Ask 100 CFOs which day-to-day issues stress them out, and you are likely to hear 25 different answers. But ask them if the list includes 'finances surrounding asset management' and they may start nodding their heads vigorously.
CFOs are required to produce reports on the state of the computing assets in our organisations, including costs and depreciation on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly).
In small to medium-sized organisations, and especially in large organisations, there can be thousands or even tens of thousands of assets, including servers, PCs, laptops, printers, various software, etc. In fact, every piece of hardware and software that is connected to the organisation's network can be called an IT asset.
Detection of these assets, including the ability to identify them individually, as well as produce reliable and actionable reports, is an almost impossible mission, requiring hours of work with no guarantee for success, given that the target is a moving one.
Imagine the following scenario: After counting all the computers in a certain department, some of the workers move to another space within the office, bringing their equipment with them. How do you ensure that equipment doesn't get counted twice?
Additionally, if your organisation has several branches around the world, do you have the time and resources to count each location's assets? How will you verify that the number is exact and reliable? This task is made even more challenging because correctly identifying computing equipment requires a real IT professional in the field; you can't assign just any employee to do it.
Enter asset management. From my point of view, an asset management module within an organisation's IT help desk software can become an invaluable tool for CFOs. That's in addition to its primary job of helping the IT department. First, it allows you to generate a complete asset list at any time and to gain precise detection of all computing assets (hardware and software) in all departments, no matter where they are located.
This information may then be used to produce inventory overview reports that provide insight into vital issues like budget risks, hardware, and software risks.
The IT help desk sends an agent (a client-side application) to all assets connected to the organisational network. These diligent agents reach the assets and then send relevant information back to the IT help desk.
This results in a complete auto-generated list of all computing assets connected to the network. The agents collect data on every asset, including the serial number, manufacturer, processor type, operating system, software, and more. Information can also be customised to include information such as purchase price and date of purchase, which can be used for monthly/quarterly Depreciation Forms.
Additionally, the IT manager can manually fill in the purchase date and cost. Attaching a copy of the purchase invoice is also a good idea.
As VP of finance in my own company, I regularly produce an Exception Report to detect new assets that show empty fields for 'purchase amount' and 'purchase date'. When such assets are found, these empty fields are immediately updated.
In short, the asset list helps to automatically locate, sort, and register all organisational computing assets. With an asset list like this, it will take a CFO a matter minutes to complete an activity that used to take days.
Assets Overview Reports
Not only does an asset management module scan all assets in the organisation, it also enables you to generate reports regarding: quantity of items, manufacturer, operating system, processor, installed software and licenses, and more. With various reporting tools, you'll be able to analyse and attain important insight concerning your budgets and your asset supply.
Here are a few examples of reports that can be useful for a CFO:
The Age of the Asset: For example, assuming the average laptop has a life span of approximately three years, a CFO can easily determine that s/he will need a bigger budget next year to replace the laptops that are older than an age s/he specifies.
The Manufacturer: When a CFO can see the manufacturer information, s/he can negotiate a purchase of new computers more effectively, and can work toward a discount or special support services.
The Operating System: The right asset management platform can provide a breakdown of computers according to operating system. For example, a CFO can see how many of his company's computers have a WindowsXP operating system, for which Microsoft announced support will end on 8 April, 2014. As CFO, s/he will need to adjust the budget for this change. The CFO will also need to verify s/he has the required budget, and that s/he doesn't purchase any additional computers with that operating system.
A CFO has a lot on his/her plate, and should spend as much time as possible on the 'big' issues, like company profitability, cash flow and the balance between aggressive vs. conservative growth plans.
Conversely, little time should be used for administrative tasks, such as identifying and analysing IT assets. The beauty of a strong IT asset management software is that it can serve a CFO, in terms of planning, efficiency and costs, and also free him/her up to focus on the big picture, which is what a CFO is paid to do.
Eran Waldman is VP of finance and IT at SysAid. He leads the financial administration and human resources departments at the company, including investor relations for SysAid's business clients. He holds a BA in accounting and economics from Tel Aviv University in Israel.