magic bullet

Why you need more than just a scanner.

A magic bullet that can solve your asset tracking problems for $99? Sorry.

I get requests all the time for “a scanner that works well with an IT Asset Management system.” Customers figure some scanning would help things, and I’ve had to explain many times that optimizing ITAM is a bit more complicated than just buying some scanner hardware. You’ve heard it before that “ITAM is 80% process and 20% tools.” Well, it’s true.

With scanning, there are two important factors:

• The scanning hardware (tags and readers)
• The experience of the user using the hardware

There are a lot of choices with scanning hardware: tethered, Bluetooth, ruggedized mobile computers, portal RFID readers. There are also barcodes, passive and active RFID tags.

To figure out what you need, first determine the use cases where scanning is to be employed. This dictates the scanning user experience and will help you choose the hardware and software you need.

Typically, my customers use scanning for a physical inventory, receiving, IMAC, audits and disposal.

For receiving, scanning is only one step. Customers also need their ITAM databases pre-loaded with advanced shipping records so scanning is as simple as scanning a list of serial numbers. This requires setting up a data feed from your vendors. Otherwise, users must also capture model and PO information on their devices, which necessitates a device with a UI on the scanner and increases the possibility of errors.

You’re not going to find a product you can just plug in and go

There is also the consideration of integrating your ERP, so your receiving process can update both your ITAM repository and ERP system simultaneously. This requires synchronization of your model and PO data between those backend systems, otherwise you can’t eliminate the swivel seat and ensure ERP and ITAM alignment.

For auditing, you need reconciliation on the device or server, where the audit/scanned data is compared to the repository to find exceptions, report statistics and correct errors. This needs to happen on the device for a single user or on the server to reconcile data collected by many users. If on the device, this means loading data on your scanning hardware for comparison, which means you need scanning hardware with a user interface such as a mobile computer or smartphone.

Your scanning solution is independent of the backend repository; Service Now, CA, HP, doesn’t matter. An asset tracking solution is a combination of scanners, pre-loaded data, reconciliation processes and integration. You can find products and system integrators that specialize in certain ITAM products, but the overall concept is the same regardless of your backend. You’re not going to find a product you can just plug in and go. There are other considerations and integrations on the backend that make scanning really work well.

Trust me, I wish I had a magic bullet that could solve your asset tracking problems for $99. I’d be retired by now. Reality is that you need great tools and a commitment to do the rest of the backend legwork and setup to make the tools do what you need.


Thomas Watson - CEO of AMIAuthor: Tom Watson

Tom Watson is AMI’s President and CEO. He began his career in high tech in 1996, as a software engineer for his own software company. After a subsequent stint at IT Asset Management firm Micropath as senior architect for that company’s asset tracking system, he founded AMI to develop hardware asset tracking technology solutions for enterprise IT Asset Management customers.

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