Report: Asset-tracking troubles cost plenty

Despite increasing concerns about tight IT budgets, a report issued this month charges that large companies are wasting millions of dollars by doing a poor job of tracking their distributed hardware assets.

In the Gartner Inc. report "Good IT Asset Management Can Save You Money," analysts Bill Kirwin and Jack Heine point out that roughly 90 percent of Gartner clients who were audited use "marginal practices" for hardware asset management. In addition, less than 25 percent of all global organizations have a life cycle asset management program. These oversights, the Stamford, Conn.-based market researcher claims, can cost companies dearly.

For example, shoddy tracking techniques increase the risk of poor system management, complex change management and below-average service levels all of which can increase the total cost of ownership of distributed computing by 7 percent to 10 percent each year, or US$560 to $800 per user. For a company with 10,000 desktops, that can mean up to $8 million in wasted spending.

Room for Improvement

One piece of advice that Heine offers to corporate IT managers: Look beyond the initial cost of a PC or server to a comprehensive view of other support costs such as maintenance, licensing, disposal, standardization, acquisition "and all of those issues which have a greater impact on the life cycle cost," he said.

Although large companies have become increasingly sophisticated in their approach to asset management over the past decade, there's still quite a bit of room for improvement, particularly in how companies track their mobile assets, such as personal digital assistants and cell phones, said Heine .

Part of the problem is that effective asset management can also be "a huge resource drain," said Diane McLean, senior director of customer support at VHA Inc., an Irving, Texas-based hospital cooperative.

VHA conducts an audit at least once a year to tabulate its Intel Corp. servers and Microsoft Corp. enterprise licenses and compare those figures against its records.

Of course, some companies are extremely diligent about tracking their distributed assets. Asset management "is our bible. I can tell you where every monitor, mouse and keyboard is," said Ash Shehata, director of information systems at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, Calif.

Still, Shehata agrees with McLean that asset management is extremely time-consuming. That's why he's an advocate of services being offered by hardware makers such as Dell Computer Corp. that will track a customer's entire hardware portfolio for a flat fee.

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