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VMblog Expert Interview: Liz Beavers of SolarWinds Talks Asset Management and Challenges and Strategies for a Remote Workforce


As organizations are talking about going fully remote post-COVID, things like asset management needs to be a priority to avoid IT challenges - like productivity halts caused by a malfunctioning device or misplaced IT assets that are geographically spread out due to remote working.

To find out more, VMblog spoke with an industry expert at SolarWinds, Liz Beavers, who happens to be the company's newest Head Geek.

VMblog:  What is one of the biggest challenges IT professionals are facing in light of the uptick in remote work?

Liz Beavers:  In the immediate transition to remote work, and now the gradual transition back to the office, IT professionals have an exponential increase in responsibility and workload. They have to address more ticket requests from employees, monitor software updates, ensure video and collaboration tools are secure and scalable to enable larger numbers of remote workers, track company-owned devices, resolve technical issues that disrupt processes and productivity, and the list goes on and on. Take this customer example - the organization used to average 1,200 ticket requests per month. However, with a completely remote workforce, they manage 500 in one day alone. As companies become more reliant on their IT functions, IT professionals are being forced to wear multiple hats at once to keep up with remote workforce needs, while simultaneously being tasked with keeping business operations running smoothly.

VMblog:  How can companies keep a better eye on IT assets spread out across a remote workforce?

Beavers:  IT asset management is crucial in this remote-work reality. Employees need their devices to function properly to prevent productivity from being stalled. IT professionals must keep up with where devices are located geographically, how they're performing, and if they need to be updated or replaced. This becomes increasingly difficult as the workforce is spread out, but a strong IT asset management strategy utilizes a 360-degree view of IT assets in a centralized location that's easy to manage. When possible, asset management should also be integrated with the service desk, so that IT employees can easily communicate with others throughout the company about their devices. This also strengthens visibility of ownership and provides historical context around previously reported issues with an employee's asset.

VMblog:  What tips or strategies do you have for making asset management more efficient for IT professionals?

Beavers:  Automation is a great tool to increase asset management efficiency. Setting up automatic tracking systems for company-issued devices provides alerts in real-time, so technicians can attend to the most pressing issues quickly. By removing the mundane, manual process of monitoring and tracking devices, it takes one extra task off of IT professionals' plates, so they can devote their time to other projects. There is also the opportunity to automate how users request and receive new equipment: consider leveraging your service catalog to streamline hardware requests. This can help employees understand where to go when they need a new device while making the process of preparing and delivering the equipment, more efficient.

VMblog:  Why is asset management important for highly regulated industries like healthcare and financial services?

Beavers:  Highly regulated industries, like healthcare and financial services, deal with sensitive information that cannot be compromised. Asset management is vital in making sure employees have the correct company-issued devices that are secure and set up with proper software. If an employee's work device goes down and an IT professional isn't able to help in a timely manner, then the employee will most likely turn to their personal device to avoid productivity halts. This causes issues, as shadow IT might not have updated software or the correct security hardware, leaving sensitive information vulnerable to a breach.

VMblog:  What types of devices can companies track with the help of asset management?

Beavers:  IT teams should be constantly monitoring and tracking laptops, work phones, tablets, applications, etc. - any software or system that employees use to do their job. As IoT becomes increasingly popular, we're seeing more and more connected devices enter the workplace, like wearables that provide updates from system dashboards. This makes asset management even more important to ensure devices are secure, as a higher volume of connected devices opens more back doors to hackers.

VMblog:  What will be the biggest challenge for companies transitioning back to the office?

Beavers:  Tracking IT assets that are now spread out across the country to make sure they all make their way back to the office will be a huge challenge. They'll need to have a clear understanding around who possesses what devices, the condition they were loaned in, and where those assets should be returned. Additionally IT professionals should be tracking all changes they've had to make to their systems and networks to account for remote work. By tracking those changes now, IT teams will have a clear path of what may need to be reverted back for normal operations. For example, a company's VPN threshold might be set for 10 hours typically, but with everyone working remotely and working longer days, they might have extended that time frame. Thresholds are set for a reason - to balance risk and security. Having those changes documented makes it easy for companies to plan, react, orundo them in the future.

VMblog:  What would your biggest piece of advice be for companies struggling in this COVID-19 remote work reality?

Beavers:  Equipping your IT professionals with the tools they need is so important. These technicians are experiencing major upticks in their workload, and providing them with the tools to tackle this volume increase is key. Automation is one way to help IT technicians manage tasks like routing tickets to the IT help desk, running security checks and alerts, tracking assets and more. If automation is in place, IT technicians will have time freed up to focus on urgent issues that require more detailed attention.


Published Thursday, September 10, 2020 7:35 AM by David Marshall
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