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Completing the CMDB Circle: Asset Management with Barcode Scanning


Academic year: 2021

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Completing the CMDB Circle:

Asset Management with

Barcode Scanning


The Value of Barcoding

Today, barcodes are on just about everything manufactured and are used for asset tracking and identification in most businesses. Barcoding should be used whenever there is a need to accurately identify or track something. Manufacturers, such as Dell, include barcodes on their desktops and laptops as unique identification numbers. A common asset management best practice is the use of barcodes for all assets. As equipment is received, it is tagged with a barcode label and then deployed. When barcodes are implemented in business processes, procedures can be automated to increase productivity and reduce human error.

How important is barcode scanning for effective asset management? How should barcodes be used and when? When is discovery not enough? And what is the best way to implement barcode scanning along with asset management software, such as BMC’s Service Desk Express (SDE), a.k.a., Magic Service Desk? This paper examines various barcode scanning solutions and the value provided for effective asset management.

Today, most organizations have some sort of IT asset management system or policy in place. The most important component of asset management is a configuration

management database or CMDB. The CMDB consists of configuration items such as PCs, Servers, Tablet PCs, Switches, and Routers, along with the relationship of that configuration item to other IT assets within the organization. Often times, the CMDB consists of a single data repository utilizing a software asset program such as Peregrine’s AssetCenter, or BMC’s Asset Manager. More often than not there is no single database containing all the organization’s data. Instead, most organizations utilize several data stores ranging from Excel spreadsheets to data captured from auto-discovery tools such as Microsoft’s SMS. The one

consistency, among most organizations, is that they all believe their assets are better organized than they actually are.

Why CMDB Accuracy is so Hard

No matter how much emphasis is given to standard desktop and server configurations, the corporate world is far from perfect. Rules are broken everyday making CMDB accuracy a daunting task. Reliable asset management is an oxymoron. Contributing factors include:

 PDAs, cell phones and Blackberry’s are proliferating at a rapid rate. These items are difficult to track, are usually not discoverable with common auto-discovery tools, and are usually assigned to an individual, not necessarily a location. The small size and mobility mean that the items are prone to theft, misplacement, and are easily damaged. In

addition, PDAs and cell phones are now starting to make up a more significant cost of equipping the typical office worker.

 The laptop is becoming the standard desktop system. Although the laptop vs. desktop debate continues, most employees view laptops as a status symbol and with prices falling, more desktops are being replaced by laptops. The “traveling” nature of laptops makes them more vulnerable to damage, loss, theft, and unauthorized use.

 Nearly all large organizations have some sort of telework policy that allows a substantial number of employees to work at home. According to the Dieringer Research Group, the


number of employed Americans working from home grew to 44.4 million in 2004. Nearly all of these employees require mobile computing resources which are difficult to track and maintain.

 Many asset management systems rely exclusively on auto-discovery tools only for data collection. A key challenge is that some non-networked assets fall outside the scope of auto-discovery tools, for example, scanners, printers, inventory items, and spare parts. Also, auto-discovery tools do not provide location information such as building and room number, nor will not work with PC’s when they are powered down. Since these items are part of the total asset database, an actual physical inventory is required to accurately capture these assets.

Since non-discoverable and mobile assets can make up as much as 30% of an organization’s total asset population, a regular physical inventory is required to ensure the integrity of the CMDB. An accurate inventory allows for “just-in-time” purchasing decisions as it ensures that inventory levels are at optimal levels. Increasing inventory accuracy also ensures that expected levels of service are maintained.

Auto-discovery tools are not enough. A successful asset management process must include all assets, not just those connected to a network. Additionally, auto-discovery tools only identify what assets are networked with no indication of building or location. Thus, in addition to auto-discovery tools, an asset management process must include mobile computing hardware and application software.

