IT asset management is an evolving discipline. New processes, technologies and metrics are making their way into programs in large and small organizations alike. We invite you to learn how to advance your IT asset management practices in an on-demand webinar.
Hear firsthand from F5 Network’s ITAM Program Manager, Skye Chacón, how this global technology leader effectively manages tens of thousands of IT assets in 10 locations around the world.
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Watch this webinar at your convenience.
Of, if you prefer, you can read the full transcript below.
Mobile Reach: Well, good morning or good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us from wherever you are in the world. We’re glad to have you with us for today’s webinar on The Process-Driven Approach to IT Asset Management. We’re very happy to have F5 Networks with us today to help present this story about how they transform their IT asset management practice.
So with that let me go ahead and introduce our presenter for today. Skye Chacón is the IT asset management program manager at F5 Networks. She’s a data-driven professional with 15 years of cross-functional team experience. As part of her IT asset management responsibilities at F5, she specializes in strategic sourcing vendor relationship management, IT contract management compliance, and cloud enablement. In her role at F5, where she’s actually coming up on her five year anniversary, Skye is often asked to diagnose process problems and identify the best solutions by assessing the process, recognizing inefficiencies, formulating effective solutions, and articulating and conveying the recommendations to relevant stakeholders. Skye, thanks so much for being with us this morning. We’re glad you’re here.
Skye: Great, thanks so much, Dan, I really appreciate this opportunity.
Mobile Reach: W
I am ready. Let’s do this.
Mobile Reach: Good deal.
Skye: Hey everybody! Just a real quick overview of F5 Networks. F5 Networks is a leader in application services and delivery networking. The second bullet, in a nutshell, is F5 Networks helps our customers deliver their web applications faster and more securely. Our products are all focused on that end goal. Our global headquarters is in Seattle, Washington. That’s where I’m at. There are 4,400 employees in about 69 locations across 36 countries. So, as IT asset manager, I get a lot of fun challenges and opportunities to work in an international space. It’s really great. F5 Networks was one of the leaders in the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for our firewalls and our solutions are deployed on most of the Fortune 50 companies. All the executive departments, all the top 10 telecom operators, all of the top 30 commercial banks. So, we have a really good footprint with some great customers. And then more specifically about my focus at F5, IT asset management, we have about 33,000 IT assets focused in 10 locations around the world. But, of course, we also have field operatives. Our sales team is everywhere. So again lots of opportunities and challenges there. F5 uses the ServiceNow SaaS tool for our CMDB and to be for our database of record. And as we’re here to talk about how we use Mobile Reach and their apps to facilitate the process, both my IT asset management process and also for the integration with the ServiceNow back-end. I use iPods, iOs devices, for the actual tool. And then to facilitate scanning, I use the Linea Pro scanning sleeves. The iPod sits in the scanning sleeves and then enables the scanning ability.
Skye: ITAM programs are always going to have processes, process goals and KPIs. What am I trying to make better right?
Skye: And always, always, always for the IT department and also F5 as an enterprise, staying within budget. That is a big one, right? We have a budget and we need to stay within it for what we’re allocated for IT hardware, computers, monitors, and also infrastructure assets, servers, PDAs, UPSs, etc. And having accurate IT asset management data. What’s In stock? Who is it assigned to? When it will fall off the warranty? When is the end of life? Where the asset is in its lifecycle is of utmost importance to IT and ultimately F5 Networks. We’re looking for budget accuracy so it’s critical. Having that up-to-date system of record is critical for decision making that maximizes and optimizes F5’s budget. Compliance, that’s everyone’s favorite word, right? So computers. Anything with data on it falls in scope for audit compliance. And again, having an accurate IT asset management database is 100 percent required to be able to meet compliance requirements. We’ve got to know who gets the asset and where it is. You know, all the software that’s on it we need to understand everything about that asset to meet compliance requirements. And, specifically, I am proud to say that F5 was able to gain their ISO twenty-seven and one certification last year and at least four of the controls fell into my IT asset management scope. So that was a big win for us. We were really happy.
Skye: So again an ITAM program wants to leverage automation where it can. And again it always comes back to you need to have accurate data to be able to use automation. An example of this for us at F5 is based on the data in ServiceNow database for end-user computers, we can automate the refresh process a little bit. We can make it easier for people to request a new computer when they’re eligible, right? But I need to have the accurate person assigned to the computer for it to work well. So when they log in they see their computer. We need to have an accurate end date, so the process works correctly. And so, it goes back to having clean data and also you know for the technicians that support my program. I sort of manage it but then I work very closely with the end-user help desk technicians. They do the work right. There’s nothing really inherently fun about doing asset management. It’s sort of repetitive. It’s nitpicky because you’ve got to be very structured and organized with what you do. And so my goal is always to try to leverage automation to remove the techs from doing that sort of more manual work. It’s just boring work and that frees them up to do more value add stuff that’s more interesting to them and they can be more engaged with. So that’s always a goal of mine. So, how to proactively enable maintenance and support. It goes back again to having clean data in the database. Having clean data, I know what needs to be renewed for support and this is going to fall a lot more into the infrastructure assets I manage. So, as Dan said I also do the support renewals. I manage all the support renewals and make sure they get on time and everything gets renewed when they need to.
