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How to use Altiris to achieve 100% lease turn in after three years! Asset Management, Part 2

Created: 17 Jun 2011 • Updated: 17 Jun 2011
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A couple of  years ago I finished up a 3 year lease schedule with only 7 computers missing out of 1003 shipped three years earlier for a 99.3% return rate. I had 7 computers of the same age with wrong serial numbers that we turned in to get 100%.

I used every idea I had every thought up in the last twenty years of lease and asset management to make this happen.

Read through this pick out ideas, some will work in your environment some wont.

Make sure you know what you just got delivered in the first place!

To make this happen a lot of backend work had to be done before the order was even placed.

The first thing was making sure that all orders were captured in the CMDB before the item was even shipped to us.

I  worked with my equipment vendor to have send over a FTP feed every night of what equipment was ordered to secure point. This data feed was then imported with a data connector feed to our CMDB (Altiris NS 6.5). The first report had PO, invoice, cost, who is receiving product, asset information, shipping vendor and shipping tracking number.  I also created a second report and feed that showed shipping information, ship date, receipt date, FedEx tracking number and date delivered  . It really helped that we only had one primary vendor for all the leased equipment. This gave me one point of contact for the data coming in. If you don’t have a single vendor you can create the same thing with a spreadsheet import.

 I worked with several contacts on the vendor side to tighten up what I wanted in the data feed. I started with my sales rep and worked my way inside until I got to the correct person. Persistence was key at this stage.  At one point I had the vendor forward over all possible data columns (140+!) and picked through them to find the relevant ones. I shopped my list of what I thought was relevant with the IT tech managers, techs, Finance group, Accounting, warehouse guys and infosec. Again getting signature from each group along the way so that everyone had ownership of the data.

I worked with my internal InfoSec department to get sign off for the data feed coming in. I had to make sure that we had a dedicated data rule that was hardcoded into our server. I also had to work with my network group to make sure they signed off on a external feed coming through the firewall to our dedicated data point. It took a little longer but everyone was happier that I had a signed off data plan with all groups affected signing off.

The order of items into Contract management module was critical! Purchase order info first as master records into the Contract module. Then assets ordered on the Purchase orders are imported into the asset management tables. If this is not done in this sequence Po's will not show correctly!  I manually set the  Status of goods as "DELIVERY"

So with a approved data list and import of all equipment purchased nightly being delivered to my CMDB. I set up the next function of matching orders and deliveries to received goods.

Lease check in upon delivery, Barcode check in

I had brought in the Altiris Barcode application v6.5 as a new application about 6 months before the new lease schedule. I implemented the tool and promptly modified it to a MUCH lighter application. Out of the box it was a very heavy application requiring the techs to hand enter lots of data. I was getting scan upload rates in the 40% range! Pretty bad. The warehouse guys basically said it’s too much work to do!

My big thing here was to make a location a status. If a asset was scanned at the receiving location code that meant it was RECEIVED (my internal custom status). If it was scanned at the imaged location it was IN_STOCK. If it was scanned on the truck location pallet if was SHIPPED, If it was scanned on the disposal pallet location it was DISPOSAL.

So I modified the scanner inputs so that all the techs had to do was a quick scan of just the location and the barcode of the asset tag. I wrote a update script that any asset scanned at a  location was automatically updated to that locations asset status.  This was a very important way to track movement of the assets through the warehouse. So I did the reconciliation on the CMDB side instead of having the warehouse worker do the work. The big thing was that with version 6.5 you had to make sure the warehouse worker docked the scanner 2-3 times every day and hit upload. If they did not do this the new scan of a asset at a new location would overwrite the mornings asset scan status and time.  

I went to the end point site with a barcode scanner and trained the local technician on its use. I wrote up instructions on the use of scanner and left them on site. I fielded questions on how to use the barcode scanners for months!

All deliveries were barcode scanned by the warehouse workers upon receipt. The status upon receipt was In-Stock. I created a daily report that compared deliveries to barcode receipt to make sure we did not miss any machines. If a machine was not scanned a call was placed to the vendor.  Once the order from the vendor had been verified by the local warehouse techs as correct. Then order was accepted and sent to the Lease finance vendor to be added to the lease schedule.

A side note on the barcode scanners. Once we had the warehouse workers scanning the assets whenever they moved a asset from location to location. I was able to create reports to show how long the asset sat in the warehouse. I did this by measuring the barcode scan times shown for the locations as the IT object moves from location to location. I also built a report to show how many assets went in and out of the warehouse, plus which employee scanned them into the warehouse. The warehouse manager could now look at a dashboard report to show the volume of assets going through the warehouse. This was extremely important to how upper management that one asset gets touch multiple times in its journey through the warehouse. In fact the logistics manager used this report to show the need for his employees to his management.

