Managing assets — wherever they reside in a business — is critical to ensuring financial success and sustaining operations. Asset management ensures that your company can optimize the use of its assets, which increases the likelihood of meeting your projections, and your ability to manage risk proactively. Failure to properly manage assets increases the potential for financial losses, including a cyberattack via an unprotected IT asset.
IT asset tracking covers tangible assets, such as desktops, laptops, mobile devices, servers, and routers, as well as intangible assets, such as proprietary software. Trade secrets, which can include product design specifications, financial plans, models, and marketing databases are also categorized as intangible assets, and would be included in the IT asset management process.
This article will break down how asset tracking can help protect those tangible and intangible assets, with a five-step approach to IT asset inventory management.
A Step-by-Step Approach to Tracking Assets
The overarching goal in asset tracking is to identify and more tightly control assets and their usage. An IT asset registry allows teams to track every form of intangible assets, such as applications and intellectual property, alongside tangible assets, including servers, routers, etc. This provides a centralized inventory and insight into your company’s IT environment.
Once you’ve established an accurate picture of your tangible and intangible assets, you’ll also develop a much clearer picture of your various data at rest, in use, and in motion and be able to encrypt that data properly.
Here’s some guidance to help your business adopt an IT asset tracking solution for tangible or intangible assets:
1. Identify the assets you intend to track
You cannot protect assets if you do not acknowledge their existence. Start out by identifying the tangible and intangible assets your business uses to compete in the marketplace. Adopt an inclusive approach; you can always exclude certain assets from being tracked later. While this step may take the longest to complete, it is of critical importance as it will ensure you have an adequate picture of your landscape.
2. Document your expectations for an asset tracking solution
Paint the perfect picture of how you’d like the solution to operate and consider how an asset might be stolen or compromised. For example, you might want to receive real-time notifications of the location of an IT asset or if the asset exits a predefined area. For digital assets, you might need to detect excessive printing of documents or access to software from overseas.
3. Identify key stakeholders and establish a budget
Deciding on a method for IT asset tracking requires communication and collaboration between departments. Identify critical stakeholders from each department whose assets you intend to track. Develop a budget and establish a timeline to document your requirements.
4. Identify and evaluate providers
While some businesses attempt to develop an IT asset tracking solution internally, most opt to engage third-party providers. Once you’ve identified a list of potential providers, create a matrix to compare each solution against your expectations. Invite providers that closely match your requirements to share an in-depth presentation of their solution and pricing.
5. Select a provider and begin tracking your assets
Depending on your company’s assets, deployment might involve a phased approach or a one-time installation. In either event, make sure the solution functions as intended. Designate someone to document flaws in the solution and share them with the provider.
Asset Tracking Pitfalls to Avoid
The primary stumbling block many companies face relates to identifying their IT assets. Some find it an overwhelming process, while others lack time to gather a comprehensive list. In these cases, it can make sense to contact potential providers early, as they can help streamline the process, having helped other companies do so for prior deployments.
An additional pitfall relates to a lack of concern regarding the potential for asset theft or compromise. While such complacency can prove challenging to overcome, by envisioning “what if” scenarios, your business can gain the momentum for change. For example, imagine what would happen if your proprietary pricing software ended up in the hands of a competitor or an expensive shipment was hijacked can help create a business case for asset tracking.
Ready to Streamline Your IT Asset Management Process?
Controlling your company’s assets is critical to competing in the marketplace. Most companies can benefit from adopting compliance management software to improve the visibility and control of their assets. Within a compliance management system, your centralized inventory of IT assets can then be mapped to the relevant framework requirements and controls at your organization. With the right technology, teams gain the degree of centralization necessary to effectively track IT assets and provide the important insights to the impacted controls and requirements. Simply put, IT asset tracking allows your company to keep close tabs on critical assets so they remain under your control, free from compromise, and available as the needs of the business dictate.
Madison Dreshner, CISA, is a Manager of Compliance Solutions at AuditBoard. Madison joined AuditBoard from PwC, where she specialized in external reporting for a wide array of clients, including SOC 1 & 2 reporting, as well as SOX compliance. Connect with Madison on LinkedIn.