Anyone involved in any kind of datacenter or physical IT operations faces multiple challenges every day:
What if there were an easier way?
End-to-end automated workflow
At ServiceNow, we reached a major milestone: end-to-end automated workflow of the cloud hardware supply chain, from order through disposal. The features in the Paris release of ServiceNow® Hardware Asset Management (HAM) took us over the finish line, reducing asset management time for engineers and asset managers by 76%.
My team, cloud supply chain operations, manages the assets for ServiceNow’s 37 physical datacenters across the globe, including separate instances for federal, commercial, and labs. Since we automated almost all of the manual tasks, productivity and efficiency are way up. Even better, we can focus on the value-added work we like to do rather than repetitive, manual tasks.
How did we get here? We began with the basics: reviewing and refining our hardware lifecycle management processes and building a tighter integration with our partners. I’d like to share four ways we were able to achieve end-to-end automated workflow.
Figure 1: Hardware lifecycle processes
1. Breeding productivity
We reviewed our ServiceNow IT Asset Management (ITAM) lifecycle management processes and changed them by either automating steps or creating an API integration with vendors to gain efficiency through the supply chain. We also created exception reports to identify process gaps to mitigate.
The process flow in Figure 1 reflects our current environment, where every aspect of hardware management that can be automated has been automated, thanks to the ITAM features in the Paris release.
2. Reducing the drudgery of manual audits
Reconciling audit results and asset records manually is time-consuming and tedious. Because of security requirements, we needed to find an alternative way. Now we use the ServiceNow Mobile Agent app to do our physical audits.
Our engineers scan the assets in our cloud production environment. Audit results are collected, tracked, and integrated with the HAM database. The app does the reconciliation; the results are available immediately. What’s left? Physical asset scanning and cleanup.
We can quickly lock in a physical audit schedule and create audit tasks for our datacenter engineers, asset management team, and accounting team. Audits are much faster, and we project this new capability will save ServiceNow about 360 hours annually.
3. De-duplicating our database
We’ve all seen it: model inventory data that comes from multiple sources, resulting in different display names for the same model and duplicate records. We use the Hardware Model Normalization capability to track an asset using a product’s unique model number based on the United Nations Standard Product and Services Code (UNSPC).
We standardize on one display name and remove duplicates, increasing data accuracy in the model catalog and CMDB. This also provides real-time hardware lifecycle visibility for the hardware engineering team to make design decisions and the procurement team to manage supply continuity. Using this feature, we achieved 98% data accuracy by the end of 2020.
4. Simplifying asset disposal
Using ServiceNow Flow Designer, we built a workflow tailored to our hosted cloud business process. We created a single system of action to streamline the workflow and automatically update assets. We configured the app to send automatic email notifications to task owners and stakeholders and adjust asset retirement dates according to our company’s policies—eliminating manual updates and human errors.
Now, when asset disposal is confirmed, the system retires both the asset and configuration item records. With the asset and disposal certificate in one place, compliance risk mitigation is easily traceable. The automated process also lets us integrate with our buy-side partners who handle disposal.
In the future, our datacenter engineers will be able to validate retired physical assets using a newly established asset inventory audit. Our next project will be to sync our financial system with the production instance model data. To make sure decisions are made using the best data possible, we plan to integrate the model table with the data center bill of materials part number table. This will make manufacturer lifecycle details available to our engineering and sourcing teams.
Figure 2: Benefits of end-to-end automated workflow
No more headaches
I often wonder how our teams successfully did asset management before automation. Manual spreadsheets and paper shuffling aren’t things any of us miss. Life is certainly easier. I click on my HAM dashboard to check the latest compliance report and realize there’s no going back. What’s better is I now spend my time finding ways to make the process even faster and smoother.
For more information, read our case study: Now on Now: How we use HAM to streamline and automate the ITAM process in IT and cloud hosting.
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