendors and contracts could be unique for servers, operating systems, user access, etc. A robust system helps IT teams consolidate and manage vendors on a single platform so as to stay compliant and strengthen vendor relationships.
The system allows IT teams to add vendor details to the system. Once added, they can easily map corresponding assets for the contract and mention its validity. They can enable alerts to notify them of timely renewals of these contracts. They can also view items requested from a specific vendor and view related purchase orders to keep track of incoming stock.
6. Regular maintenance
Constant use of hardware assets can lead to unexpected failures and breakdowns. Regular maintenance ensures optimal performance and extends the working life of assets. This step monitors the performance of hardware assets to maintain peak productivity and mitigate issues that might crop up while in use, such as regular patching and updates, servicing, or aging of assets.
A hardware asset management system helps manage and schedule regular maintenance. IT teams can pre-set dates for maintenance so they can be notified of when service is due. They can also keep track of previous issues to stay informed on the asset’s service history. The system also highlights which asset services are pending, in progress, or completed.
This informs managers which assets are in optimal condition to check out and avoid unexpected breakdowns.
7. Retirement and disposal
The value of hardware assets depreciates during their lifecycle. As assets reach the end of their service life, the final step is to ensure the removal of old assets, reuse their software license, and decommission from their active use. Data on retired or disposed hardware assets should be securely wiped to prevent data breaches.
IT managers can enable asset depreciation calculations to track the lowest value of assets in the hardware asset management system. When the asset reaches the lowest value, they can mark the asset as expired or disposed of. The license can be reused on new assets. For example, in the case of BYOD devices, the hardware assets need to be retired from service when the employee who owns the device leaves the company.
3 best practices for hardware asset management
Building an effective hardware asset management system is important, but assuring that it operates optimally requires following a set of best practices.
1. Establish, strategize, and plan the process
Every organization needs planning to set objectives and work towards these objectives to achieve long-term results. Implementing any process without planning can cause confusion and errors. This is also true when implementing the hardware asset management process.
IT managers must plan on how to maximize the benefits of using an asset management system. Strategic planning can help managers create a process that can easily manage hardware assets at each asset lifecycle stage.
Planning a process can include which asset management tasks need to be managed physically and which ones to be automated via the asset management tool. It is also important to ensure clarity on who will own and perform actions for each asset lifecycle stage. This can streamline operations.
Also, establish a chain of requesters, approvers, and owners to keep asset details within authorized access and notify these specific persons in case of any changes in assets at each stage or for any purchase requests.
2. Integrate hardware asset management into all functions and departments
Every function, department, and process in an organization is technology-dependent. They use hardware assets to perform operational tasks, different for each group. In order to complete certain tasks, they are also interdependent on other teams to assist and contribute towards achieving organizational goals.
These assets facilitate cross-departmental teams to communicate, develop strategies, and work together which is why it is critical that all assets for every function are tracked and managed thoroughly:
1. Create a dedicated team responsible for overseeing and managing hardware assets across all departments
2. Document and communicate procedures for acquiring and retiring assets to departments.
3. Conduct training sessions across departments on hardware asset management best practices so that everyone understands their role in managing hardware assets within their specific function.
3. Real-time insights to make informed decisions
As organizations grow and evolve, tracking hardware assets and user access is becoming more difficult, especially in a hybrid IT environment. Hardware assets are constantly received or retired in the IT ecosystem to cater to the organization’s growing needs.
In order to keep pace with tracking these asset changes, real-time insights, reporting, and analysis can help managers understand changing asset custody, tighten security on user access, and remain compliant with evolving processes and regulatory requirements.
A comprehensive hardware management strategy implemented via a robust system helps organizations ensure optimal utilization of their hardware assets, minimize downtime, and reduce unnecessary costs. All of these combined benefits result in improved productivity and overall operational success.
Frequently asked questions
How to choose the right hardware asset management software?
Choosing the right hardware asset management software requires careful consideration such as partnering with the right vendors, finalizing features that best suit your business needs, and optimizing technology investment in the long run.
What is a hardware asset management strategy?
It is a set of rules and guidelines that define how you manage your hardware assets from acquisition to disposal.
Why do managers need to manage hardware assets?
Effectively managing hardware assets can help managers reduce unexpected costs, improve decision-making, and boost overall performance.