Continued revenue declines and endless budget battles heighten the importance of asset management. This is particularly true when resources extend beyond traditional IT software and hardware to include other types of infrastructure and inventory.
The idea is to improve not only fiscal management (by consolidating and streamlining the management of all assets throughout their lifecycle), but also resource utilization. Ultimately, the goal is to improve the quality of service provided to the public.
With many types of equipment becoming more intelligent through better instrumentation, it's possible to automate inventory tracking and centralize management. But a consolidated approach to asset management requires a solution that can incorporate information about both IT assets and nontraditional resources such as fleet services. Products such as IBM Maximo and Oracle Asset Manager work with other enterprise applications to automate centralized asset management. These systems are costly, but the dividends can be tremendous, experts say.
Lisa Erickson-Harris, research director with Enterprise Management Associates, sees opportunities that could come from merging the separate disciplines of IT asset management, service management and financial management. The greatest opportunity, she says, is for agencies to gain real insight into their service delivery requirements and financial capabilities.
Consider the case of Corpus Christi, Texas. The city's process for fielding calls from residents about utility services ran on an antiquated system. Service requests were logged manually. With no central citywide tracking system, there was no way to track response times or properly prioritize requests. The city also could not properly correlate data. The result was a lack of standardization and almost certain waste.
With the understanding that city utility, wastewater and storm water operations might be outsourced to a private-sector entity if service levels didn't improve, the city undertook a major effort to automate operations and improve customer service.
40% to 60%
Portion of the typical IT operations budget consumed by IT hardware and software maintenance expenses, including support services
"We knew we didn't have the tools we needed," says Steve Klepper, administrative superintendent for the city's water department.
Klepper sought a way to automate customer lifecycle management. The municipality also needed to integrate data from work orders with its geographic information system to accurately determine whether a request was related to an isolated incident or if it was the result of a more systemic issue that required a wider response.
The city selected IBM Maximo Enterprise Asset Management software to deliver a cohesive system for managing disparate resources that encompassed six wastewater treatment plants, 1,500 miles of water mains and a gas distribution system.
Corpus Christi enlisted a consultant to implement the system and integrate it with the existing GIS platform. The city deployed the IBM Maximo system one department at a time over the course of two years.
Klepper says the technology was crucial to its success in meeting its objectives, but ultimately, it may have been the communications and collaborative efforts of the individuals involved that spurred the most progress.
"We really had to tear down the silos," Klepper says. "I keep emphasizing this [asset management system] is just a tool. To really accomplish something, you need to work incrementally across departments."
Klepper adds it is crucial to continue to validate performance, tying budget requirements to service levels. Corpus Christi succeeded in meeting its service level objectives, and the utility operations remain under its control.
Managing Moving Parts
Corpus Christi isn't alone in its struggle to manage so many moving parts. The IT department of the Atlantic County Utilities Authority in New Jersey manages typical resources such as software, alongside non-IT assets such as a fleet of 106 waste removal trucks, which the agency monitors through global positioning systems installed in the vehicles.
Tim Kaye, ACUA's IT director, says the agency uses an asset management tool in conjunction with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager to deploy new applications, and a local maintenance package for its fleet services. "Just maintaining all the GPS data is cumbersome and complicated," he says.
Kaye says his organization ultimately wants to consolidate the management of all of its assets -- including its truck fleet -- into a centralized database. Ideally, Kaye says this database would also include employee data, something his organization is already doing to associate employees with specific IP telephony equipment.
Mapping a Successful Asset Management Strategy
- Plan ahead. Tie IT asset management strategy to the overarching IT objectives and educational priorities.
- Get buy-in from the top. The backing of high-ranking personnel and those involved directly in procurement will help ensure continued investment and policy enforcement.
- Address ongoing lifecycle management. Include all phases of the IT asset's status, from the assessment and procurement stages to regular inventory management and end-of-life retirement.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Continually assess where objectives might be changing across departments in order to adjust strategy.
- Evaluate vulnerabilities. Make adjustments to mitigate risks.