Remote Asset Management: A Whole New Set of Challenges

How fast things can change! Less than a year ago, every industry, almost every organization, was focused on adapting to the challenge of managing successive generations of new technology:  more but also more expensive equipment. Of course, IT loomed large, here, with constant advances in mobile devices such as phones, laptops, notebooks; but, in fact, the revolution was in full gear in specialized equipment for hospitals, service companies, engineering outfits, and many others.

In response, organizations of all kinds were discovering innovative, state-of-the-art asset-management software to protect and optimize their investment in expensive equipment. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and in just months millions of people in the workforce had been ordered to work from home—and their equipment had to go with them. Today, company equipment estimated in the hundreds of millions is suddenly no longer on-site, no longer in the workplace.

Stanford News, reporting June 29, 2020, wrote: “We see an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time… So, by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working-from-home economy. Almost twice as many employees are working from home as at work.”

The magnificent adaptability of American enterprise has kept the economy functioning and even growing, but organizations acting responsibly at the same time are challenged to track, inventory, and report on their now far-flung assets. Companies like Notifii are working with those organizations, profit and nonprofit, private and public, to address the unprecedented challenge to asset management using the new Checkout system.

Let’s look briefly at the challenges facing management in an era characterized by the dispersion of an organization’s equipment to work-at-home sites that can number in the hundreds of thousands.

Bringing Asset Inventories Up-to-Date

When COVID-19 hit, “work-from-home” was both a decision of many companies and a mandate of governments.  In this pressing emergency, hardware like laptops, tablets, smartphones, and monitors were ordered and shipped to thousands of locations. Justifiably, it became a rush to create a new infrastructure of connection and communication. Much equipment was taken or shipped from the office; newly purchased equipment was shipped to wherever it was needed.

Attention now turns to:

  • Recovering control over widely dispersed organizational assets by inventorying them and keeping current by inventorying new assets.
  • Preparing for the consequences of an end to the COVID-19 crisis, when the equipment would need to be reclaimed.
  • Putting in place the best asset management systems and practices for the long term.

The future remains uncertain, of course, with prospects of an effective vaccine and controversy over possible future waves of infections. But a crystal ball is not needed to identify some priority considerations for managing assets in 2021 and beyond.

A New Strategy for Permanent Changes

Almost certainly, some significant portion of those now working remotely at home or elsewhere will become a permanent remote workforce–business as usual.  Even as some states already are easing stay-at-home orders, businesses based on experience during the pandemic are offering key employees the option of continuing to work from home. It is not a surprise since, in many industries, including high-tech, this kind of flexibility already was a standard and growing practice.

An article in Forbes, “Working from Home: The New Industrial Revolution (September 7, 2020),” quoted one CEO as saying: “We’ve successfully transitioned to 100% remote working without any impact on productivity, as well as rejigging elements of our culture to support the move. As such, it doesn’t make sense to return to a full office, although we have made provisions for our team to work together in person as needed… We’re certainly now future-proofed in case there’s a resurgence of the pandemic…”

These indications suggest that there will be no return to an earlier “normal” and hardware normally in the office will remain dispersed among hundreds of thousands of locations. Tracking and managing the equipment is much more difficult because in the emergency records of placement of new equipment often were inadequate or even non-existent.

Now, organizations must ask:

  • Do we have a record of what equipment our workers have at home?
  • Can we identify hardware that may have been removed by individuals from the office?
  • If we shipped assets to work-at-home locations, do we have a good record of where we sent them?

None of this should imply blame for actions and decisions taken as the emergency struck. These decisions and actions helped keep millions of organizations operating and the economy alive. But with a substantial permanent remote workforce, proper tracking is vital. Even tracking programs in place must now account for remote locations.

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Inventory Control to Adapt to Workforce Changes or Life Cycles

The experience of 2020 has alerted those responsible for the unexpected. For example, how to respond if the organization’s workforce suddenly is sharply reduced? Or if the permanent state of remote work triggers a need for an updated generation of equipment? Asset managers for the organization must anticipate collecting equipment from perhaps thousands of remote users.

Obviously, the logistics of collecting the equipment are challenging. And an urgent consideration is the tracking of devices that must not end up in the wrong hands, because priority organizational data can be accessed on the equipment or the organization’s network. Kjartan Rist, a writer on venture capital, wrote in Forbes: “IT security was already a problem even within the physical workplace, which is why there’s widespread concern about employees using personal laptops and mobile devices to access corporate networks over the home and/or public internet connections.”

The key is an accurate asset-tracking system and inventory. Existing or new asset management software can record existing equipment as it is identified and new equipment as it goes into use. The record should include identification of the piece of equipment, its location, the employee responsible, how long it has been in use, the projected return date (if any). A system like Notifii Checkout makes creating that record easy. The resulting record also can include notes on equipment that needs to remain secure, a photograph of the equipment, and even the e-signature of the borrower. The entire inventory of equipment can be viewed online and reports can be prepared on any aspect of asset management. If all equipment is effectively recorded and tracked, then where necessary sensitive data can be wiped, devices can be audited, and older equipment can be recycled to meet regulations. 

Tracking Equipment Ensures Flexibility

No organization can discount the possibility that a return to normality will be succeeded, at some point, by a new crisis. As normality is restored, at some point, much equipment purchased and disseminated for remote work will appear as “surplus.” This is the kind of development that will be made clear by effective asset management software that has kept pace with remote equipment inventory.

Organizations confronted with this return of surplus equipment should assess the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic—or a different crisis—and how surplus equipment can keep them prepared. There are organizations, now, that accept equipment, erase data, and update equipment as necessary. The result is a pool of devices ready and safe to deploy in another emergency. None of this is feasible without an accurate, comprehensive inventory possible only with state-of-the-art asset management software. 

What Optimal Asset Management Will Require

Ambitious goals for asset management will require the right asset management software for each organization. That should take account of the organization’s size and structure, the type of IT and other equipment used, the numbers of employees working remotely, and the complexity of the software required to be balanced against ease of learning and use. Only the database is created, optimal inventorying and planning will require:

  • An asset management database current in all respects.
  • Adherence to security standards and compliance with privacy requirements.
  • Confirmation of the workability of processes for tracking an asset through its lifecycle in real-time.
  • Optimal hosting of the system on a locally installed server or on the cloud.

Your Checkout Demonstration

Checkout is the state-of-the-art software for asset tracking from Notifii.  It anticipates and addresses all challenges of remote asset management during and after the COVID-19 emergency.  Just ask for a demonstration of Checkout’s unlimited tracking capacity, modifiable features for recording information, excellent user interface, and Cloud-based support that makes it instantly available for use without a company server.

Notifii is a software innovator with systems that accommodate the spectrum of management needs. Our product specialists can discuss your organization’s management software requirements and recommend the right systems.  Try the software for FREE and enjoy the software contract-free.

There may never have been a greater challenge to asset management than the pandemic emergency. Notifii is here to address that challenge with you. We are ready to discuss your organization’s distinctive challenges of remote asset management.

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