Project Management is Key to Safe IT Asset Disposition

Posted by Frank Milia

Nov 12, 2013 2:23:00 PM

Project management is a critical component in any IT project yet end of life disposal process is often lacking the proper amount of attention. Proper IT disposal planning will minimize data security risks and cleanly close out the life cycle of computer equipment with the creation of key asset management records.

Throwing together an IT disposal plan at the last minute or making it the afterthought to a refresh plan will put your firm at a higher risk of a data breach as well as vulnerable to poor evaluations or audits of your general IT practices.

 

IMG_0959According to Project Insight there are 5 Basic Phases of Project Management:

  1. Project conception and initiation
  2. Project definition and planning
  3. Project launch or execution
  4. Project performance and control
  5. Project close

 

Let’s briefly look into utilizing these 5 phases to accomplish the goal of safely and securing completing an IT disposal project.

Planning facility relocations, equipment upgrades, or the regular need for IT disposal will define the project conception and initiation piece. The conception phase is the ideal time to contact an IT asset disposition firm to qualify vendors and define the parameters of future services through a Master Service Agreement. At this stage it is not necessary to select vendors but to instead make sure the services are budgeted for and qualified service providers and tools have been identified and vetted.

It is important to take appropriate efforts to perform due diligence and gain an understanding of a disposal vendor’s insurance, data security policies, and environmental standards. This type of due diligence is difficult to perform at the end of an equipment upgrade where physical space, time, and human resources are limited.  

In the defining and planning stage thoughtful preparation must be invoked. Typical action items for a disposal project will include taking physical inventory, vendor selection, backing up critical data, physical relocation and consolidation of surplus equipment, and coordinating logistics for the equipment collection.

The project launch and execution involves informing staff of their responsibilities. Included in this are milestones expected, end dates, and any required reporting along the way. Each employee must be clear on tasks, deadlines, and requirements to other departments such as asset reporting to finance, adhering to security requirements set by info security and upper management, or meeting site access restrictions and insurance requirements for facilities.

Closing a disposition project will be defined by physical removal of the equipment from the site followed up with asset reporting, certification, and confirmation and reconciliation of the serialized data.

Project performance and control is all about flexibility. Adherence to schedules is ideal, but not always possible. When necessary adjust schedules and keep staff and vendors informed of any changes.

IT asset disposition is a regular result from various technology implementations and is worthy of serious consideration by project managers. With the proper management of surplus computer equipment disposal a firm will avoid data breaches and environmental liabilities as well as create a depository for managing an organization’s fixed assets.

 

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Topics: IT End of Life Strategy, education & tips, Computer Liquidation, IT Management

5 Ways an IT Pro Can Succeed as a Manager

Posted by Frank Milia

Oct 1, 2013 12:08:00 PM

An IT Manager takes on a diverse role that encompasses technical challenges, analyzing information, staffing, conflict resolution, strategic planning, developing budgets, and even data center management. Both the technical and management components require your attention. It is crucial to both your success and the success of your team that you balance these responsibilities.

Our managers at ITAMG have provided 5 tips to help you succeed:

 

#1: Time Management


Do this: Make the most of every minute. You have two hats to wear – technical and management. To achieve success you must make a daily plan. Written or electronic, it doesn’t matter. Record all of your responsibilities and schedule them in time blocks. Be diligent and stick to this schedule whenever possible. According to this article in US News & World Report, “set specific time limits for routine tasks. Work tends to fill whatever amount of time you happen to have.” When emergencies occur, handle them, and then get back on schedule.

 

Don’t do this: Go into the day without a plan. Without a plan seemingly “secondary activities” such as getting input from employees, giving feedback, providing training will go by the wayside when inevitable technical issues arise.

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#2: Build Relationships

 

Do this: In an an article on Monster.com Richard Hagberg, the president of the Hagberg Consulting Group, a company that develops training programs for the high tech industry is quoted, “First, carefully define your role. Then audit your time so you're spending time on building relationships and improving communication with everyone around you. Schedule appointments with subordinates and listen to their ideas. Initiate group problem-solving, particularly on real issues, rather than trying to solve everything yourself. Deal with substandard performance by coaching and holding people accountable." To build a strong, loyal force it is imperative to have an open line of communication.

 

Don’t do this: Have a closed door policy. When possible include employees when making decisions. Let them share their ideas to create a mutually respectful relationship.

 

#3: Keep Your Skills Sharp


Do this: You are likely a manager because you have exceptional technical skills. Continue to stay on the cutting-edge through research and training. Demonstrate those skills, jump in when complex problems are at hand. Respect is gained in this manner. Education for you and your team is critical to everyone’s success.

 

Don’t do this: Let your technical skills wane. Consider the importance of the respect of your technical subordinates and your ability to lead by example.

