Execs say asset disposal shouldn’t be up to IT alone

Canadian IT managers need to get other enterprise executives involved in the retirement and disposal of hardware assets, based on the findings of a global study developed by market researcher IDC.

The IT asset and disposal study surveyed more than 1,000 companies in Canada, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S., about one-third of whom said they use a third-party firm to handle such chores. The IDC study was commissioned by Dell Canada, which, like HP and IBM, is one of those providers.

According to IDC research manager David Daoud, firms based in France and Germany lead their counterparts in other geographies in terms of IT asset disposal, boasting a 40 per cent adoption rate. Canada and the other countries averaged around 35 per cent, he said. The primary motivation for IT asset disposal included managing risk, complying with industry regulations and reducing a company’s environmental footprint, he said.

“It tended to be higher among the most data-sensitive and most regulated sector,” said Daoud. The study said 63 per cent of banks have an IT asset disposal strategy, for example. While concerned about data security and regulation, meanwhile, health-care organizations were far less proactive, at 39 per cent. Controlling overall risk topped companies’ list of concerns in terms, as did the impact of e-waste on climate change.

“IT departments are by far the primary stakeholders. While we agree that IT must be a major player in measuring and monitoring IT asset and disposal, other players like the CEO, the board of directors, must be concerned about (it),” he said, adding that areas like compliance demand other areas of the enterprise get involved. “It’s hard to believe that IT departments are capable of tracking changes in the legal world.”

Joe Strathmann, Dell’s senior manager of asset recovery, said the company is using the study as well as its direct client meetings to help bring those other stakeholders in.

“There are misconceptions about TCO and the cost-effectiveness that we typically get our customers aware of,” he said. “We’re bringing that education in terms of the environmental brand risk and data destruction risk, which are two things that may be managed by other functions.”

Daoud admitted that cost was one of the areas that inhibited some firms from working with a third party on IT asset disposal. But that wasn’t the only inhibitor, he said.

“There is a certain fear that the service provider may not address the risk factor in asset disposal. IDC thinks this is the wrong approach,” he said. “Vendors need to work harder to explain the value of such strategies.”

While 40 per cent of North American firms get rid of old IT assets through donations to charity and non-profits, Daoud suggested the generosity may come at a high price.

“It’s a good way to extend life, but it may come without the necessary checks and balances, which is a major potential risk,” he said, adding that the 16 per cent who said they deal with old asset by storing them are fooling themselves. “Ultimately, retirement of those assets will have to happen.”

Canada has seen a number of incidents involving in the improper disposal of IT assets. Most notable was a case several years ago of a Bank of Montreal server containing thousands of customer records that found up on eBay through a third-party provider owned by IBM. Strathmann said Dell’s services are governed by a strict set of standards as well as a third party audit that includes random monthly checks on data destruction.