Skye: So having up to date information what’s in scope for the Dell server renewal which I am literally doing right now. Or the HP server renewal and the like, EMC devices, etc. It is of the utmost importance for me to have a clean system of record. And of course up there with compliance is reducing security risk, which is similar. You have to know where your assets are, who was them, what operating system they’re running, all that information is so important to understand the security risk associated with those devices. And so, if there is some malware notice issued out, we can identify the computers that it applies to and apply a patch. So that system of record is so important for my program goals. So, as I mentioned, I joined F5 Networks five years ago pretty much and my charter was to develop this ITAM program from scratch. This is my baby. I got to implement it the way I saw fit. I did have experience and so I took my experience and I used that to come in and make my own program. So when I came in, I first spent a few months understanding what I was dealing with and what I found was F5 Networks used a legacy database that was home built. And mainly, I would say that was the Seattle headquarters used that. And then there was also a lot of Excel files floating around where people were tracking things that were computers and monitors assigned to people. And so, as probably a lot of you know, these legacy databases that are just sort of built. Or Excel files that were used, there’s no validation and there’s no checking. There’s no way to audit or do compliance checks. And so that was pretty miserable for me to work through. Like your serial numbers weren’t the right length. Or, like great, zeros that are actually “O”s. So, the data was just pretty awful and that was a fun opportunity to clean up. So there were siloed and manual processes. F5 did a pretty good job of trying to make all the processes the same everywhere but without one person to really sort of managing it, processes have a tendency to change if they’re not managed correctly. So I had different processes at each site. And so that was fun. There was not, as I mentioned in the first bullet point, one system of record. Or tracking that says I’ve got the database I’ve got Excel files. And that is really based on different locations to different things. The technicians weren’t really enabled to collect accurate and complete data. There was no tool they could take with them to update things on the fly. I saw a lot of sticky notes and handwritten notes. And, wow, that isn’t ideal. When you’re doing something as detail-oriented as IT asset management, you need a serial number to be exactly right. You need an asset tag number to be accurate. And so because of all these challenges, I was really not able to efficiently or actually meet any of those goals from the previous slide. And so that didn’t really bode well for my career at F5. So, of course, I had to change that pretty quickly.
Skye: So after spending some time understanding where F5 was. And the processes and you know what needed to happen to move forward in the maturity curve, I decided that I wanted to use Mobile Reach and their new suite of apps to help the techs around the world efficiently track and manage IT assets. I had to standardize on one system of record, which was going to be ServiceNow. And I wanted to reduce the time to complete all the processes of IT asset management and while reducing the time I also wanted to increase the accuracy of the database. And again, always make the text more productive and empower them and enable them to do the fewer fun parts of their job better and faster. And then they can have time to do more value add services.
Mobile Reach: This is an opportunity for us actually to ask all of our attendees a question. So I’d like to go ahead and offer this poll question to our attendees today and then if you’ll take a second to respond we will show you the answers here very shortly. How would you describe your organizational maturity and tracking and managing IT assets?
Well, it looks like everybody’s had a chance to vote. Let me go ahead and show those results. It looks like we have a general mix as you might imagine. It’s good to know that nobody’s in the dark in terms of how they manage and track their assets today but it certainly runs the gamut. And there’s always that middle ground. So thank you for participating in that poll. Let me also take this opportunity to remind everybody that you are welcome to ask questions at any time during the webinar. Please go ahead and ask those whenever you’d like using the polling box in your webinar console.
Skye: So when I started working with Mobile Reach prior to coming to F5 Networks, I also had worked in other regions. So I’ve had a really great experience and a longtime relationship with all of them. So when I started working with them for my F5 Program, there were, of course, some new requirements I had for them. I needed a technology solution that would allow for scanning the asset tags IT assets to facilitate ease of updating records. I wanted to be able to update and create new IT asset records in real-time in the ServiceNow database. No sticky notes, no going back later and forgetting to do something. Real-time. And of course, there’s always the need to satisfy F5 security requirements, as far as user access goes. I mean we’re connecting to one of our systems, ServiceNow, so it was really important to make sure that user access met security requirements.
