How to Use IT for Asset Management

When people think of a traditional service desk outsourcing solution, they don’t always think of asset management. They tend to think of it as a basic troubleshooting resource for application level issues. Internal IT departments offload their low-level tasks to the service desk so they can focus on more strategic, company-wide projects.  But what if the service desk tracked, monitored, and managed all technical investments for you? What if the service desk provided more insight into how those tools functioned and interacted over time?  Most service desk platforms can conduct smart inventories of all hardware and software on the network. Going forward, the agents document all support activity in detailed ticket notes. So with all of this historical context at their fingertips, the service desk is in a unique position to identify trends, recurring issues, and correlations in how IT assets interact.

Still, incident management remains the predominant role of the service desk. Ensuring end users are productive and the tools they’re using are fully operational is valuable. However, it’s more of a proactive than reactive discipline. Ideally, you need to seek meaning in the metrics. That means analyzing reports and recommending permanent fixes to ongoing problems. Not all internal IT teams have the time or prioritize this sort of work. Developers, network engineers, and management teams are in the business of moving the dial forward on their business goals. So they’re not usually assessing the value of what they already bought. That’s why more and more IT organizations are offloading asset management to the service desk. Below is where the value-added rubber meets the road.

Procurement and Lifecycle Updates

Once an organization fully implements an Asset Management strategy using an ITIL compliant self-service portal, they can submit new device requests from their internal procurement groups when onboarding a new user. Then, if an individual or IT admin group requests a new laptop, the team handling the task can make updates in the ticketing system so the service desk, or anyone with IT Service Management (ITSM) access, can view specific information about that particular asset. Organizations can also automate end-of-lifecycle notifications that inform asset management teams when a device is due for an image update or is no longer under warranty, obsolete, or otherwise scheduled for decommissioning.

Known issues pertaining to specific assets are easier to identify at the service desk. As stated above, a best practice would be to capture new asset data during the procurement process. The service desk can enter asset updates (i.e. reimaging, redeployments, software patches, etc.) in the ticketing system. From there the organization can track specific information about users in their environment. So when they contact the service desk for support, the agent who handles the call can view all of the hardware, image, or software version relevant to the troubleshooting process.

First-Hand Knowledge

An agent may refer to Knowledge Base Articles (KBAs) about how the user’s image may have had compatibility or configuration issues with an application. Having that information already documented in that user’s asset profile and comparing it with known issues minimizes the guesswork. For an agent, that means a lower average handle time, and ultimately gets that user up and running quickly.

Detecting adverse trends with a new OS, a suite of office applications, or a particular mobile device could prevent enterprise-sized problems if identified before an imminent company-wide release. As asset management becomes a function of the service desk, the team builds a knowledgebase of incident resolution procedures. The service desk documents everything relating to various device attributes. It can inform all IT groups of operational impacts in order to make the most of a client’s IT investment.

Initial Asset Inventory Process

Depending on an organization’s IT environment, the initial inventory process may involve something as informal as creating an Excel spreadsheet and recording all of assets. For companies that can integrate SCCM with a ticketing system or an ITSM platform like Kaseya, any updates in Active Directory would be reflected. In some instances, leveraging an LDAP connection can pull in multiple types of data and populate asset management data.

Security

Tracking and coordinating the information stored on each device prior to it being redeployed or decommissioned has significant data security implications. Asset Management enforces accountability as a sort of historical data paper trail. IT inventory software indicates when a laptop or machine was re-imaged or if the hard drive wiped. An audit can reveal the current and previous owner. Tracing lost or misappropriated equipment as well as monitoring the intellectual property stored on client devices minimizes the detective work should they fall into the wrong hands. And establishing end of lifecycle practices via Asset Management can trigger wipes of critical data before the equipment is sent to a technology recycler or disposal service.

Asset Tracking Software is Customizable

Most ITSM platforms like Kaseya can accommodate a client’s unique asset management requests. Such tools can essentially capture any device specific data any organization can define. Managed Service Providers can customize asset tracking portals to include fields such as computer name, asset tag number, make, model, configuration details, warranty deadline, department, current and previous owner(s), software version history, current image, re-image and upgrade history, and various others.

Image Deployment Automation

Deploying new images or updated versions can be tracked and managed using the Asset Management tools. Although typically, a client’s internal team will enter those updates upon image release, integrating with remote deployment tools like SCCM would allow the service desk to pull in data from the client side and update any changes they have made. More importantly, SCCM has an asset intelligence feature that includes more customizable data fields (beyond standard inventory information). Data can be collected automatically upon deployment, minimizing time-consuming data entry for either team.

At the end of the day, a Managed Services Provider should make technology work to your advantage. As the front line of recurring support issues, the service desk is in an ideal position to identify root causes. The MSP’s role is to provide insight into all IT operational activities. That enables internal departments to focus on leveraging IT assets for their core business goals. A valuable MSP can give consultative input on where the ROI on a technology refresh is greater than retaining legacy assets and make the most of those investments in the meantime.