Moving an entire company remote is more challenging than people think.
For example, most medium- to large-scale businesses have processes in place for onboarding and training new employees on both the hardware and software required to do their job. When you start working at a new company, you might be issued a work computer, a work phone, and a variety of software licenses on those devices in order to complete your day-to-day duties within the company.
When COVID-19 started to spread on a global level, suddenly businesses all over the world had to make the adjustment to remote working.
And for many of them, IT asset management was not something they were prepared to handle.
If tracking and monitoring hardware and software was important before the coronavirus pandemic, now it is an absolute priority. Employees working from home need to be empowered to continue doing their work at the highest level, but also need to be functioning within company-wide systems that allow the entire organization to effectively communicate internally.
Here are the ways IT asset management (ITAM) is going to change in a world that is no longer organized within a physical office.
1. Vulnerability from a security standpoint
Before everyone needed to start quarantining and working from home, most physical devices were kept in the office. There, they could be easily monitored, tracked, and maintained. The likelihood of someone stealing your work computer while at work, for example, was very low.
Now, you have all these devices being brought into people’s homes.
- The shared network at work now becomes hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of different networks (each employee has their own internet provider, their own modem, their own digital security, etc.)
- The protected workplace with certain protocols (and for larger companies, high-grade security operations) is replaced by people’s individual home security systems, alarms, etc.
- Habits and “office rules” that keep devices safe are now replaced by at-home habits, such as working at the kitchen table where water, food, or an accident could damage the hardware
Working from home opens the door to a lot of vulnerabilities. So companies are going to need to find ways to educate and protect their employees and any sensitive information they may be handling by mitigating risks as much as possible.
2. Tracking the movement of each device
A lot of companies are trying to duct-tape together ITAM programs in the form of a Google Doc that their employees can use during this challenging time—but this is a Band-Aid solution.
As a product manager at Cherwell specializing primarily in IT Asset Management, I can tell you that having a dedicated process is going to be more and more crucial as companies build the remote aspect of their culture. Even once the coronavirus curve begins to flatten and businesses reopen, working remotely is forever going to be seen as a viable option—which means you need to have a process that doesn’t just work within your physical office, but also whenever your team becomes distributed.
Similarly, if you have an employee working remotely who was recently let go (or they resigned), you are going to want to recover their work devices and potentially transition them to someone else in their region. For IT departments, then, it’s important to know which devices they have, the information on those devices, and where they should be sent once recovered.
If you aren’t tracking all (or any) of this information, then this can become a serious problem for a company employing thousands of employees.
3. Cutting costs
Now is an interesting time for businesses to reexamine which devices they may not truly need in order for the business to operate remotely.
For example, if you’re a big global company and you are leasing 500 office printers, you might be spending $100,000 or more each month leasing devices that can’t be used right now (or taken home by employees). Especially throughout the coronavirus pandemic, this would be an opportunity to save some money by cutting lease contracts on unused devices until the work environment returns to normal. These expenses could then be reallocated to other more necessary budget items like security infrastructure for people working remotely.
In addition, for people who may still need to print physical copies, companies like Staples have on-demand printing services that can easily replace some of those in-house company assets for a distributed team.
4. Education around personal devices versus work devices
Things get messy when employees start mixing personal and professional computers, cell phones, emails, and so on.
There are U.S. data laws that give companies the right to wipe information from personal devices if they house work-related information on them—primarily so that, if you were to lose that device, companies have the authority to protect their own information.
As companies move their teams outside of physical offices, it’s important to educate employees on best practices when it comes to working from home. Don’t use your work computer for personal interests, don’t save sensitive information locally, etc.
On the flip side, however, working from home also introduces potential benefits for companies as well.
There may be a decrease in the need for employees to have extra monitors, for example. Or, since a monitor is purely a display device, some employees might already have a second monitor at home they can use. In small ways, this unused hardware can potentially save the company money and bring more revenue into the business by selling unused assets.
All in all, IT asset management has never been more important. And now is the time to start refining your company-wide process to ensure transparency across all teams and departments.