Asset Management is broken almost everywhere

A couple of years ago I went to an IT Asset Management conference and I thought I would learn how asset management worked in the industry.  What I quickly realized is something was amiss.  Almost all of these people were not even close to being technical.  Talking to some of the people and watching the presentations I eventually discovered that the vast majority of the approach was targeted at the person who eventually was given the job of asset management.  And, this person was given no tools and no budget with limited staff.  They had Excel spreadsheets type of databases and they didn't really understand the assets themselves and how they interact.  Very few system architects understand how the hardware and software works together, the task for a bookkeeper type of person to understand an asset is pretty much impossible.

I was reading Chris Crosby's post on gov't in action.

Good news. Three years into their five-year data center consolidation project the federal government just found out they had 3,000 more data centers than they originally thought. Boy, you just can’t slide anything past these guys. As a side note, this should make all of you worried about the NSA tracking your phone calls feel better, since if it takes 3 years to find 3,000 buildings, odds are they aren’t going to find out about your weekly communiqués to Aunt Marge–or even “Uncle” Bookie—any time soon. Obviously, this new discovery is going to have some impact on the project, but I think the first question we have to ask is just where have these data centers been hiding all this time?

If you want more details on the Federal Gov'ts discovery.

The one group that is pointed out as on top of the inventory is DHS.

The Department of Homeland Security is one of the few agencies that seems to have a handle on its data center inventory. Powner and Coburn praised DHS as the gold standard for data center consolidation because the agency has successfully tracked its data center inventory, how many have been consolidated and how much has been saved by consolidating facilities.

The DHS is one of the newest and most funded gov't agencies.

In fiscal year 2011, DHS was allocated a budget of $98.8 billion and spent, net, $66.4 billion.

So there are groups who do have a handle on their data center inventory, but many have the benefit of big budgets and newer organizations than the rest.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way asset management is done.  And once you see why it is broken, then you can start to figure out how to fix it.

An example of the wrong approach is the person who is charge of Asset Manager has a long list of items to track for an asset, creating a long form that almost no one understands including themselves. Many times that long form then is used in data entry, reports, and effects the performance of the database.  What is missing is an overall way to reconcile the errors entered into the system.  What kind of errors, a simple thing like location of the asset. Someone enters into the long form the location of an asset.  Data accepted, move on to the next boring data entry.  When errors are made, they accumulate as there a lack of regular reconciliation methods to catch errors.  Annual audits are performed, but the audits themselves have errors.

Most people only care about a very limited of information about an asset if at all.  Yet, filling out an asset management form can be one of the most tedious mind numbing tasks in IT.  Who wants to do that.  Oh, there is someone in finance, purchasing, or operations who has that responsibility.  Tell them they have the asset management job.

Being asset manager is a thankless job at most companies.  Yet how much could be done if you really knew with 100% accuracy of when assets where installed, brought on line, repaired, and how the physical presence affected the overall performance of the system.  Asset management is really important to a few companies.  Who?  I would say that Google understands it best as they are one of the youngest and have the most servers.  Also, since they build their own servers, they need to understand every asset.  They asset management the components.  Something only no one does.  Well Facebook manages the server components as well, because they have a Frank Frankovsky who is ex-Dell and understands logistics.

What both Google and Facebook understand is IT Asset Management is part of the overall logistics to deliver IT services.  How can you not know with near 100% accuracy what you have and how it performs?