Fall 2011 [Number 251] Printable version (262 KB PDF) Download Adobe Reader Please note that this issue of Interface is an archived issue. Therefore, the information contained in each article may no longer be current.
When it comes to IT property management, CIT maintains, tracks, and replaces over 2300 desktop and laptop computers situated in three different locations. Part of the challenge of keeping the maintenance on a regular schedule without unduly disrupting customers' workflows is to have full control over where your inventory comes from, how it is used, and what sort of programs run on it.
So, to streamline processes and enhance the level of service to CIT customers, CIT initiated the Lifecycle Program in June 2010. By ensuring a standardized hardware inventory, lifecycle management increases the efficiency of acquisitions, maintenance, and IT support, as well as enabling better enforcement of NIH Security Policies and improved patch and security audit performance.
The best way to increase levels of support and security for all of CIT was to manage as many machines as we could from cradle-to-grave. We set up the Lifecycle Program to manage all computers through the four lifecycle phases: Acquisition, Deployment, Maintenance, and Decommission.
Implementing the Lifecycle Program eliminated existing inefficiencies in our old inventory system and processes that were the result of inadequate tracking of property and the inability to manage, maintain, and secure a larger than acceptable population of computers. The Lifecycle Program enabled us to centralize the management of the user machines (laptops and desktops) and to restructure how CIT charges its customers for IT support.
Restructured support charges
To make the cost of support more fair and equitable to all of our customers, and encourage participation in the Lifecycle Program, we changed how we charge for support services. Previously, every division paid based on human population with no regard to the number of machines that were being supported. This formula provided little incentive for divisions to rid themselves of their aged machines, the ones that were the largest burden to the service team.
Under the new pricing structure, divisions are charged based on the number of computers they possess. This charging structure provides an incentive for divisions to surplus some of the old equipment they are storing in closets or under people's desks. In addition, a special 40% premium is charged for machines that customers don't surplus after receiving new hardware, providing an added push to those reluctant to retire their old machines.
Standard hardware profile benefits hardware maintenance
Before we implemented a more standardized approach, the ever-increasing age of machines and the variety of makes and models in our hardware inventory hampered the efficiency of our maintenance. It required time-consuming and resource-intensive individualized support for the unique hardware profile of each individual make and model.
A standard hardware profile enables CIT to maintain a single disk image as opposed to multiple images, thus reducing the time needed to restore a machine. Previously, a crashed machine often required the services of a technician to rebuild the system by hand. Restoring a machine this way could take up to two days, limiting our customers' ability to do their work. By decreasing the number of makes and models we support, we are now able to create a "disk image" for each computer, giving us the ability to restore a machine back to its original state in roughly two hours.
Efficiencies through centralization of the acquisition process
The old acquisition process was cumbersome and inefficient. Each division handling its own purchasing resulted in a duplication of effort. Divisions also had difficulties in preparing for new employees or catastrophic events because there was no shared pool of available machines. Instead, divisions were limited by the supplier's ability to deliver. Orders were delivered all over campus, which in many instances led to new machines being given directly to the end user without being properly built by a technician. As a result, computers were being delivered without the proper antivirus and patching software installed, thus creating a security risk and a breach of policy.
The Lifecycle Program created a contract vehicle that allows CIT to purchase all hardware through a single vendor, eliminating the need to compete each individual purchase. We have seen demonstrated cost savings through the leveraging of bulk buying. Just-in-time delivery has eliminated the need to warehouse machines on premises. As a result, divisions can have a new machine within two days in the event of a catastrophic incident or an unplanned new hire. And, for those times when a two-day timeframe is not fast enough, customers can rely on our loaner pool of new machines to limit their down time.
Centralized property management
Our previous property system was inconsistent. Each division's property custodian had their own process for entering new machines and naming conventions.
Through the Lifecycle program, CIT has made one specific group óDesktop Support Section (DSS), a section under the Division of Customer Support (DCS)óresponsible for the data entry and property intake process. DSS takes ownership at delivery and ensures that each machine is entered into the NIH property system accurately. Once entered, the computer is routed to a Lifecycle Technician to be properly imaged. Before delivery to customer, each machine goes through a quality assurance process by project management staff. From there, property ownership is transferred to the receiving division's property custodian before final delivery to the customer.
Maintenance and management improvements
Decommission and surplus
In the past, when users purchased new machines, they would retain their old machines as personal backups or secondary units. Each of these semi-retired machines placed extra demands on our support services, as CIT still had to fix these aged items when broken or provide patch and security updates as best possible. With the change in how our customers are billed for support, divisions have become more determined to rid themselves of machines that are of little use. The need for individuals to keep a spare machine in the event of a technical malfunction has been replaced by the presence of the laptop loaner pool. In the first year of this program, CIT has been able to surplus over 500 of these machines.
Additional benefits as a result of the lifecycle program
The Lifecycle Program's success has grown since its initial deployment. As processes are continuously improved and customers continue to provide feedback, we have seen benefits and innovations that were not on the radar when this project was first conceived.
Overall, the Lifecycle Program has been a successful work in progress. With each deployment period, we realize new solutions and improvements. Through strong project management and supportive leadership, Lifecycle is poised to be a critical win for CIT and our customers in terms of efficiencies and increased levels of service for all its members.
If you have any questions about the Lifecycle Management Program, please contact the NIH IT Service Desk at 301-496-4357, 301-496-8294 (TTY), or 866-319-4357 (toll free), or online at http://itservicedesk.nih.gov/support/.
|Published by Center for Information Technology, National Institutes of Health|
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