Blog Series: ITAM in a perfect world. Post #1 – The Receive Process
In my next few blog posts, I thought I’d talk about what I consider to be the 5 fundamental ITAM processes which your ITAM practice will need to master to be effective. They are Receive, Deploy, Manage, Retire and Dispose.
Since there are already some great articles and blog posts out there that discusses what each ITAM process should include and how to document them, I’ll be concentrating on the challenges you will have completing the activities that make up each process while keeping our key ITAM Success Factors in mind. Organizational Commitment, People, Process, Data and Technology.
In most cases the receive process is the starting point of an IT Asset’s lifecycle. One can argue that it could be when the asset is requested or when it’s being procured, but until you have something to track, it could me more effort than it’s worth. Once the asset is received, it can be linked to the request, invoice or purchase order which follow their own procedural steps.
The request process will look pretty much the same for all IT Assets types. Receive, validate, capture information, update the repository and send to storage (I consider Deploy as its own process). However when you get down to the actual procedures and activities, you will definitely see differences mainly in the way information is collected and what information collected.
So, as this blog series is titled:
In a perfect world…
- The requesting user, through a shopping experience, will select the desired IT Asset from a defined catalog of available IT hardware, software and services.
- At check-out time, the request is validated (financially, technically, by role), delivery options selected and tracking number provided.
From the requesting user’s point of view, so far so good, and completely possible. No perfect world required right?
- Once the request has been validated and submitted, the source of the IT Asset is determined and if not already acquired, magically procured.
- New assets are received from the vendor, the inventory is automatically updated with vendor information so reports can be generated and operational/business decisions can be made.
- The request is updated/closed and through the Deploy process, the IT asset is delivered to the requesting user and everybody is happy.
This sounds just like the way the Receive process occurs each and every time for every asset at your organization right?
Based on what we’ve seen over many years helping customers operationalize ITAM, I am confident in saying that for many of you, the perfect world described above remains a goal not yet achieved in practice.
With strong organizational commitment focused on getting the most value out of IT, certain aspects of this perfect world scenario are possible today. But for organizations in the early stages of the ITAM journey, achieving anything close to this perfect world scenario will be quite challenging. Regardless, keeping this perfect world scenario in mind will help fuel your continual improvement efforts all the while remembering that the benefits of making any process better must outweigh the energy spent getting there.
Let’s look at the real world now.
The biggest challenges that I see in achieving your quest of the perfect world receive process are:
Collaboration across multiple stakeholders
Many ITAM projects begin in isolation and once you start looking at each process you quickly realize how much of the information you gather or reference during the receive process is shared by multiple stakeholders.
- Sharing information used by multiple stakeholders for different purposes (HW/SW catalog, vendor lists, and financial information) has its own challenges. Multiple people with different interest will make the information difficult to manage. The information will quickly get out of hand if not managed properly.
- Process participation is critical and will involve various levels of approval, different and sometimes conflicting objectives and priorities. Reviewing and prioritizing cross functional objectives and requirements is key.
Having a clearly defined receive process with supporting policies
The absence of clearly defined process will make it almost impossible to achieve a repeatable, reliable automated process. Along with the process, you will want to define step by step procedures (one for each type of IT Asset you are managing) so that process participants will know what information needs to be gathered and why. The process and procedures can also be used as requirements documents when you will be ready to automate all or some of the steps.
Enforcement of the defined policies, processes and procedures is the only way to ensure reliability of the information you are managing.
ITAM projects cannot succeed in isolation and collaboration with multiple stakeholders and vendors is crucial. Collaborating with stakeholders within your organization is hard enough, but difficulties getting external vendors who have their own agenda to participate in your receive process, even if it’s only to provide information consistently, increase with each vendor you deal with. The incentive is there to keep the number of vendors you interact with to the minimum.
- A strong relationship with the vendor is a must.
- Like it or not, periodic audits will be required to ensure the process is running smoothly and your achieving the expected results (services and data).
Getting data in
There will be times you receive IT Asset by onesies and twosies (those are technical terms J), but most likely you will be receiving them in bulk. Getting information about a single IT Asset is pretty easy. The challenge is capturing the information for several IT Assets that are receive together.
- Import tools are available to import vendor supplied or system generated CSV files or Excel spreadsheets updating the IT Asset inventory. However, including them in an automated process does require additional effort, coordination and collaboration. Dealing with data availability, data quality, data access and technology limitations must be expected and managed.
- Forcing operational resources to use managerial interfaces (and vice versa) will not be well received. Role specific user interfaces and functionality minimizing the entry of repetitious information will make it easier to capture the data during the receive process.
- You still need to capture information that is specific to each IT asset (i.e. identification). Scan tools do help minimize data entry errors and directly update your IT Asset inventory. They can be sophisticated and expensive like ruggedized bar code/RFID scanners or handy apps that you can download to your smartphone.
Automation is definitely required to even come close to reaching the perfect world scenario. Certain activities within the process can be initially automated, however before even considering end-to-end automation of your receive process you need to make sure you can consistently get the information you need.
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” Bill Gates
Contrary to what ITAM software vendors market, technology alone will not answer all your ITAM requirements. For the most part, current ITAM solutions provide you with a centralized repository and the necessary functionality to manage your IT Assets once the information has been entered into the IT Asset repository. Some vendors concentrate on SAM, others on hardware asset management and others have also made use of platform capabilities (i.e. Microsoft SCSM) to automate some of the process steps with varying levels of effectiveness.
From a technology perspective as it relates to the Receive process, what is missing are effective ways of capturing information during the receive process when automation is not possible or cost effective, and taking advantage of the latest innovative technologies (i.e. smartphone/tablet apps) to create usable solutions.
Keep in mind that a software vendor’s primary goal is to sell the software based on current functionality and roadmap capabilities that may or may not end up in future releases. However ITAM takes much more than technology so there are inherent gaps that must managed.
Advancements in technology will close some of the gaps to the perfect world but you still need to address the things that technology will never be able to solve (see numbers 1 – 4 above).
In my next post, I’ll discuss the Deploy process in a perfect word.