There are many aspects to keeping your IT house in order. And IT asset inventory management is just one of the many heads of this ever-shifting hydra. It’s also one of those practices that managers may sometimes gloss over in their effort to go after “the big issues.” In this guide, we’ll clue you into some best practices that you absolutely have to take into account to run things smoothly.
Our recommendation is to create solid “IT hygiene.” Seen under that light, yes, IT asset management (ITAM) can be a bit of a chore. And, if you couple that with inventory management, it may seem like overkill. But it’s also necessary to keep everything under the hood running in an efficient, orderly manner. And we know that, at the end of the day, that’s what matters most.
First, let’s get the pesky definitions out of the way and move towards an understanding of what we should be doing (and how to do it better). And trust us, in an environment where 46% of SMBs track inventory manually — or not at all — this is a talk worth having.
A quick definition of Asset Inventory Management
Of course, being the IT connoisseurs that we are, we’ve talked at length about asset management before. Don’t worry if you’re a bit late to the party, though! Here’s what we had to say about asset management (ITAM) in just a few words:
“ITAM is ‘the set of business practices that join financial, contractual, and inventory functions to support life cycle management and strategic decision making for the IT environment. Assets include all elements of software and hardware that are found in the business environment.’ In short, and in simpler English, ITAM is the people, processes, and tools that are put in place to manage, control, and protect all IT assets in an organization over time.
ITAM should be a key part of an IT organization's strategy. By gathering information about the hardware and software that make up IT services, ITAM can be used as a decision-making tool regarding hardware and software use, purchases, and redistribution.
IT Asset Management also helps organizations to manage their IT estates more efficiently – by knowing what makes up an organization's key services, time and money are saved through avoiding duplicate or unnecessary asset purchases and ensuring that software licenses are reused (reharvested) where appropriate. This not only drives efficiency, as an effective ITAM function can mitigate risk in terms of fines and sanctions relating to being under-licensed and provide valuable support in software audits.”
Thus, when we say “asset inventory,” we mean a thorough, in-depth knowledge of the assets that make up your company. Frequently, companies discover assets through a variety of asset discovery and asset tracking systems. These are the tools that make asset inventory management a possibility.
And of course, there’s always confusion with inventory management. While these terms are very closely related —perhaps too close for comfort—they’re not the same. But we’ll get to that, and how they interact, below.
First, let’s take a look at what can help your asset management strategies succeed.
Asset Inventory Management best practices
1. Define what assets actually are
If you’re going to manage your assets, then you need foolproof definitions that don’t leave any room for error. And mind our words, because it’s crucial that once you define what an asset is, you don’t let absolutely anything slip through your fingers. What you don’t want is having any sort of “shadow IT” posing under-the-hood risks that could compromise the safety of your company’s operations. Also, the more you know about asset tracking, the more you can be proactive instead of reactive.
If we were to boil it down to the smallest possible idea, it would be this: you can’t effectively run a business if you don’t know the moving parts that make up said business. As such, you need to define your asset categories (especially fixed assets) and make sure you know what’s going on at all times. It will also help you select a proper inventory management system when the time comes to do so (HINT: it was yesterday).
So, with that in mind, you can define assets in the following three ways.:
- Individually; the most basic, straightforward way.
- As part of a larger “system of systems,” of complex interdependencies and relationships. Examples are production lines, facilities systems
- As part of an asset portfolio, like real estate, municipal infrastructure, etc. Many of these are fixed assets, and typically physical assets.
Once you’ve got an idea of what your assets are, then you can manage them more concretely. When it comes to asset tracking of IT items, an inventory management system with efficient discovery tools is going to be the final piece of the puzzle. More on that later.
2. Mind your datasets - start over fresh
When you finally have an inventory management system, you’ll be tempted to import the data you already have into it. But, if you don’t look closely into the information you’re importing, you might have to perform the tedious (and counterproductive) task of damage control.
A common issue with imported datasets is finding inconsistencies. For example, a common one tends to be an abundance of repeated product names, or twin assets (if you’re lucky you’re not getting all the way up to quintuplets or above). Cleaning things up can definitely take a while, and it’s never as efficient as starting over fresh.
But what if you still want to not let the information you already have go to waste? Then you should take the time to go over it in detail and clean it up. That way, you’ll make sure that you’re not essentially kicking the can down the road — and saving your future headache-suffering self from spending a fortune on Tylenol.
