Dealing with random requests for new IT equipment from staff members, managers, and your boss can be quite daunting. Without a policy or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system to follow, it is often up to you to decide who needs new equipment, what options are available, what security risks are present, and how to stay under budget. In this post, I will explain some of the vital areas and aspects of a well-built IT asset procurement policy.
For this phase, you will want to carefully gather data about the size of your company, the budget you are allotted, employee types, security threats, asset categories, replacement criteria, and the hardware/software you are currently using.
Separating assets into categories minimizes the thinking involved, paperwork, and the time to solve each asset request. While assets can be broken down into several categories, I will merely discuss the two main types: Consumable and Permanent.
Consumables are items such as inexpensive keyboards, headphones, mice, batteries, and USB cables; many of these items do not need to be itemized and tagged, providing the employee with a simple process of, for example, acquiring a new keyboard after a coffee incident. If you are in a smaller company with a more modest budget or suspect an employee is abusing consumable asset replacements, it might help to document your consumable inventory and requests. Consumable asset quantities will change often, and quickly; due to this, these items should be stored so that you can easily see if a stock is getting low, without counting them. Minimal thinking leads to minimal paperwork!
Permanent assets make up the bulk of the IT inventory and budget; thus, they can be further separated into multiple categories. Some example categories are travel, normal, and high-power. ‘Travel’ items are intended for employees who are mobile and do not require much operating power, such as salesmen, whereas a developer would require more advanced ‘high-power’ items. For those who do not fit in either the ‘travel’ or ‘high-power’ categories, they would receive ‘normal’ equipment. With the help of HR regarding new hires, you can have their equipment ready in advance, prepare for future expansion, and turn budget nightmares into something more reasonable.
For larger companies, setting new equipment standards is of great help by limiting the equipment choices down to only a few versions of each device. For example, allowing employees to choose one out of two options of cell phones and PCs. By standardizing which equipment is available for your company to choose, you can prepare security procedures beforehand, reducing the threat of exposing your network to a potentially hazardous laptop without any form of anti-virus software, for example.
Another benefit of setting strict standards is being able to control what OS employees run, seamlessly roll out updates, and avoid favoritism. If an employee requests a device that differs from your standard options, have that employee provide the business justification, additional cost, and finally the approval of the item from yourself and their manager, depending on the company. Make sure you research and list any possible security concerns with introducing a non-standard device to your superior or the individual requesting the item. More often than not, adding a new IT device that differs from what your IT team is accustomed to should be avoided, if possible.
If you are not already using some form of ticketing system, this would be the ideal time to start one. Having employees submit asset requests through a medium separate than direct communication with you limits your stress and enhances accountability. If you do not currently use a ticketing system, create a specific email address or filter in an existing email address; this will sort and store all asset requests. I introduced Zendesk to our company, a CSM, and have all IT requests sent to a specific area that only I can see; in addition to this, as soon as an IT ticket is made, I have it get automatically tagged as what type of ticket it is, as well as an email sent to myself, informing me of the update. An encouraging method to get more users to utilize a ticketing system is to solve tickets as quick as possible; this will shed light on how primitive an email-based system can be.
A replacement program should be introduced, which cycles equipment from old to new, to ensure that older devices are automatically replaced before they become obsolete. A replacement program should be as automated as possible, using data from your IT asset management system and a well-built timeline of each piece of hardware’s lifecycle. A simple method of deciding which devices need to be replaced is to use warranty expirations. For example, set a rule of warranty expirations to the nearest half year, so that the warranties that expire in the first half of the year get replaced in the second half.
While larger organizations often have a dedicated employee tasked with asset management and procurement, smaller companies such as the one I work at, tend to have this role designated to an individual who already has too much on their plate. Due to IT members often wearing more than one hat, it is critical that a proper IT asset procurement and replacement policy is set in place and strictly enforced. This will make your life, as well as those you work with, much more satisfying. Hope it helps!