Network inventory check in

As techs installed computers they assigned a cost center to the machine on a web front end. This let me show lease installs and verify a system had been moved from the warehouse to the business unit. The stock workstation image had the network inventory agent built into it. This agent checked in with the CMDB once it was put on the network. As soon as the machine checked in the asset status changed to ACTIVE.  This also allowed a double check if the tech forgot to assign a cost center to a workstation on the web front end. I also created a report that was sent to the Tech Managers on which techs were not assigning a cost center.

Lease charge back – importance-

We noticed after a couple of months that some machines were not checking in. Plus these machines were not showing up in the monthly warehouse scans. Because we were billing business units monthly for the lease costs, some of the business units would call us for removal of lease charges as they did not have the machines anymore. We had to ask ourselves, if the business unit turned them into us. Where they go?

15 day missing report

So we set up a system that any machine that had not reported into the CMDB would get a email to the last known user. I also went to HR and got them to send me a report of all known active employees weekly. This went into the database with a custom update to a employee status field in the CMDB. This served as my check to see if a machine that had not been used in 15 days was from a employee leaving or going on leave. If a employee was marked as terminated we would email the manager instead of the employee. It served as a way for us to keep down the amount of systems that were out on the production floor without a user. It also helped us not order new systems just because a manager wanted a new system. We had the ability to show there were unused systems in their area or in the warehouse.

Take home policy

In the middle of the process we ran up against a phenomena happening with some high end employees. I discovered with my trending reports that we had 15% more computers active than employees. Now that is fairly normal but what made up that number? Could we drop it to reduce costs? Also about 5% of the employees were marked as using 2 or more computers consistently. Usually a desktop was the primary machine they were using with a laptop as a secondary machine. The laptop would be real sketchy on reporting to the CMDB.  You could see big gaps of 10-30 days of non reporting. So the laptop was going home for a week or two at a time.  The worst machine was 350 days at home without reporting in! I researched and discovered we did not have a HR, legal or Information Security policy regarding this.  HR and Legal did not want to touch the issue at all. So we created a information Security Policy that a machine had to come in every 15 days to get network updates for security sake. Lots of work to run that through the policy machine but it got done. Now I had a weak stick to encourage users to bring their machines into the building to get updates

Remote Check in

Now I made the statement I had a machine that was 350 days at home. How did I find that? I set up a inventory server outside the companies firewalls for machines to check in with inventory updates. This was very important to have a tool that let me inventory machines that were at home. In the end I could not force the end user to bring their system in but I could inventory it at home. I could also produce reports to business managers on which of their employees had 2 or more computers and they were paying for it. This helped bring in machines as managers did not  want to pay for extra machines.

Warranty replacement policy

With my constant trending reports that I created I discovered another fact. Computers were showing up with a blank serial number or a different one then shipped in the network hardware scans. I was using Asset Tag as my primary key, our lease vendor used serial number.  After research we discovered that techs were replacing systems boards and not updating the new system board BIOS with the old Serial number. We had to go back and put in the correct serial number – the one on the case- into the BIOS. Several problems came up with from this. Some techs did not have the technical skills to do this. Also our Hardware vendor did not have correct disks to go into the BIOS to update the serial number. Lots of phone calls later we had the corrects disks and distributed them with instructions to the techs.   We also had to work with our hardware vendor to track system board changes. At this point we discovered the vendor did not track system board changes or put in the old serial number into the BIOS. So I had to backtrack and find computers that had serial numbers in the BIOS different form the system enclosure. We found these as we did physical audits be comparing the serial number BIOS with the of a computer with the physical serial number.                      

Another sub group was a small set of monitors had been leased instead of purchased. If a Monitor went back the vendor did not fix it, they would just give us a new one. So we had to track the monitor switch outs and update our lease schedules. This was done in our warehouse area with the barcode scanners. I created a custom status of lease return and lease warranty replacement to help the warehouse. It also let me created automated custom reports for the warehouse techs and manager to run to show lease returns

Pre 6 month check up – I wrote a automated report which was emailed to managers every month show machines that had not checked in the last 15 days. I put the last known user, computer name, asset tag, last known location and the lease return date.

3 months out – I only had like 20 machines missing at this point. We started sending techs looking for machine missing. Physical audit of the building was done with what was left of the 6 month list as special machines to look for. The warehouse was also scanned twice and we found 10 machines sitting in a corner on the second go around.

Final number was 7 missing. It looked like we had the machines as we found machines on the network  with serial numbers that were not on the lease schedules with the correct model number. We turned them in as like for like to get 100% return rate.