 

#4: Delegate


Do this: One of the keys to successful delegation is to know each team member’s strengths. You cannot successfully do everything yourself. Your company is best served when your expertise is devoted to finding solutions to critical issues and delegating accordingly.

 

Don’t do this: Do everything yourself. You and your team will suffer. The members in your group will see this as a lack of confidence in their abilities.

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#5: Roll Up Your Sleeves


Do this: When matters arise that require multiple resources from your team, jump in when you can. Maybe next time your firm is getting ready for a computer disposal help the team take an inventory of the surplus computer equipment. Roll up your sleeves whenever possible and you will gain immeasurable respect form your team.

 

Don’t do this: Sit back and let your team do all the work. Make sure to always be a part of the solution. There’s no substitute for a boss that understands what it’s like to still be in the trenches.

 

By devoting the proper amount of time to each task, keeping your skills sharp, and demonstrating your willingness to be a part of the team, you will gain the respect and loyalty of your team. Master these 5 areas and you will soar as an IT Manager.

 

 

Looking for More Info On Best Practices for EOL Equipment?

 

 

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Topics: IT Asset Disposal, technology vendors, education & tips, Management Tips, IT Best Practices, IT Management

ITAM: The most boring thing….

Posted by Steve Bossert

Sep 18, 2013 4:36:24 PM

ITAM stands for IT Asset Management, but there is often a lot of confusion when talking to  vendors that name solutions after industry terms, let alone a a certain company that just so happens to be named IT Asset Management Group.

All too often acronyms confuse people. According the International Association for IT Asset Management, ITAM breaks down to covering:

  • SAM (Software Asset Management)
  • HAM (Hardware Asset Management)
  • APM (Asset Portfolio Management)

From ITAMG’s perspective on ITAM, we see hardware having three broad categories. Owned Assets (OA) are the contracts, and hardware and software entitlements covered under SAM or APM and these are areas ITAMG does not currently focus on.

The others are Discovered Assets (DA) and Fixed IT Assets (FITA). This is where IT Asset Management Group can provide your organization with assistance as part of your ITAM, ITAD and EOL processes.

IT assets are very different that most fixed assets, like your chair or a mouse pad since they do not require specific software to run or are discoverable on your network. This is a major reason why ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software is not the best solution for tracking IT assets. Instead, IT assets often go through an Installed Moved Added Changed or IMAC process for short.

It is hard to inventory an IT asset until software has been installed, configured and then deployed. Your organization wont often be able to collect this information into a hardware asset repository until it is connected to your network. Too many organization rely on solutions like this and they should still take the time just prior to deployment to document these assets through physical or technology assisted means. Our paper on IT asset tracking methods goes into more detail about this.

Discoverable assets are by far some of the most important IT assets in an organization since they most likely contain a CPU. This is a major reason why many organization have stopped tracking things like keyboards, mice and even monitors. These are then often considered a fixed asset. Another way, while not always thought of as discoverable, is to think about all IT assets that are capable of storing information, like on a traditional hard drive (HDD) or a solid state disk (SSD).

The thinking is not cost driven, but because a device with a CPU or HDD/SDD must have software or information to make it useable and therefore can be exploited. A Dell 19 inch LCD monitor is not often thought of as hacking target for today’s cyber security bad guys.

ITAM Success

The goals of ITAM are simple enough. Focus on compliance, improve accountability and control your inventory. Following these goals should in most cases allow your organization to save money by preventing redundant purchases over time or better time new IT purchases based on asset devaluation. It may also even allow you to better negotiate with a certain software company based in Redmond, Washington should they decide to audit your discoverable assets for proper licensing.

As hardware assets near End of Life (EOL), you will have a leg up in the decommissioning process too. Having an accurate inventory list will not only help you check off desktops, switches, servers and laptops from active to retired status, it help help your disposition partner maximize value back to your organization and minimize risk associated with any device that was discoverable at some point and/or have information stored on it.

Most importantly, the finance and security compliance people will love you. It will make what they do easier since now more than ever they are often found at the intersection of technology created issues and business issues and could use your help.

Bored

This is why many consider ITAM boring. As an IT professional, you may rather spend your time talking with a technical account manager about the latest Cisco UCS server and Nexus switches or perhaps demo an IBM FlashSystem 820 with its low latency read and write times. This is all fine and good, but if you are thinking about how you can get a promotion if the path to CIO does not look promising, here is a great chance to start thinking about how IT impacts the overall business continuity of your organization.

Be the hero

Over time, inventory management systems have evolved into separate silos. There is one tool for managing and tracking routers. Another for desktops and laptops. None of these systems communicate. It is often not a simple task to generate a list of all discoverable assets in case your CFO demands an actual list when he realizes how much more new equipment that was just recently ordered and wants to know why. Should your CFO lead the charge in finding a solve all end all inventory and asset management solution? How will you handle end of life strategy or associate hard drives by serial number to the device they came from? Does your organization require on site disk destruction? What is the legal procedure for the release of certain equipment? Focus instead on being the hero by thinking about business issues and align yourself with the resources that can help you reach that goal.