Skye: So these are actual screenshots from F5 Networks’ apps we use. When you go to your mobile device, you’ve got apps on your home screen and so the Mobile Reach app looks like this. On the left, the little green one with the MR logo and you click into it and you go into like a little container, which is the center picture. And in there you will see a separate icon for each different Mobile Reach app that you’ve built to support your ITAM processes or any type of business process. I have 10 processes but other processes can be supported. And so each app has a little bit of a different use case. And I just want to say that I see all three when I’m logging in as administrator. But, by using the permission files in the Mobile Reach software, it’s easy. You can limit which team to see which ones, right? And so my end-user techs only see the bulk app and end-user app and my IT infrastructure techs the infrastructure one. So you can reduce the possibility of confusion pretty easily by limiting who sees what. So, this bulk app is actually our newest app and the use case for this one is, let’s say there are 10 laptops that are ready to be set into the recycled or pending recycle status. They’re in stock and we’re not going to ever use them again. So we want to move all 10 of them pending recycled status and then they’re gonna be picked up by the hardware recycler and off they go. So, instead of having to update each record individually using the bulk app, you go in and you sort of say what process you want to accomplish. Like, I want to change the state of computers. OK. What state do you want to change them to? Pending recycle. OK. What are the computers you want to apply this change to? And then you scan the 10 asset tags and save and the bulk app updates those 10 with that status. So it’s an easy way to make bulk changes.
Skye: The end-user app, which was the first app that we worked with Mobile Reach on is the inverse of that. It is a way to make multiple changes to one asset record at a time. So you scan an asset tag, it pulls up as much of the actual record in ServiceNow It pulls the fields up to the iOS device and you can make multiple changes. You can change the state and assign it to the person or you can change the location. You can do multiple things to one record at a time and you push save and it updates the database. So it’s the inverse of the bulk app and the infrastructure app is similar to the end-user app. You can make changes to one infrastructure type asset at a time. And I will say that also for the end-user app and the infrastructure app you can create assets using the app, too. So it’s a really wonderful tool and there’s a lot of validation that we have in there so it won’t create a duplicate asset. It will say, oh no, this is already there and stuff like that. So there is a lot of validation that you can be built into the tools.
Skye: Another tool that Mobile Reach makes available to customers is their App Studio product which is their app development tool. And it enables you to really quickly build, make changes to, and deploy and update apps without a lot of technical developer resource requirements. It’s a drag and drop type tool and there’s a screenshot that shows it. And you can easily deploy across multiple platforms, too. So we focused on iOS, but you can deploy on other types of platforms. I will note that due to a lack of resource requirements at F5, we don’t use the App Studio tool. We partner directly with Mobile Reach. When we want a new app, we do as a statement of work and work with their services team to have the app developed. That’s worked out really well.
Skye: So some of the benefits that F5 has gotten from the mobility project is that it makes it much easier for all the different locations to adhere to the same time processes because those processes can be sort of built into the app, right? People can’t go outside the processes because it’s all just right there. It makes it a little bit more focused what they should be doing. Asset records are updated immediately and in one system a record. You know it’s not like Oh yeah let me update my spreadsheet I’ll go back and update this system record later. Nope, you just use the tool and it updates where it supposed to be. You don’t have to think about it. Also a lot of the manual process has been eliminated. I mean sure you still have to use the scanner in the app to do it, but there’s no handwriting, you can scan and it just works. It really facilitated moving away from very basic manual processes. Because of the above bullet points, combined reporting has greatly improved because everything’s just sort of works better and data is updated better and sooner and it’s cleaner. So that’s really good. And. I have really good visibility of assets across our lifecycle. I know what computers are in stock and know which computers are in use. I know which ones are coming up ready to go end of life. And so it’s been really beneficial for that in our budget processes.
Skye: So I put this in here because nothing’s perfect. Though this whole program rollout and I still learn is that you really got to understand your processes. Technology will not solve bad processes. And so before implementing any type of technology or tool you’ve got to understand the processes people are following and why they’re doing them. Where can you standardize and what makes sense to move into the technology tool? And always the strong working relationship with the admin of the system that you’re putting the data into. Because Mobile Reach tools do have an integration and so understanding how that works and be able to make the changes required to have everything flow right and update correctly. That is a very important part of this. And so understanding how well you work with that team is important. I was fortunate enough that when I started with F5, I was on the ServiceNow team. So I sat next to the admin and that was a really beneficial partnership there, and it was great. So that is also a very important thing for anyone to think about as they go down this path.
Mobile Reach: Well that’s excellent, Skye. Thank you so much for that terrific content. That’s really great insight into how you’ve built and grown and optimized your IT asset management program within F5 Networks. Folks have been submitting many questions throughout the webinar which we really appreciate. Please continue to do that and we will get to them in turn. So I’ll go ahead and start, Skye, with the first one that’s come in. How many people do you have on your asset management team?
