Standardize inventory data and increase the chance your software implementation will succeed.
By Morgane Le Marchand
Successfully implementing an asset management system isn’t just about software. You need defined processes in place to make sure that your new system delivers strong ROI. Before you even begin inputting inventory data into the system, it’s important to invest time planning how you’ll standardize inventory procedures and staff responsibilities. Why? We’ve asked Joseph Jacks, Chief Technology Officer at Tyler ISD in Texas to share the lessons he learned about the importance of standardizing data and processes.
As technology leaders, we know that it makes good sense to standardize inventory, such as the device brands and models we use, whenever possible. Product standardization makes our support staff more efficient by limiting the number and types of devices they must support. The practice of standardization should also be applied to the inventory management process. Establishing standardization in your inventory control system at the very beginning will pay dividends down the road.
Invest Time in Planning
When implementing a new inventory management system, I can’t stress enough how important it is to spend ample time planning before launching the project. When we first implemented TIPWeb-IT, we made the mistake of jumping right in and inputting all our asset information. We thought we had a great plan but quickly discovered we had not thought it all the way through. We didn’t have good naming conventions defined and we didn’t have a single point of contact for creating catalog entries. The result was that all devices were tagged and inputted into our new system, but we soon found that we had created a mess.
Create Naming Conventions
We quickly found out that we should have created clearly defined naming conventions before inputting assets. When we started our implementation, we allowed our teams to enter their own items as they scoured the campus and tagged all the items. What resulted was that many of our items got created in the catalog in a number of different ways, resulting in a lot of duplicates. We could have avoided this had we taken the time to standardize inventory by clearly defining naming conventions and assigning a single point of contact for creating catalog items prior to the onset of this project.
Start with Clean Data
When managing an asset management system, you want to have very accurate data. If you do not input clean data, you will not have accurate reports and your efforts will have been in vain. The time spent planning your onboarding process will help you down the road when you need to pull reports and helps to ensure that your data is clean.
Optimize Information in Data Flows
Clean data is also very important if you ever want the data to flow between your asset management system and your fixed asset financial system (or other business systems). In our case we have set up data imports/exports between TIPWeb-IT and TEAMS. When new purchases are made in TEAMS, they flow directly into TIPWeb-IT. Also, when we make changes to locations and assignments in TIPWeb-IT, then our fixed asset data is updated in TEAMS.
When we set up this data flow, we quickly discovered that our TIPWeb-IT data was inaccurate because of the way we originally created the catalog, and our fixed asset system was in even worse shape. We learned that we should have used the same naming conventions in both systems. The work to clean this up took well over a year and hundreds of hours – time that could have been saved had we standardized our processes earlier.
We now know that a lot of the headaches we faced could have been avoided if we had invested time into planning at the start. Creating standards and putting a heavy focus on inputting clean data into our system would have improved the input process and produced a better end result. Once we realized the mess we had created in TIPWeb-IT, we cleaned up our database which ultimately allowed us to integrate with our financial system. The end result is a great process that has paid dividends in both time management and the ability to provide accurate inventory reports.