Homework or “workwork”?

Reach out to your network of IT friends and find out who they use to help them with decommissioning, data destruction and all other ITAM, ITAD and EOL projects.Do some research on organizations that may be a good fit to service your organization, especially if HIPAA or SoX are often referred to in daily activities at your company.

The world has changed. Cyber security is the hot topic and within that realm, its not just about firewall management and locking down TCP/UDP IP ports.

ITAM may be boring at times, but it is the new imperative. And, in case you were wondering, there are 27 acronyms mentioned in this article.

List of Acronyms

  • APM – Asset Portfolio Management
  • CFO – Chief Financial Officer
  • CIO – Chief Information Officer
  • CPU – Central Processing Unit
  • DA – Discovered Assets
  • EOL – End of Life
  • ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning
  • FITA – Fixed IT Asset
  • HAM - Hardware Asset Management
  • HDD- Hard Disk Drive
  • HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
  • IAITAM -International Association for IT Asset Management
  • IBM – International Business Machines
  • IMAC – Installed Moved Added Changed
  • IP – Internet Protocol
  • IT – Information Technology
  • ITAD – IT Asset Destruction
  • ITAM – IT Asset Management
  • ITAMG – IT Asset Management Group
  • LCD – Liquid Crystal Display
  • OA – Owned Assets
  • SAM - Software Asset Management
  • SoX  – Sarbanes-Oxley Act
  • SSD – Solid State Disk
  • TCP – Transmission Control Protocol
  • UCS – Unified Computing System
  • UDP – User Datagram Protocol
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Topics: IT Asset Disposal, IT services, ITAD, data breach, education & tips, computer hardware

The Repercussions of the Poor Electronic Recycling Decisions of our Past

Posted by Frank Milia

Sep 18, 2013 4:35:39 PM

The government, corporations, and citizens in the United States have a higher awareness than ever before for the necessity to properly recycle electronic waste. Although there have been positive results from educating and regulating the electronic waste producers, collectors, and recyclers a great threat still remains.

In a recent New York Times article by Ian Urbina “Unwanted Electronic Gear Rising in Toxic Piles” the increased concern that electronic waste is being improperly handled is well documented. The article exposes a practice by electronics recyclers that promote their brand by deceiving clients with false claims of legal and ethical recycling procedures. In reality, these recyclers separate out valuable material and then stockpile, carelessly discard, or illegally export the remaining toxic waste

13737975_xl_electronic_waste

Cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors and televisions are currently the largest threat to our environment from electronic waste. CRT products have a high cost of collecting, processing, separation, and of down-stream disposal of the toxic lead glass. Because of the high costs associated with properly dismantling and recycling electronic waste, the U.S. government has developed programs and incentives for recycling companies to collect and process the material. Many states also require manufacturers to provide “take-back” programs, which are typically contracted out to recycling companies.

Some recycling companies have taken advantage of these incentives and OEM contracts and are now stuck with product they cannot afford to process and in turn are abandoning warehouses full of electronic waste, land-filling the material, or exporting it illegally and then shutting down the business to restart under a new brand.

Ian Urbina claims that the federal government alone is disposing of 10,000 computers a week, and even many of their own disposal practices have been taken advantage of by parties who undertake fraudulent or illegal actions handling the waste. The burden of solving this problem is on the generators of the waste, all of us, to take the time to seriously investigate how our electronic waste is being handled.

There are some practices leading IT business decision makers can utilize in order to avoid contributing to criminally reckless recycling vendors.   Every IT department should have a written disposal policy that includes data security, environmental and social policy, a list of approved and qualified vendors, and methods for tracking the disposal of regulated electronic waste.

A qualified disposal vendor should be one that can provide verifiable data and tracking of the receiving, processing, and downstream recycling of material. Vendor selection should be made not only according to third party certifications (R2, ISO 14001, BAN etc.) but from evaluation of a vendor’s software reporting tools and transparent access to the recycling vendors’ processes, procedures, and physical facilities. Demand the same level of sophistication from an IT asset disposal vendor that you would from any other technology partner.

The past choice that some have made to utilize fly by night recycling outfits or select vendors without performing due diligence is one that will negatively affect our environment for years to come. The abandoned stockpiles of CRT monitors will be monuments to our collective poor oversight.

Today is a day to reflect on our past decisions and to pledge that we will do everything we can to ensure our electronic waste is processed in an ethical, secure, and environmentally sound manner.

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Topics: IT Asset Disposal, IT services, data destruction, ITAD, data breach, technology vendors, education & tips, computer hardware

   

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