Introduction – IT Asset Management: A Pocket Survival Guide

INTRODUCTION

A number of years ago, there was a great panic in the world of computing, IT and electronics. The fact that the world was about to enter a new millennium sent ‘experts’ dashing and chasing in all directions, spreading the word that any electronic device that was in use relied on time and date information and, as such, was unlikely to continue working as soon as the clocks struck midnight on 1st January 2000. For many, this would mean an opportunity to sell their services – some at greatly inflated prices, due to the ever-increasing levels of distress that this pending doom was bringing. It also meant, however, that in organisations throughout the developed world, many long hours would be spent looking long and hard at all the devices that could potentially fail. Many hours of effort were wasted contacting manufacturers, desperately seeking assurance that all the machines we relied upon would not, in a confused silicon stupor, suddenly power down at midnight and drag civilisation to a grinding halt.

With the gift of hindsight, we now know that all of the prophesied doom did, in the end, just not happen. Machines and computers carried on working, the world as we knew it did not stop, and so, on the first working day back – 8 am on Tuesday 4th January – everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief and thanked all those expensive consultants for working so hard on our behalf for months prior to this non-event. Many organisations then spent the rest of the financial year licking their wounds, wondering exactly where all their hard-earned cash had gone and what value they had actually seen from spending it.

But isn’t this situation so typical of the IT industry? We spend and invest so much in the ‘next big thing’, but, as soon as it arrives, it becomes part of the everyday landscape, part of the office wallpaper, something that we just expect to happen day in, day out, and come to rely on. And, of course, we then start to look forward to the ‘next next big thing’, wondering just how marvellously that will change our lives again, and failing to look back and learn the all-important lessons from our previous expended efforts and achievements.

And so it was with the dawning of the new millennium, with everyone in the IT industry so relieved that the modern world had not collapsed around their ears, shaking the dust of the New Year from their shoes and starting to look forward to the next challenge, that many failed to look back at the debris that the last 6–12 months had created – the potential value that may have lain within the remnants of the chaos and the real opportunity that they could have grasped to get some return on their investments.

Maybe they were so relieved that they preferred not to be reminded of the pain they had gone through. Maybe they were just so embarrassed that they had wasted so much money on experts with little or no hope of any real return. Maybe they had moved on to look for the ‘next big thing’ too soon. Or maybe it was just that, at that time, the IT world was very male-dominated, consisting of mere blokes who just ‘high fived’ on their ability to avert a major catastrophe and moved on.

Shame on you, IT managers at that time, for, in your eagerness to move on, you failed to notice that in the debris of the millennium bug there was all the information you would ever have wanted to have known about your systems, devices and computers at that moment in time. There was the make, model, serial number, BIOS level, box colour, power consumption, physical location, business usage, support information, relationships to other systems, etc. In short, there was everything that you would have needed to fully understand your environment and manage your future in a controlled manner.

Shame on you for failing to see the opportunity to take that information, protect it, and place around it process and procedure to make sure that it would continue to be updated and be of value.

And now, because you have picked up this guide, my guess is that you have a desire to gain that level of information once more as you have issues that you need to sort out, issues that – by managing this information effectively from 4th January 2000 – would have been kicked into touch, issues that are causing you pain and keeping you awake some nights. But here we stand, unable to return to that glorious time (unless we employ Dr Who, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, or a similar time-travelling genius to transport us back across the years). Let’s just take a moment to reflect on our misfortune – a minute’s silence, if you will, sitting quietly to consider the mistakes of our forebears and contemplate the challenge that now lies before us.

But, let us not give up at this early stage. Take confidence from the fact that you are not alone and, as such, that the rewards to be gained from effectively implementing Asset Management are many and worthwhile. I hope that the following chapters of this guide will provide you with some structure for your project, some food for thought that will move you forward towards your goals, and that you will feel revived and energised in your desire to gain control of your environment.

Remember:

•  You are not the first, and you definitely will not be the last, to find yourself in this situation.