ITAM at Salem Five
Dawn Dillon agrees that IT asset management, like other technology projects, depends on solid processes. "We've come to realize over the years is that everything is about good processes," says Salem Five Savings Bank's CIO, who has been in the IT side of financial services since 1985.
The bank, founded in 1855 and now a $1 billion institution headquartered in Salem, Mass., had built its IT infrastructure without a standardized process in place for tracking assets after their initial purchase. "I would go out on a limb to say we really weren't managing our assets," Dillon admits today. Salem Five is a mid-size operation, with just 400 employees, but half its end users are scattered across about a dozen branch offices around New England, and without an ITAM process in place, the bank started to experience big league headaches. "Software would come in the door and we would say, 'Who did we buy that for?'," Dillon says.
What finally prompted the bank to move toward ITAM was Microsoft's introduction, a couple years ago, of a relicensing program for its Windows operating system. When the software company provided Dillon with an inventory of the software that it showed registered for the bank, the CIO realized that the Microsoft list was incomplete. In response, the bank's IT staff carried out a manual inventory, but with computers and software coming and going on a continual basis, Dillon says the inventory was obsolete the moment it was completed. That convinced the CIO that Salem Five should embark on a full-fledged ITAM initiative.
The CIO's team surveyed the market for asset management solutions, but the bank was already using Computer Associates' Unicenter solution for its IT platform and in the end opted to purchase the Unicenter Asset Management module, a discovery and repository tool. With the software implementation on a 60-day completion schedule, the bank also hired a temporary worker to put asset tags on all of Salem Five's IT hardware and to change the system or computer name on each computer to the asset tag number. That way, when an end user calls for support, an IT staffer can ask for the asset tag number and then pull the system configuration for the user's machine immediately out of the Unicenter application.
Dillon says that while she did not encounter any serious end user pushback to the introduction of ITAM processes, her team did encounter questions about what exactly IT was looking for on users' computers and about the goals of the project what you might call "Big Brother anxiety." However, with education from IT on the objectives and benefits of the project, end users came around to the new processes. "They quickly understood that they can't be installing software, so they just stopped, and now they call us," Dillon says.
The inventory process produced an immediate benefit: Dillon was able to make an informed decision not to opt into the new licensing program and to continue buying software on a piecemeal basis. But the bank's ITAM program has had more lasting benefits, too, since Salem Five's IT staff is better equipped to support its end user community. For example, when a service call comes in from an end user preparing to buy a particular application, IT can determine immediately whether the user's machine will support the new software without having to send a staffer into the field, perhaps to a distant branch office, to gather the information necessary to make that call.
Best Practices for ITAM
What advice would Dillon offer to other companies preparing to head down the path to ITAM? Know your end game before you get started, counsels the CIO. For example, she knew at the outset that she wanted the bank's machines to be tagged and to have the asset number in the repository. And she recommends that companies determine ahead of time how intensively they want to manage their assets. "Do you care that they have Bonzai Buddy on their laptop?" Dillon asks pointedly.