ITS Managed Desktop Services (MDS) has expanded its service offerings to include formalized asset management. This encompasses the full lifecycle of endpoint devices and the transitions in between.

In the early summer of 2018, organizational changes in User Support & Engagement prompted the addition of formalized asset management as part of a broader expansion of service offerings. Carolina Computing Initiative (CCI), Endpoint Infrastructure and Workstation Engineering services all came into MDS as part of a comprehensive desktop management service.

Anne Vail
Anne Vail

With the addition of a dedicated asset manager, MDS is now completely staffed and can fully manage the endpoint computing environments for their customer base, reducing desktop support needs and unnecessary technical overhead.

Asset management is included as a service under the MDS S.M.A.R.T. management model, which stands for Strategic Management of your Applications, computer Resources and Training.

Asset management benefits ITS and ITS’ campus customers through improved security and audit reporting for covered devices, asset forecasting, financial benefits with waste reduction and informed purchasing, said Anne Vail, MDS Manager.

Now that the new asset management processes and systems are in place, MDS has hired an Asset Manager. Lucas Fountaine, “Luke,” started April 8. He comes to ITS from State University of New York at Fredonia, where he worked in a variety of MDS-related roles.

This new Asset Manager role is primarily focused on full lifecycle asset strategy and management while also providing secondary expertise in the endpoint infrastructure and workstation engineering functions of MDS.

Much groundwork was needed

Getting to this point of having a formalized asset management system and an asset manager was a tremendous undertaking. MDS started pursuing an asset management program in fall 2017. Work began in earnest, first with an ITS refresh plan, followed by the expansion into MDS contracted customers.

Among the many steps in this process, MDS staffers developed a point in time inventory. To do so, they conducted physical inventories across their customer base, collected and examined information from various data sources and from the limited number of units that had their own lists. MDS workers reviewed and cross referenced departmental off-campus use agreements. They compared surplus records. They scoured Active Directory, SCCM and Carolina’s JAMF software management records. They analyzed reports showing which devices had — and had not — connected to the network in the last six months. They also used network discovery tools to identify devices connecting to covered VLANs. All of this was to reach a starting point with an actual confirmed inventory of endpoint devices.

Nothing was an authoritative source, Vail said. “We had to assemble all those pieces of data, cross-reference many times over and then shape the results into meaningful information. It was a massive undertaking.”

Emerging topic for higher ed IT

Efficient and systematic asset management is relatively new to IT departments in higher education. Many universities are still trying to get a handle on the best way to provide oversight for the lifecycle of IT assets — from planning through acquiring, managing and removing these computing devices from service.

In fact, IT asset management tools tied for No. 10 in a list of the top 10 new strategic technological investments colleges and universities would be spending the most time implementing, planning, and tracking in 2018. This list was a report from the Educause Center for Analysis and Research, called Higher Education’s 2018 Trend Watch and Top 10 Strategic Technologies

How it works

So how does the ITS asset management system work? MDS enrolls ITS endpoint computing devices in ITS management systems and monitors them for continued health and optimum performance. MDS catalogs new purchases. This includes tagging the device with a barcode and help line number, imaging the device (reloading the base operating system), and loading and deploying other software.

MDS tracks movements of computers between assigned users. MDS records these changes in the asset management system, refreshes computer software, and renames the device to reflect the change in the user. MDS also prepares for and documents all devices designated as surplus. This includes removing the hard drive, erasing data, salvaging and certifying sensitive information removal.

With this new system, ITS becomes more proactive and is better able to forecast. Managers know what devices are assigned to their team and what software is installed. They also can make informed decisions about their internal inventory needs and controls.

“The volume of data we collect is important,” Vail said.

As the asset management program collects and organizes more information, MDS will be able to slice, dice and filter a customized picture for managers based on the information they want, such as five pieces of information from the 50 or more data fields which exist for each device.

“With each inventory review, our data becomes more accurate,” Vail said. “For example, we capture both device custodians and device purpose. This is especially helpful to identify shared workstations and establish a pool of devices available for contractors.”

MDS now has a stock of new devices available for new hires and device failures through the year. MDS also has an inventory of systems available for reassignment. These are devices that have not aged out of the lifecycle yet and still provide some value in areas where secondary or task-specific devices are required.

Getting to know Luke Fountaine

Luke Fountaine
Luke Fountaine

Personal: I currently live in Raleigh, but I’m from Buffalo, N.Y., and have lived there most of my life. I enjoy watching football, running and binging all kinds of series on Netflix. I am getting married in November to my fiancé, Lara, who is a librarian at N.C. State University. Go Heels!

Professional: Prior to arriving at UNC, I spent nearly 10 years working in IT at the State University of New York at Fredonia. I began as a Student Technician and left as a Systems Administrator. Before that, I served in the U.S. Army for more than five years as a Network Switching Systems Operator. After two tours in Iraq, I left the Army to continue my education, which led me to Fredonia.

Education: State University of New York at Fredonia, B.S., Computer Science

What attracted you to the UNC ITS Asset Manager job?
As a child, I idolized Michael Jordan, and one day had hoped I would attend UNC-Chapel Hill like he did. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend after high school. When I saw the position of UNC ITS Asset Manager, I knew this was my chance to not only “attend” UNC, but to do something that I love. Organizing IT assets, refining acquisition and disposition processes while still doing some of the Systems Administrator functions that I love was what attracted me to the position.

What do you hope to accomplish in this position?
I hope to help UNC ITS to define proper IT Asset Management standards and procedures, which can assist with managing IT spending.

Why is asset management important?
Effective IT Asset Management (ITAM) helps managers control IT costs by providing accurate data to support better decision-making processes. ITAM collects detailed inventory information and uses it to refine acquisition and disposition processes. This leads to more efficient procedures and clearly defined standards, which ultimately adds to the success of the organization.

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