A couple of years ago I accepted an offer to work in Advertising. Having a background in Information Technology (IT) and Accounting, it seemed like an odd career move, but it was a good one. The trade off was that I would learn a lot about mass marketing, and the agency would get me to restructure them profitability and growth.
One of the early projects I tackled was getting the IT infrastructure under control, which I want to discuss here. Although originally I was reviewing expenses. My methodology was to look at a couple of expense line items each month, bringing them under the microscope. The first line item I looked at was equipment leasing. It was a chore to find the documentation for each lease but eventually it sorted out. The results though were disturbing. It turned out we were paying for equipment where not only had the lease already run its course, but also for equipment that died years before and been thrown out. Cancel the pointless leases = $8,000 straight to the bottom line.
My opinion on the reason why this had occurred, was that the agency’s management had abdicated its role in managing the businesses IT. No one wanted to know about IT, because it was technical. IT support got outsourced and the technical guy had no boundaries or objectives set.
My firm belief though is that IT is just like legal issues or tax issues. You may not understand the detail, but you still need to understand the big picture and give clear instructions or you are going to get burnt. However after 6 years of running IT services business, I found that almost no-one in the SME space actually manages their IT.
So, no more excuses: The first step in managing your IT, is to do three things.
1. Build an Asset List.
2. Put together Asset Boxes.
3. Build a Network Notepad.
Build an Asset List
You need to know what you have first and almost anyone can do this. Have a whole lot of stickers with numbers on them printed up, and go through every room in your office placing stickers on each piece of IT, whether its being used to write proposals or used to hold up a bench (dead stuff). Taking off my accountant’s hat and putting on my entrepreneurs hat, I define an asset as anything that would piss me off, it went missing. Monitors are normally a separate asset from the computer, but keyboards and mice are just consumables. I consider my portable business card scanner (sweet) as a separate asset as I connect it to different computers. Software generally doesn’t get treated as a separate asset as it belongs to a single computer. Make sure you record the master list of what Asset ID belongs to which asset.
Put together Asset Boxes
Most people like to keep the boxes that come with the software or hardware comes with because the colours are pretty. Get over it. As soon as you have a couple of computers running, life becomes a lot more complex and you can’t afford to waste the space (or the time looking for lost things). Buy some box files and put the Asset Id and description on the back of each one. Then stuff those boxes full of all the relevant junk for each Asset, including software, manuals and licenses. You want software and serial numbers in the box for the computer, not separate.
Build a Network Notepad
The network notepad is a live document that details everything you need to know about what you have. I like to start with a drawing of the network that shows which cables connect to which objects in the network. It’s great for representing what you have and potential problems. Get your IT person to do it for you, as he is sure to have network mapping tools that will break the back of the job. The next part of the Network Notepad is have a list of every computer or appliance on your network, and for each appliance all the relevant details; Its Name, its Serial No., its Asset ID, its location, its purpose, its manager, the administrator username and password. This stuff is critical because if your IT support person leaves you in the lurch, your equipment can quickly become a boat anchor or door stop if you can’t log into it.
Once this is done, you have the basics of managing your IT. The next step is figuring out where you want to go, and finally, how to get there.
So don’t let IT people manage your IT. Sure, leave the execution to them, but remember they don’t care about your profit, your customers or your brand.