Abstract: As an IT professional, consider that you should Inventory and Track anything and everything that is important to you, your IT organization, and your Business.
If you’re not aware of it, yet, the best IT leaders demand tracking of just about anything and everything that impacts their IT organizations and the businesses such organizations support. So, while it’s always been an implied best practice in the industry, the IF4IT is making it official: Track anything and everything that is important to you, your IT organization, and your business, to the best of your ability.
It’s very simple, if you’re not tracking what’s important, you’re not really doing the best job you can be doing and you’re putting your enterprise at risk, as is the case when vendors come knocking on your door to perform financial audits and you don’t have the data you need to to support your positions during such events.
Traits of organizations that do or don’t inventory and track
Immature organizations don’t track and get burned, later, by things they did not have the foresight to see before they actually happened. In organizations that don’t track, you’ll find tremendous amounts of uncertainty, wasted time finding things (often over and over, again), and even chaos.
Mature organizations track anything and everything that is within their power to do so. They stay ahead of issues by using the data they track in their predictive analytics. In these types of enterprises, knowledge retention and sharing is much higher than in those that do not.
Who should inventory and track data about the enterprise
In short, all IT professionals should be tracking what they deliver or even touch. If you deliver or touch anything in your IT organization or in your business, you should be tracking such things. And, you should also always be pushing other IT professionals in your enterprise to constantly track what they deliver or touch, too. It’s simply the right thing to do.
Why you should inventory and track: Motivations, benefits, and reasons for tracking
You should track things that are important to your enterprise because tracking leads to the following benefits:
- Better transparency. You know what you and your enterprise have and don’t have. At a minimum, this makes it faster to find what you need, when you need it.
- Better measurement. You assess for things like quantitative, qualitative, financial, performance, and risk traits.
- Better analysis of what you measure. With better tracking, you can model, simulate, and ask What-If questions. You can also get to things like Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), which cannot be achieved without thorough tracking of Assets, Vendors, Licenses, Leases, etc.
- Better completeness of work. Inventories act as check lists of things that need to be considered for work. The better your inventories, the better your check lists.
- Better operational management. You can manage based on actual real metrics and analysis, instead of guessing based on “what feels right.”
- Better knowledge management. You can share everything that’s tracked with others, helping to raise the knowledge bar for the enterprise.
- Better Audit & Compliance support. You can react to audits and ensure or report on compliance, faster.
- Better Information Security support. You can help identify key assets and data, quickly, to facilitate Security Audits and react to Security Incidents.
- Because, eventually, your leadership will come calling for details. It’s always better to proactively be a prepared professional and have things ready before you’re told what to do, by someone else.
Always remember that:
- You cannot manage what you cannot measure.
- You cannot measure what you cannot see.
- And, you cannot see what you do not track.
What should be inventoried and tracked
The things IT professional should track for their enterprises are often called Assets, Configuration Item, Data Entities, Records, or Instances.
It is considered to be a best practice to track things that are important to your IT organization. Specific examples of things that are tracked which are considered to be Information Technology (IT) related include but are not limited to: IT Services, Software, Computing Devices, Databases, Applications (or Systems), Virtual Machines, Licenses, Leases, IT Capabilities, Data Entities, etc.
It is considered to be a best practice to track things that are important to your Business. Specific examples of things that are tracked which are considered to be Business related include but are not limited to: Business Domains, Business Products, Business Services, Human Resources, Organizations, Business Capabilities, etc.
It is important to understand that things which are important to your IT organization will also be important to your business and things that are tracked for the business will also be important to your IT organization.
As you track, keep in mind that 1) not everything you track is an asset, and 2) not everything you track is physical or tangible.
Examples of things to inventory and track
The list of things an enterprise can track is actually very long. As a starting point, you can refer to resources such as:
- The Enterprise Inventory Control Grid: A spreadsheet that acts as a template for the most critical things to track, along with important descriptive attributes for each Inventory Type.
- The IF4IT Taxonomy of Data Entities: An inventory of all data types that can act as a framework for which inventories to collect, from different parts of your enterprise.
We suggest picking some data types from the above resources and working to collect each inventory record. Over time, you’ll find that your data maturity will grow in leaps and bounds. The strongest measure of such maturity is when people keep asking for your inventory data or rely on it for their daily work.
NOTE: It is important to understand that if you only work on any one inventory data type at a time (or just a small group of them), you probably won’t make much progress in developing your inventories. For this reason, we recommend a federated approach, with different inventory owners working in parallel to develop, maintain and submit different inventories to an inventory czar (for example the Chief Architect, if you have one).
Other tracking specific best practices include
Best Practice: Capture and track Inventories
Inventories are nothing more than lists of things.” Relevant line items (i.e. records of things you track) should be put into inventory as early as possible, such as on inception. Inventories should be kept up to date (i.e. keep the data fresh).
Best Practice: Capture and track details about line items in inventories
Details include attributes, traits, or characteristics of the things you track. Such attributes can include things like identification keys, short names, long names, descriptions, abbreviations, aliases, assessment details, associated people, associated organization, and much more.
Best Practice: Capture and track relationships within and across inventories
As the inventories you track mature, you’ll want to start tracking relationships between the different things you track, both, within inventories and across inventories. Examples include but are not limited to the mapping of Software to the Capabilities the Software supports and the mapping of Capabilities to the Business Domains they support. Wherever possible, you’ll also want to track relationship descriptors (i.e. descriptive predicates) between things.
Best Practice: Capture and track supply, demand, and the resources that enable supply
Wherever possible, track supply (i.e. the things you deliver and have delivered), demand (i.e. the things you are asked or are required to deliver), and the resources (human and non-human) that are used to meet demand and yield supply. Doing so will help you perform better Demand Management, Supply Management, and Resource Management, which your leaders and business will appreciate and even expect from you.
Best Practice: Track items throughout their respective life cycles
Use proactive tracking to capture and track things throughout their applicable life cycles, right from inception. Proactive tracking tracks things as changes to them occur.
Use reactive tracking to track those things that have been deployed to their relevant Environments. Reactive tracking is often used to reconciles (actual) against the data collected during proactive tracking (expected).
Both forms of tracking (proactive and reactive) are important and you should try your best to execute both, wherever possible.
NOTE: One of the biggest mistakes many IT professionals make is to only perform reactive tracking of Assets and other things that are important to the enterprise. By the time the things they want to track reactively are deployed to their Environments, a tremendous amount of critical information is often lost and no effort will ever restore such lost information.
Best Practice: As your processes mature, put as much of what you inventory and track as possible into your Digital Library
Digital Libraries are used to communicate what you know with others, throughout the enterprise. It’s simple way to improve Enterprise Knowledge Management (EKM) and help others get data and information that can help them with their work. As your inventories grow, consider publishing them and the relationships between instances within them to your enterprise’s Digital Library.
If you’re Digital Library is part of your Intranet or is your Intranet, a very positive side effect is that you’ll build a far more powerful and useful Intranet that helps others answer their questions about specific areas of the enterprise, learn faster (such as employee/consultant on boarding), perform root cause analysis, and perform impact analysis (operationally and for strategy support).
(See an Example of a Digital Library.)