A bit of effort today can save up on time and resources tomorrow. Plus, it’s pretty much impossible to perform correct asset tracking with “dirty” datasets.
3. Approach it as a money-saver
Inventory management and asset management are not extra efforts. If you think caring about them is superfluous, or somehow below mission-critical, then we’re sorry to say you’ve got another thing coming.
And, if we take things up a notch, it’s easy to say that a job well done when it comes to asset tracking can save you time and money.
Cassandra Campbell, from Shopify Blogs, gives us her two cents on how this relates especially to inventory management (or the items that the company either uses up or intends to sell):
“When you have a solid inventory system you’ll know exactly how much product you have, and based on sales you can project when you’ll run out and make sure you replace it on time. Not only does this help ensure you don’t lose sales (critical for cash flow), but it also lets you plan ahead for buying more so you can ensure you have enough cash set aside.”
As you can see, it’s not about getting into the minutiae just for the sake of it; it’s about maximizing both input and output, making predictions, and better overall decisions.
4. Consider asset tracking
Or, rather, “implement it right now.” When it comes to physical assets, especially, you can’t just throw things like their physical location to the wind. Therefore, you should consider having a central asset repository as the first step of asset management. Then, it’s about using modern tracking techniques to make sure that everything is where it’s supposed to be and used by the appropriate asset owners.
While this is easy to do with IT assets, it’s harder to do with a physical asset. Things like scannable barcode labels, RFID, BLE (Bluetooth low energy), and GPS can help you make sure you know where everything is at all times. Combine this with the aforementioned asset repository and the attendant asset logs, and you’ve got much more control over things.
Logs, in particular, can help you track barcode-tagged assets. It’s a great way to track chain-of-custody for items as well, so keep it in mind.
Long story short, asset tracking can easily be considered a way to make the most informed choices. Otherwise, you’ll be running on gut feelings, trying to read tea leaves while your competitors use the tools available to them to know what’s what — and where.
5. Asset and Inventory intersection, and why they matter
As we’ve said, inventory management and asset management are not exactly the same thing. But, as the point of this article shows, they do intersect. Therefore, it’s no surprise that they, even if the terminology is confusing, having a complete asset panorama is de rigueur here.
Lowry Solutions has a good take on this matter:
“Assets and inventory do occasionally cross over within the same enterprise. Some companies use asset management solutions to track and manage equipment (like servers, oil pumps, or heavy machinery) for service and maintenance that they have already delivered to customers. In this case, an end-use item that was tracked using an inventory management solution during production and sales is now being tracked with an asset management solution.
“Both asset tracking and inventory management are crucial applications for companies that are trying to contain costs and improve production. Knowing the difference between these operations and the systems that can improve them will help enterprises better address and manage their unique challenges.”
Inventory Management vs Asset Management: Either/or?
An oversimplification of the matter may go as follows:
- Assets make up the totality of what you own. They’re the items (physical assets and non-physical) you use to run your business.
- An inventory, on the other hand, is what you intend to sell or consume for the purpose of creating or selling these items.
While the first one tends to stay fairly stable over time, the second one is probably a confusing, ever-changing whirlpool.
As you can see, these are both crucial for correctly running a business. Inventory management is one thing, but keeping tabs on your IT assets is another matter entirely. You need the right tools for the job, or you’ll be setting yourself up for failure.
InvGate Insight as a unified Asset Inventory Management solution
When it comes to cataloging the totality of your IT assets, InvGate Insight is currently the choice to beat.
What Insight offers is a bird’s-eye view of your IT real estate that includes cloud services and IoT items, all part of making a normalized catalog and CMBD. This can lead to improved decision-making processes, lowering costs, and much-improved governance and compliance ratings.
Its constantly updating view of your organization's IT assets lets your team make on-the-fly decisions, while constantly giving them real-time information with a multitude of asset discovery tools and compatibility options.
In short, it paints a complete, on-demand picture of your company’s IT ecosystem. Or, in other words, it’s asset management made easy. Plus, its easy, no-fuss integration with our Service Desk can make the quality of your IT delivery service go through the roof.
Having a complete view of what’s going on at every level of your company’s operations is tantamount to doing good business. And, even if you’re not totally convinced, and you say to yourself “I’m doing alright,” keep in mind that little failures tend to stack up until you have to lose a day (or more) of operations due to a lack of foresight.
Keeping these inventory asset management practices in play, then, is not just about efficiency, but about sustainability. And that more than anything will not just help keep you in the game, but win.