Service Desk Asset Management Capabilities
When desktop PCs and monitors were kept solely on-site at client offices, asset management was a less urgent proposition. Although the occasional piece of hardware might be checked out by an end user for an offsite project or trade show, any oversight in asset tracking could be addressed during the next physical inventory. Now that more and more employees work remotely, the proliferation of mobile hardware assets such as iPads, iPhones, and laptops has made tracking them more complex and more of a necessity. Since most ITSM platforms include self-service portals for end users, new device requests can be submitted to procurement and, once approved, shipped directly to the end user’s office or home. Although this is much more of an efficient process, maintaining accurate electronic records of such assets has to be done right the first time. In fact, due to the geographically limitless deployment of both physical and non-physical assets, CFOs are demanding more accountability with how those technology investments are managed. While hardware and software tracking is a primary component of asset management, there are often unanticipated benefits that can be delivered by the service desk outsourcing provider.
ABS Database Analyst Brian Nunziato explains, “First, there is the discovery aspect which utilizes software that is designed to probe all IP devices connected to the network and report back to a central database the results of its search. This may include a complete hardware and software inventory of a PC or identification of devices such as printers and routers. The second aspect, configuration management, refers to the subset of information from the detailed inventory records gathered during the discovery phase including other non-physical asset records such as software or services which are sent to and stored in the Service Manager Configuration Management Database (CMDB). These CMDB records can then be used to track incidents, changes, and problems as they relate to a particular asset. The third aspect, asset tracking, allows for the ability to assign ownership, physical location and track condition (such as in use, disposed, repair, retired, etc.) to individual assets.”
Through a combination of reporting from configuration management and asset tracking, the service desk can facilitate a means for clients to manage the lifecycle of their assets. For security and data integrity purposes most clients tend to keep the initial discovery of their assets in-house, but they often outsource configuration management and asset tracking to the service desk going forward. Since both functions can be delivered independently of each other, clients may select one or both depending on their particular IT management requirements.
The asset management process at the service desk is set in motion once the client exports information such as asset category, serial number, asset tag, manufacturer part number, warranty period, purchase date, etc. Lists can be submitted in Excel format to the service desk where it is uploaded into the ITSM platform (i.e. ticketing system).
Asset management can also improve the service desk agent’s ability to troubleshoot issues. For example, if an end user calls about VDI issues but has multiple machines in their profile, documenting the assigned assets properly can help identify the right equipment for access and connectivity issues. Nunziato explains, “Although such configuration data tends to benefit the Remote Level 2 or Level 3 support teams should the issue need to be escalated, knowing the Operating System, how much RAM, or even which particular version of software has been deployed could better refine the Level 1 agent’s analysis.” In turn, he or she could more easily locate the appropriate knowledge article or pinpoint a more specific line of troubleshooting inquiry versus spending time asking unnecessary questions of the end user first. Additionally, known issues can be more readily identified and flagged on common assets in terms of problem management. This is accessible through reporting and can provide a listing of all incidents, changes, or problems that have ever been associated with a particular asset.
Finally, in terms of best practices for end of life assets, obsolete technology is never purged from the database in order to maintain historical integrity of the data. Instead, those items are updated with status tags used to denote the current lifecycle stage such as in use, repair, retired, etc. So even if an asset had long ago been sent for disposal and recycling, all records related to its existence are archived should relevant data such as past budget expenditures or common equipment failures need to be retrieved. Adds Nunziato, “That way, when the client’s management team wants to run reporting and trending data of all technology investments in a historical context, those assets may be gone, but are never forgotten.”