B.C. government tackles asset management

With more than 29,000 computer workstations scattered across the province, the government of British Columbia is looking at adopting a more rigorous asset management program.

But with 4,275 departments and units, including remote northern locations, and disparate data residing on Excel, Lotus spreadsheets and a variety of documents, the province-wide inventory project represents no easy task.

So the first step was to form a new provincial government body in CITS, or the Common Information Technology Services. CITS is the new governing body that manages all government IT services, taking ownership of all ministry-deployed computer equipment as of last April.

The idea was, according to Jackie Wald, infrastructure analyst, workplace transition for CITS, was to get a better grasp of inventory. In particular there was an urgent need, Wald said, for one tool which provided such data in a single format and single repository for use in a shared services environment.

The goal was to create one streamlined workstation inventory province-wide, said Barry Morton, CITS manager of transition services.

“These various formats couldn’t be economically or easily integrated and we required all inventory to go to one database,” Morton noted. “As we begin standardization to one platform, we know what our assets are, where they are and what they are capable of.”

After looking at various options, the province granted Tecnet Canada Inc. a contract to inventory its hardware and software . Victoria, B.C.-based Tecnet was also handed the task of consolidating all of the B.C. Government’s hardware and software asset information using its LanCensus asset management software.

“It’s a discovery tool,” according to Don Burrows, Tecnet’s general manager. LanCensus inventories all network workstations and can be used for project planning and deployment, as well as software and hardware audits. The product records hardware asset and network configuration details while recording all network logins by machine, Burrows said, adding the offering maintains and inventory and history records for use by administrative and IT staff.

What Tecnet did, Burrows said, was to set up the file shares on the government network. The log-in scripts were then “pointed” towards these shares, he added.

The product doesn’t require dedicated hardware or administrative staff. After scanning the hardware whenever a user logs in; the software scans runs without interrupting the user’s operation of their workstations.

What separates LanCensus from competing products is it creates a dynamic inventory, remotely, with no footprint and without any need of an agent to be loaded on all the workstations, Burrows claimed.

“Because there is no agent, then there’s nothing left to conflict with any new applications or service packs that you might add,” Burrows noted. The product’s introduction meant minimal impact on system administrators. “The (product’s) appeal is that it is unobtrusive,” Wald added. “It didn’t have to impact the users. They log in and they barely noticed.”

The inventory project began mid-September of last year, with most of information collected and consolidated by October 2003.

The biggest challenge, Wald noted is in coordinating the system and creating efficiencies. The measure of success for CITS is still in the process of the bringing all units online, she added.

Asset management is a growing trend when it comes to consolidating enterprise data. According to IT market research firm IDC, IT asset management software will become a US$1.2 billion business worldwide by 2005.

Graphic caption:

left to right: members of the BC Government Workplace Transition team Barry Morton, Jackie Wald and Mark Scherzer reviewing province wide inventory project results supplied by Tecnet.

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