Best Practices in Mobilizing IT Asset Management

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1 make IT mobile White Paper Best Practices in Mobilizing IT Asset Management Executive Summary 1 Mobilizing IT Asset Management as a Process Improvement 2 Determining if RFID is Right for Your ITAM Environment 4 Calculating ROI for Mobilizing ITAM Processes 7 With a mobile solution, field workers can access a backend database directly on their mobile devices smartphones, barcode scanners, tablets, etc and instantly process and report information to a centralized CMDB or Asset Repository. Data is accurate, current, and timely, allowing for better decisionmaking and complete asset visibility. Executive Summary IT Asset Management has always been a discipline that requires mobile workers to perform a variety of tasks. With the growing sophistication of mobile devices and software applications that run on them, performing IT Asset Management from a mobile device has never been as easy, effective, and affordable as it is today. If you do not already have a mobile solution in place for your ITAM workers, you are missing out on an opportunity to optimize your Asset Management systems and improve asset visibility and processes. If you do have a mobile ITAM solution in place, read on to learn how to keep it current and running smoothly so that you are getting the most benefit possible. When IT asset managers and field technicians are receiving new or returned assets, they are at a loading dock, receiving office, or at a central facility, away from their desk, and away from their ITAM application interface. How are asset records created for these new assets? Are these new asset records tied appropriately to the financial system / purchase order?

2 When IT asset workers are on location, installing and deploying new equipment, shipping refurbished computers to waiting end-users, performing a yearly physical inventory, or supporting a move, how quickly and accurately are these changes reflected in your ITAM database? What is the process for making sure new information on existing assets gets recorded? With a mobile solution, field workers can access a backend database directly on their mobile devices smartphones, barcode scanners, tablets, etc. and instantly process and report information to a centralized CMDB or Asset Repository. Data is accurate, current, and timely, allowing for better decision-making and complete asset visibility. This document covers some of the key Best Practices in Mobilizing IT Asset Management, why they are important, and how to implement them effectively. Topics included are: 1. Mobilizing IT Asset Management as a Process Improvement 2. Using Barcodes for identifying Assets and other pieces of information 3. Determining if using RFID for ITAM is right for your organization 4. Choosing the right mobile device(s) to perform mobile ITAM tasks 5. Calculating ROI for mobilizing ITAM processes Mobilizing IT Asset Management as a Process Improvement Just like any other employee-focused mobile solution, a mobile ITAM solution should be treated strictly as a way to improve your ITAM processes. What this means is that you should not simply buy a bunch of barcode scanners, give them to your Asset Management team and expect a vague definition of results. Process improvements require foresight, which will guarantee you better results! So, when it comes to implementing a mobile ITAM solution: 1. Map out your existing mobile processes, such as: Asset Receiving Physical Inventory Move / Add / Change Shipping Handling Returns Deployment Refreshes Etc. (whatever is relevant in your environment) 2. Map out new / improved processes using a mobile ITAM solution 2

3 3. Identify your expected improvements, such as: Completing a task Faster Making a task easier Capturing more accurate information Capturing more complete information Becoming more environmentally friendly (less travel expense/waste, less paper waste, etc.) Performing a task in a more cost-effective manner (less expensive) 2 4. List out the requirements of your mobile solution to ensure that you meet your process improvement goals. Here are some examples: The mobile app should allow the user to search for an asset via scanning its asset tag or serial number and pull up the asset record in two seconds or less The mobile app should allow the end user to enter the asset ID by either scanning the barcoded asset tag or by typing it in via the keyboard if the asset tag cannot be read When the user is performing a mass move operation, he should be able to enter the new location once, and then scan each asset tag that is being moved. The improvements that you identify and expect drive the requirements for your solution; so don t be afraid to be specific! For example, how much faster do you expect to be able to perform your wall-to-wall inventory with a barcode scanner? What additional information can be captured during your daily MAC tasks that your team hasn t been able to previously capture? Spelling out the improvements that you desire will help you plan, design, and select a mobile solution that will meet your needs, and will also enable you to make a strong business case for the project. There are a variety of different types and uses of barcodes, and once you begin investigating, you are sure to be overwhelmed with the amount of choices available. The primary purpose of barcoding in ITAM is creating an easily-read unique asset identifier that is affixed to the asset and used to identify that same asset no matter where it exists or what status it s currently in. Using a barcode is an inexpensive way to create a tag that can be read in seconds by a standard barcode scanner. 2 3

4 Here are some tips to using barcodes effectively in your ITAM environment: Design Asset IDs that match a particular pattern (such as ASTnnnnnnn, which means the prefix AST followed by 7 digits 0-9) and create barcodes matching this pattern for your Asset Tags. This allows the barcode to be immediately recognized as an Asset ID when read by a scanner. Affix a barcoded asset tag to a standard, easily accessible place on each asset so that it is easily found and easily read. Although RFID tags can be read without line-of-sight access, it is also preferable to have them affixed to a standard, easily accessible location on the asset. In addition to making it easy to ensure that the RFID tag is correctly affixed, this also accommodates scanning the RFID tag s barcode to identify a single asset. Simple, 1-D barcode asset tags are easy to scan and use and typically satisfactory for most ITAM processes. If possible and sensible for your environment, create separately coded Location IDs (for example, LOCnnnnn ) that can be barcoded and placed strategically at locations where Physical Inventory or other operations are performed. This makes it easy for users to correctly identify a Location. Ensure that all barcoded and RFID tags have human-readable format of the code printed on the tag. This is useful for situations where a mobile user wants to identify a specific Asset, Location, etc, without using a scanner. 2-D barcodes are useful for storing more information right inside the tag itself. The only caution here is that you should ensure that all the information coded into a 2-D barcode is static (unchanging). Determining if RFID is right for your ITAM environment RFID is a great technology that can be extremely efficient: An RFID solution can provide immediate location information about assets tagged with RFID tags Wall, door, or ceiling mounted fixed readers do not require a person to operate the reading, so they are fully automatic RFID readers read every tag within a certain readable range, so it is possible to capture information on a large number of assets at one time 4

