In this post, we examine how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can develop and implement an IT asset database. We also discuss the reasons for having a computerised asset management system, what it should include and some of the issues that could arise without such business information to hand.
Business Assets and Effective Management
With no list of assets, attempts at inventory management are likely to be mere reactions to immediate problems, rather than being proactive. In contrast, with a functional database, decisions and effort can focus on working towards long-term, optimal solutions that will be in the best interests of the organisation. Thus, although perhaps not an obvious task to cherry pick, asset registers add considerable value to a growing business.
With a proper system in place, it is simpler to identify, track and report on the following:
- The total cost of ownership.
- Licensing fees paid and due.
- Maintenance completed and required.
- Insurance values, including equipment serial numbers and other identification details.
- Depreciation throughout the complete life cycle, from procurement through to final resale or disposal.
Through its asset register, a business can record information, optimise usage and reduce costs where desirable, to ensure that it obtains maximum value from its expenditure and capital investment. With an effective inventory recording system, it is easier to avoid duplicated purchases, unnecessary expense and costly penalties for non-compliance with licence conditions. Additionally, having electronic asset data to hand facilitates internal charge back in larger organisations that use this accounting convention.
Maintaining accurate computerised hardware records also means that when necessary, the company will be able to take advantage of equipment warranties that are in force, instead of mistakenly paying for support or corrective maintenance when not needed. Other benefits might include minimised administration time and improved service desk information. Additionally, self-service information will be available to end users via the company Intranet or other networked database systems, thereby reducing time-consuming requests for manual access to information. Extending this latter principle, some larger SMEs choose to integrate inventory databases with other company software including asset discovery systems, to ensure quality and consistency.
What To Include In Asset Management Systems
There are some important considerations to take into account when an organisation designs and configures a new asset register. Designed properly, an inventory tracking and management system can automate clerical work and speed up repetitive tasks. Consequently, administration time spent on initial requests, sign off and approval, distribution and maintenance documentation are all reduced, while work records are trackable for on and off-site warranty claims.
Importantly, companies that operate from more than one office or branch premises will need to allow for multi-site integration and access to the database, to ensure that everything gets onto the books. Apart from facilitating forecasts of future equipment needs and providing convenient access to company data, the unhindered access to management information will foster regular, accurate record keeping and minimise pilfering and theft.
How To Build An IT Asset Database
From the earliest planning stages, it is wise to agree on a precise specification to achieve the above aims. During database design, prototyping and initial user testing, project management and development staff should consider including features and functionality so that the asset management system is:
- Able to track numerous asset types, whether physical inventory such as stand-alone and network hardware (plus firmware) components, or software.
- Easy to use, featuring an uncomplicated and intuitive interface so that authorised users can log onto the system with ease and carry out approved operations and reporting, commensurate with their privilege level(s).
- Accessible from remote workstations, with the data, kept centrally – typically on a server – and backed up regularly.
- Adaptable and sufficiently flexible so that developers can change it to meet future business needs, whether they be an expansion, the introduction of different types of assets or further database customisation.
Usually, companies that use the Microsoft Office software suite have access to MS Access, a database program that makes creating an acceptable user interface relatively straightforward. Alternatively, it is possible to model an asset database on an existing template. For these reasons, Access represents a good entry-level choice for smaller SMEs in particular. However, the limitations of this software application tend to manifest themselves as organisations grow in size and their user bases expand.
For larger applications with a higher number of users and a broader selection of customisation options, the use of SQL (Structured Query Language) offers extra advantages. Its fewer restrictions and greater adaptability mean that in general, this computer coding system represents a more attractive option. Significantly, though, programming skill is necessary to develop bespoke solutions of this type.
In the above context, the various Internet developer and user forums contain a lot of gleaned knowledge and timesaving fixes to resolve some typical snags, such as data storage and multiple concurrent user limits. Within the published resources, experts discuss the relative merits of building a database that combines Microsoft Access with SQL Server, versus creating from sample code. Notably, in the latter case, it might also be necessary to comply with extra licensing requirements and acknowledge the authors of the original code.
In summary, by keeping detailed and up-to-date asset records, a business knows where it stands financially and what potential challenges it might face with equipment and resources. Having sufficient information readily available via an asset register gives time to create strategies, control obsolescence and manage support or expansion requirements. It also enables IT managers and technicians to put company IT inventory to the best use possible, thereby providing maximum return for the business.
How Onestop IT Supports Businesses
Offering businesses an innovative approach and a focus on process-driven solutions, Onestop IT is a leading information technology consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Its experts specialise in supporting growing SMEs at affordable rates. In particular, Onestop offers considerable experience in the areas of computing strategy, support, compliance and GAP analysis.
At Onestop, the friendly and professional team will be delighted to assist business owners and decision makers with digital asset registers, including bespoke and customisable databases. Alternatively, if more appropriate, specialists will offer unbiased and confidential advice on selecting the most appropriate off-the-shelf package to meet the needs of an individual SME. For further details, click here now.