remote workforce.

The Challenge of Managing IT Assets for a Dynamic Workforce

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IT asset management is the process of tracking all of your organization’s software and hardware assets through their lifecycle, accurately recording how and when they are purchased, deployed, maintained, upgraded and retired. It’s a tough job under the best of circumstances because IT assets are frequently updated, moved and refreshed, but it is doubly difficult with huge swaths of the use base now working from home.

When the pandemic forced millions of Americans workers to move home, countless IT assets such as monitors, laptops, printers and phones went home with them. In the rush to equip workers with the tech tools they needed to be productive, few organizations had the time to properly document what wound up where.

Since then, IT asset management (ITAM) teams have been scrambling to catch up. In addition to trying to track down and inventory all the company-provided assets that left the office, they’ve also had to account for the personal devices and applications that employees are using to access company resources.

Losing Visibility

Before the pandemic, many organizations were in the process of upgrading their ITAM from manual, spreadsheet-based reporting processes. Asset discovery tools designed to detect users, devices and apps running on the corporate network can automatically find and identify assets and update inventory reports. However, such tools are ineffective for tracking employees’ personal mobile devices operating on home networks and connecting to corporate resources through a VPN. Increased use of cloud-based applications and services further complicates asset tracking.

With assets so widely distributed, it is hard for organizations to gain the necessary visibility into their IT environments. Administrators need to know which devices are connecting to the network so they can ensure the devices have the latest firmware and operating system patches and are compliant with security policies. It’s hard to monitor, patch and protect assets that you can’t see.

A recent study by Enterprise Strategy Group looked at the visibility gaps organizations now face with IT asset management. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of survey respondents said they do not have a complete inventory of user devices, estimating that up to 40 percent of devices are not tracked. As a result, 73 percent admitted to experiencing multiple, serious cybersecurity incidents, with such incidents 2.3 times more likely in organizations with the least visibility.

The International Association of IT Asset Managers recently cautioned organizations about the risks involved with letting home-based employees work with unmanaged and unsecured personal devices. Barbara Rembiesa, president and CEO of the association, warned that as remote employees access and share sensitive data and financial information, companies will face “breaches and fraud on a scale never before seen.”

Restarting ITAM

In the short term, self-audits by remote workers can help provide insight into IT asset inventory. With an asset tracking app downloaded to their mobile devices, employees can scan or enter serial numbers and other identifying data about hardware and software assets. That information can then be uploaded to the company’s official inventory where it can be linked to purchase orders, licenses, invoices, warranty information, lease agreements and other essential information.

Having an accurate record of what assets the company owns and where they are located is especially important when it comes time to retire or recover those assets. When employees are furloughed or leave for other jobs, you must be able to reclaim those assets in a timely manner to prevent unauthorized users from accessing your sensitive data. In many cases, you may be able to remote wipe devices if you are unable to retrieve them from the employee.

Under normal circumstances, IT asset management is disciplined process that helps organizations optimize the purchase, deployment, maintenance and disposition of software and hardware assets. These processes were largely suspended in the rush to enable employees to work remotely during the pandemic. However, organizations must take steps to resume their asset management efforts so they can optimize IT spending, boost efficiency and reduce risk.

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