Completing the Circle

To be effective, a CMDB must be accurate. Barcode scanning provides a low-cost, highly reliable method of ensuring database integrity, especially among mobile assets and assets that are not easily discoverable. RightStar’s MagicWand, developed specifically for use with BMC’s Service Desk Express, is a software module designed for mobile computing PDAs or barcode readers to more accurately track computers, equipment, furniture, and other resources. Using the BMC Service Desk Express Application as a CMDB, MagicWand downloads

inventory, location, and client data into Palm OS or Pocket PC based barcode scanners. Then, the barcode scanner receives or verifies inventory by scanning the applicable asset barcode and physically entering the location into the barcode scanner. Then inventory, location, and client data are uploaded to store and synchronize with the Service Desk Express CMDB for automatic inventory and asset reconciliation.

Communication with the mobile barcode scanners is achieved via wireless local area networks (WLAN) or cradles connected to a company's LAN. At the press of a button, the data updates are synchronized with the Service Desk Express CMDB.

Unlike auto-discovery software tools which can identify inventory items, but can’t always locate them, MagicWand may be used to reconcile:

• Buildings & Rooms • Inventory Items • Clients • Staff

• Inventory Actions • Vendors • Inventory Catalog


MagicWand provides any or all of the following applications:

 Asset Verification - “One Button Audit” A simple scan of the asset tag reveals model description, asset tag, serial number, building, room, and client assigned. Any of these attributes may be changed based on the user’s permissions which are managed in Magic.  Asset Tracking - Records movement of inventory items from one location and/or client

to another. It also provides a record of all actions associated with an inventory item throughout its lifecycle to include:

o Installation

o Reallocation / Movement o Repair

o De-install / Excess

 Receiving - Capture information for large quantities of equipment upon receipt, quickly and easily:

o Part # & Description, Asset Tag, and Serial Numbers o Vendor

o Packing Slip, PO, and Invoice Numbers o Warranty Information

Scanner Flexibility

The MagicWand application will run on Symbol SPT, PPT and MC series handheld scanners and on numerous Palm brand devices using Socket SDIO add-on scanning modules. These Palm OS and Windows Mobile Pocket PC platform computers were chosen to provide the highest level of storage space and flexibility for deployment of this and future

Asset Management applications. A Symbol scanner is typically used for a more ruggedized application such as warehouse or factory floor. Palm or Pocket PC scanners are good choices when there are large numbers of assets that are stored or when signatures are required. A Palm Tungsten PDA with maximum memory capacity can store as many as 160,000 records, thereby providing the capability to hold an organization’s entire database on a PDA. The advantage of storing the entire database on a handheld scanner is for ease of synchronization and speed when multiple scanners are deployed for an inventory reconciliation application.

Barcode Scanning Raises Productivity and Provides a

Rapid Return on Investment

In most enterprises, asset verification, asset tracking, and asset receiving chores are labor intensive. Taking inventory may require physical visits to each location to visually identify the equipment present. A typical duty is to record inventory changes by hand and then data-enter the changes into the asset database later. The use of barcode scanning will reduce the time required to verify and reconcile inventory by more than five times.

Likewise, asset receiving by hand requires personnel to manually enter data into the asset database. The use of barcode scanners to perform the data entry will result in a labor savings of more than three hours saved for every hour spent with a scanner.


Additionally, receiving and inventory personnel spend less than 40% of their time on inventory and asset verification. Much of this time is spent at a desk performing administrative work such as data entry. Freeing up these valuable human resources will improve your ability to maintain your organization's physical assets.

An even greater benefit is the performance improvement for help desk troubleshooting calls. Call duration to the help desk will decline with more accurate IT asset information available to the technician.

Specific functional improvements in an automated asset management system with barcode scanning can include the ability to:

 Enable technicians to transfer data into the asset management system from the local and remote sites

 Minimize paperwork at the desk, maximizing time in the field

 Provide help desk analysts access to location specific asset information at the worksite  Access previous work history for improved troubleshooting

 Streamline communications between technicians and their coworkers and supervisors In summary, to be effective, a CMDB must be accurate. Barcode scanning provides a low-cost, highly reliable method of ensuring database integrity, especially among mobile assets and assets that are not easily discoverable. Further, a rapid ROI supports the conclusion that barcode scanning is a necessary component of a CMDB, required to complete the CMDB circle.


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