Just over the horizon for American businesses and government agencies is the return to the traditional office work environment. But what will companies and agencies do with the new laptops and other devices they put into employee homes in order to keep things going during state-imposed stay-at-home orders?
The International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM) has outlined the key steps employers need to take to protect their data and investments.
Many organizations purchased assets, licenses, service contracts, and other necessities to facilitate a work from home environment. Everything from scalable cloud architecture to increased VPN bandwidth and mobile hardware assets were all hastily purchased, with minimal consideration for how they would be integrated into IT environments.
Software vendors and related organizations (with scalability built into their licensing and service contracts) will likely be able to scale down as easily as they scaled up. Hardware, on the other hand, is a much bigger issue in an IT environment. Organizations will have quite a challenge on their hands because each one of those devices has to be handled with care to ensure that the data on them is protected and that the investment in them is not lost.
Dr. Barbara Rembiesa, president and CEO of IAITAM, said: “We’ve seen a lot of reporting and advice about how employers can facilitate working from home. Now, we have to start looking at the back-to-the-office part of the process coming out of this. Organizations without a plan are going to experience as painful a transition back into the office as they had transitioning out.
“Having a mature IT asset management program ensures that these devices are properly tracked, managed, and disposed of, as needed. Without these steps in place, businesses and agencies will end up wasting money and possible seeing leaks of their own sensitive data.”
IAITAM is outlining three steps that organizations can take now:
* Organizations will have to identify all of the new assets now. This can be problematic if procedures were not followed on the best practices for purchasing and accepting assets. Knowing what an organization has in their environment is the first step in any asset management program. If things moved rapidly or even chaotically within the company or agency to transition to work from home, now is an opportunity to double back and ensure that the details are gathered.
* Assets need to be tracked and remote users need to understand the transition process. While work-from-home orders implied “home”, not every worker stayed home. Some chose to be with family, while others decided to visit friends or travel. This means the asset is travelling, as remote assets do.
However, not every organization would have planned or accounted for that aspect in terms of security, possible use of the devices by third parties, etc. Additionally, organizations need to have an ingress plan for these remote assets. Ensuring that users know how remote assets will be collected and processed will go a long way to streamlining the transition back into the office.
* A plan should be in place now to deal with excess hardware. Redundancy in assets was necessary when working from home but after coming back into the office, that end user will no longer need a laptop for home and a computer at work. What will be done with these excess assets and how the organization will recoup costs is critical to the back-to-the-office transition being less financially burdensome.
Leasing assets would have been a strong option, but some organizations have already made their purchases. As such, charity donations and resale are all better options financially than simply dumping the excess hardware. Company and agency IT asset managers will need to ensure that all devices that are leaving the organization for good are disposed in a secure fashion to avoid breaches.
Rembiesa said: “Tracking, collection and disposition of assets during the transition back to the office are going to be key. Having a plan for each asset now will help everyone buy-in to the process and make it possible to best meet the needs of the organization.”