Skye: My particular IT asset management team? Oh yeah, you are talking to her. It’s just been me. Literally today, we’ve finally gotten an open position on my team for a resource that I will share with my other teammate. Well yeah it’s really been me, but I partner so closely with end user services and the help desk teams that you know are sort of dotted-lined into me. In Seattle, I’ve got eight of them that support my program and I’ve got a Singapore office with two or three, in Japan, one. So I’ve got dotted line people supporting my program in those 10 locations around the world. But on my team, it’s just me. So, yes, that’s another fun challenge and opportunity.
Mobile Reach: Okay. It’s always great to get perspective from other practitioners in terms of professional organizations as far as number of assets and how do you resource that team? So really interesting to benchmark that with F5. The next question is does the mobile app use user roles from ServiceNow?
Skye: It uses assignment groups. We have an assignment group for end user services. We actually have assignment groups based on location. So, in the permissions file, we say show these apps to these assignment groups. And that is how we control it using assignment groups from ServiceNow?
Skye: So I will talk about how we’ve implemented this in ServiceNow. So the ServerNow backbone is the CMDB database which collects every single piece of information. And I think of it as more of the sort of technical side of information. And then sort of linked to it is the hardware database which has more of the business related information associated with the CMDB assets. So every piece of information that you collect in ServiceNow is in the CMDB database. Only the ones that you want to, will you make a hardware asset record. And so there is less hardware asset records than CMDB records. For most of the stuff that falls into my IT asset management program, yes I have a CMB record and I have an asset record. For end-user type assets, the computers, the monitors, things of that nature, the Mobile Reach apps touch the hardware table and make updates there. But there’s also linkages if I update information on the hardware table, there’s business rules in ServiceNow that will make the appropriate updates in the twin record in the CMDB table. For the infrastructure assets, because of how ServiceNow is set up, that each type of infrastructure asset has their own sub table, we make the updates in the CMDB side of ServiceNow in the database tables. And, again if applicable, the changes to the CMDB record get pushed to the twin hardware record for that infrastructure asset. So, without being able to delve deeper into the questions, we leverage both the CMDB, to make updates in and also the hardware tables where it’s more appropriate depending on the type of asset. I hope that helps.
Mobile Reach: It definitely provides insight, thank you. The next question is does your infrastructure operations team use the SolarWinds Orion IT Monitoring Platform?
Skye: So I sometimes renew support on a SolarWinds product. I don’t know. Without spending a little bit more time I don’t know specifically the product we use. I am not on the service now team anymore and so I don’t have a huge visibility into all the work they’re doing. I know they’ve been adding integration, and SolarWinds, definitely might be one of them.
Mobile Reach: OK, next question. What part of your organization provides the people who use the Mobile Reach apps. Where do the “boots on the ground” come from?
Skye: It’s the IT department staff that uses the Mobile Reach mobile apps. So in the IT department, the person I report to he has IT budget in his group, he has business operations and the IT budget. And he’s go me which I do ITAM management, support contract management, and also now cloud management. He also has the end user services team. That includes the help desk technicians in Seattle and all the international sites also. So we all report up into one person in the IT department.
Mobile Reach: OK, great. It looks like we have one last question left. Do you partner with the technical side to manage the configuration item part of the record? And are you in the same organization with that group?
Skye: Yes, I used to be on that team so that was a very easy collaboration. About two plus years ago things were modified and that team split away from me. But, interestingly enough, the ServiceNow team still reports in to the manager of all the help desk. So my old boss gained help desk and took his ServiceNow team with him and left me and my teammates behind also. So, yes, I do still collaborate very closely with them. I can walk downstairs. And talk to them in a month. So there’s a very close interaction. And ultimately we still report to the same person.
Mobile Reach: OK, terrific. Great. Great insight. Always super helpful to understand how other organizations operate and get that perspective from the leader that F5 Networks is.
Skye: So you jogged my memory. That would be something else to add to the lessons learned. It’s not something I learned at F5 Networks. My previous company that I was at before I came to F5 Networks also used ServiceNow and also used Mobile Reach. However, the administrator and owner of the ServiceNow platform was nowhere near me and it was very much harder. So one of the first questions I asked when I was interviewing for my current position was who owns the ServiceNow stack. And the man I was interviewing with who was going to be my manager said, “I do.” That’s great. The closer you can be to the database where your IT assets live is, the better.
Mobile Reach: Thank you, Skye. Great insights. Let me thank you again for joining us today. We greatly appreciate all the expertise you have shared today. This concludes today’s webinar. Have a great day everyone.
For more information on Mobile Reach mobile apps for IT asset management, visit our ITAM solutions page.