Use Demand Forecasting for Better IT Asset Management
Many CIOs and IT managers feel pressure to cut costs in 2017. Proactive IT asset management is a key tool in this effort, helping save money by preventing downtime and minimizing cost. Demand forecasting can help IT departments predict what assets will need attention and when. Unfortunately, too many IT departments don’t know enough about the assets they have and how to use them to their fullest potential.
Start With Inventory
In a Computerworld article, Norm Brien of Concentric Business Solutions recommends gathering information about everything from servers and applications to mobile devices, CCTV, alarm systems and telephony. He also recommends taking inventory of critical enterprise documentation and equipment that supports IT operations, including batteries, generators and HVAC equipment. For each asset, the team should document its location, primary user(s), network configuration data, supported services and financial attributes, such as value or length of lease. In addition, it’s helpful to evaluate whether asset management is appropriately integrated with your company’s accounting systems.
Determine What Needs Attention and When
Part of knowing what IT hardware and software will need attention over a given period involves tracking basic facts like when a lease expires, when new models are coming out and when software upgrades are scheduled for rollout. But good asset management also includes demand forecasting — knowing which assets need to be available for peak times. Smart demand forecasting can also identify the best times for maintenance, repairs and new deployments, ensuring key systems are only offline when necessary.
Change risk calculators, often provided by managed IT support services providers, can be valuable tools for assessing what to fix and when. These calculators prioritize repairs and services based on a variety of criteria, including:
- What business processes are supported, whether those processes are mission-critical and how soon they’ll be in demand.
- Interdependencies between existing systems.
- The risk of changing versus the risk of leaving the existing system in place.
- The consequences of waiting to repair or replace, including financial and security risks.
- How long the project will take, what it will cost and how many hours of payroll it will require.
Imagine the Big Picture
In addition to the operational aspects of repairing and replacing assets, the CIO should consider strategic issues, including the consequences of failed deployment. One risk might not cause concern in a time of low demand, but it could become worrisome when demand is high.
It’s also important to consider the positives — like business innovation, increased efficiency and alignment with business goals — that can offset costs and inconveniences associated with repairing and replacing. When IT is viewed as a mechanism for increasing sales and opening new lines of business, rather as than a cost center, it’s less likely that the C-suite will see IT asset improvements as a drain on the budget.
Factors like seasonal sales, geopolitical events, upcoming regulation changes and even weather forecasts can help businesses prepare for potential outages and avoid downtime. As early as July, you can start making predictions as to whether your data center might experience weather-related interruptions the following January. Evaluate when additional resources are necessary to handle increased demand and preserve business continuity. Check your service-level agreements to find out how quickly you can expect services and equipment, and renegotiate if needed.
Consider Third Party Vendor support for Demand Forecasting
Most IT departments perform some degree of ongoing network monitoring, but they don’t always have time to review the data and identify patterns. Outsourcing IT support and asset management puts responsibility for demand forecasting on the service provider. A managed services provider can identify demand patterns and prepare IT infrastructure for increased availability needs.
The average enterprise experiences 2.3 business disruptions per year for an average cost of $418,071. Think about how much could that savings buy, in terms of avoiding downtime as well as boosting productivity, innovation and revenue. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, for which the vendor assumes patching and upgrading responsibilities, can relieve your team of those tasks and let them focus on others.