What's the right tool?
Should companies use lifecycle software? What about an Excel spreadsheet? Our commentators agreed that although Excel spreadsheets are a ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive tracking tool, managing assets with them can be messy and difficult.
Vanderveldt flatly warns against using an Excel spreadsheet. "Whether it's internal or you're working with an IT outsourcer, you need a central repository for all that information," she said. She added that a key issue is the ability to cleanly collaborate on setting up the process with departments and vendors?
Her company uses Microsoft Office Groove, which she said is an easy and robust tool for things like software asset management, allowing you to get the process going with little training and setup. "It's a collaboration tool that lets the IT department work internally with other staff members from which they might need to gather information, like procurement. You can share this workspace with any of your vendors and they never have to pass into your firewall," she noted.
IBM's Don Barry agreed on the need for a more sophisticated tool. "You don't want to go manual, which is really what a spreadsheet is. The systems out there today allow you to manage workflow and incidence records. It forces businesses to write plans, and the number one thing I find is people don't write plans to schedule their people, or integrate with the maintenance and procurement."
But in whose budget does the program fall? According to Vanderveldt it belongs in the IT budget because they're the ones who are making sure things run. They're the mechanics.
"In reality it's not a big expense, it's an upfront cost," she said. "You implement it once, then it becomes basically a maintenance tool, but also a risk management tool. You can foresee what your needs are going to be and budget for them accordingly."
Evaluating the Process
How does an organization evaluate their lifecycle management process? The best indicator of value, according to Stahl, is whether or not you can reveal costs that enable some accurate measurement of your IT investment. Is the decision-making and the cost justification done with real numbers or is it back-of-envelope and intuition?
He offered some other key indicators: Are you getting to the point where your change control is being driven not just by helpdesk tickets, but by forecasts so that you're moving ahead and tying into other business cycles? Can you demonstrate true and tighter cost management? Are you mitigating risks so that you're helpdesk tickets and your failure rates have dropped? "There are some leading practice indicators, but ultimately you know because you're getting your overall equipment effectiveness," said Barry.
"The ultimate maintenance person should be rewarded when things don't break, not because he's good at fixing them when they do break."
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