5 However, RFID solutions also come with a variety of challenges for ITAM environments: RFID tags are significantly more expensive than barcodes RFID equipment can be significantly expensive Functionality varies considerably between a Passive RFID solution versus an Active RFID solution, so you must have a good idea of what you expect to achieve as you investigate the various solutions RFID solution is not a replacement for barcode scanning. There are certain ITAM processes do not work well with RFID, including when an Asset manager needs to identify a single, specific, asset The following characteristics of the ITAM environment lend well to an effective RFID implementation: Equipment loss is highly sensitive or costly to the organization Equipment moves frequently throughout or in and out of the organization Equipment is highly valuable It is critical or extraordinarily important to know where your IT assets are at any given moment An Active RFID solution with strategically placed RFID readers allows an organization to track the location of RFID-tagged assets at all times. The solution is costly, so there must be a clear ROI associated with the value of the assets tagged, the risk of asset loss, or the cost/burden of labor to track the assets manually. A Passive RFID solution is less costly and will not automatically track asset location, but does support some interesting use cases, such as: Tracking tagged assets as they pass through a doorway or by a point monitored by a fixed RFID reader Allowing a mobile asset manager to use a handheld RFID reader while walking through a room or location to capture a list of tagged assets in the area Investigate an Active RFID solution if your assets are highly valuable, or the loss of an asset is highly costly, or if it s critical or highly beneficial to know where all your assets are at any given time. Investigate a Passive RFID solution in order to speed up some of your ITAM processes; namely those that can be designed like the use cases mentioned above. Your base processes should be barcode-based, and even when incorporating an RFID solution, you will likely find that it s important to continue supporting Barcode scanning, even alongside an RFID implementation. 5

6 A critical component of this combined environment is ensuring that there is a barcode label on EVERY RFID tag that contains a barcoded representation of the RFID value, or a standard portion of the RFID that is unique. This ensures that the asset can be identified by a single ID that can be read by either a barcode scanner or an RFID reader. Device choice is affected by a number of factors including: Use cases and functionality: what activities will users be performing on the device? Will they need barcode scanning? If so, what type of barcodes will be used? Will they need other types of functionality, such as a camera, fingerprint scanner, GPS, or magnetic stripe reader? Budget: Handheld computers capable of barcode scanning can be as simple as a smartphone that costs a few hundred dollars to a specialized RFID reader that costs $3000. Environment: If users will be working in a warehouse or other location where devices are likely to be dropped or exposed to the elements, you will either need to invest in rugged devices that can handle rough handling conditions, or plan to support a frequent (and efficient) device replacement process. Connectivity requirements: Data on the mobile device needs to be transferred to/from your central Asset repository (or CMDB). This can be accomplished either by occasionally docking your mobile device (physically) inside your network and synchronizing data back and forth, or by using a WIFI or Cellular connection to transfer data OTA (Over-The- Air). The choice here depends largely on the network capabilities in your environment, tolerance to delayed data updates, and any security concerns or regulations that may be in place guiding usage of OTA data transfers. Restrictions: There may be standards or policies within your organization that restrict your choices. For example, you may be required to purchase only Windows-based devices, or your organization may only support BlackBerry mobile devices. You may be required to NOT use Cellular connectivity, or you may have a BYOD policy that requires you to support multiple mobile devices and operating systems. It s helpful to create a side-by-side comparison of your available options to help make the decision. In that comparison, you will want to include: Operating system Type of scanner (1-D, 2-D, RFID, Combo, Other) Scanner specs (scanning distance, light sensitivity, etc) Network connectivity options Ruggedness Price 6

7 Calculating ROI for Mobilizing ITAM Processes Finally, the most important factor to consider when implementing or upgrading a mobile ITAM solution is the ROI! This begins with your expected process improvements, discussed at the top of this paper. In order to calculate your ROI, you ll need to: 1. Calculate expected Benefits Identify expected process improvements Associate a monetary value to the process improvements Consider compounding benefits over time 2. Calculate expected Costs: Determine your solution requirements Design/pick your most appropriate solution and understand its costs Hardware / device costs Software licenses and maintenance Initial and ongoing services Estimate costs to support the solution from existing resources Estimate costs of additional required resources Estimate costs for ongoing administrative support and maintenance 3. Your Benefits will likely grow over time, and your Costs should decrease over time. It is typical to enjoy an ROI of less than 8 months for a mobile ITAM solution, with continuing benefits over time. Going mobile is not an easy process, but the benefits are worth the extra time and effort spent up-front. Finding the optimal solution for your environment will reward you with a smoother set of processes, higher quality of information, and a happier workforce! 7

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