10 Functions to Look for in an Asset Management Software | Part 1
Asset management software has been around for a while, however much of it has been antiquated since inception. Too many vendors care more about the sale than they do about reputation and quality. They have a one-track mind, and that’s getting to your agency pocketbook. Anything after that is not their concern. Basic functionality in software should not only be expected, but it should also be demanded. If a software provider cannot offer these ten functions, with superior quality and sophisticated operation, then it is software that is not worth your time or your agency’s money.
1- Define, receive, and track unlimited numbers of products
We’re talking about asset management, and we’re talking about software that is supposed to handle your entire inventory. Agency inventories run the gamut, from rain jackets to alternators, to .45 ACP ammunition, to Boston Whaler-made Patrol Boats. Yet many of the asset management systems available have limits on the number of items you can enter, along with their corresponding stores. Is that not ridiculous? While we could say that your agency may never have a need to inventory 2,000 AR-15’s, having the capacity to do so is mandatory. Software providers should not be dictating your agency’s mission on any level, to include their own limitations.
2- Define multiple groups, individuals, and entities, to receive products
Just like our first function is about offering full functionality to your agency, this point is no different. Some products in your asset manager’s hold are issued to individual personnel. Some are issued to a precinct, or a substation, or a group. Your asset management software should have the capacity to incorporate these definitions and their various scenarios. That equipment may be signed out to an authorized person, but they in turn may have to sign it out to agency personnel who must have limited access to it in their capacity. Your asset management software should be able to handle these situations seamlessly.
3- Returns, Restocks, and Dispositions
Much like our second function, this one presents many scenarios that need to be accounted for. Products get returned from time to time. Someone retires or resigns, or something stops working, whatever the case, returning an item and being able to accurately record how it is returned (product condition), the circumstances (to decipher if it can be re-issued), and what next steps need to be taken (maintenance anyone??). If you have asset management software that can’t deal with a multitude of scenarios, then it’s time to upgrade.
4- Maintenance, Expiration, and Service
Your asset management software should be able to track maintenance schedules associated with each item, be it a manufacturer’s suggested schedule that you plugin across all like items (bulk entry, more on that later), all the way down to each individual item, that for whatever reasons has its own unique maintenance schedule to follow. No matter the item, if there is a schedule to be followed, your asset management software should be able to accept that data, incorporate it into the workflow, and provide alerts to your asset manager, and any person in need of notification, including the person who currently has the item in their possession. Similarly, if the item(s) has a service agreement in place or check-ups related to a warranty, your asset management software should be able to incorporate that into the item’s lifecycle, and your system’s workflow, and issue alerts for associated events. Your software should also be able to give you alerts ahead of the date work is to be completed, so that your asset manager and associated personnel have time to make phone calls if necessary, schedule appointments, or other such tasks. When the item is due to expire, there should also be alerts. For one, your agency may need to order more of that product. Two, your asset manager needs to have a quick recall of inventory because as we stated before, other people tend to interrupt their day. With the expired product, knowing when that expiration is coming beforehand is important. For example, if it’s AA batteries, it may be as simple as placing an order a week ahead of the expiration date, and you’ll have replenished stock. If it’s a unique type of battery, perhaps the turnaround time for orders is longer. Being able to set up individualized alerts plays a role in this scenario, covering groups of products, manufacturers, all the way down to a single quantified item. Aside from this, your asset management software needs to store contact information showing who your asset manager needs to contact for these tasks. This is an important feature of the overall function of maintenance. Having your responsible contacts on hand, and on-demand gives your asset personnel piece of mind when they’re dealing with a product that they simply manage, and don’t have direct control over. While they can’t be expected to be the experts on everything your agency uses, they ought to have easy, identifiable access to those that are, especially when it breaks or expires.
5- Tracking Costs
Another important, basic function: tracking costs. Let’s face it, when your agency buys something, one thing that gets lost in the shuffle is the cost of that product over time. Your software should do most of the work for you. Let’s say you buy 45 semi-automatic pistols chambered in 9mm for $599.99 apiece. The contract stipulates that you receive 2 years of warranty service, and after that it’s on you to cover costs. Your armorer has learned how to work on them, but problems are mounting that simply aren’t in their wheelhouse. Every time those firearms go out for service, your asset management software should give you the power to input the total costs, broken down in categories of parts, labor, and shipping. At the end of five years, you can see by the exact numbers that these pistols cost more over the three years outside of warranty, then the retail price. In this scenario, it’s safe to assume this issue would make itself obvious to casual observers, but what you have is concrete proof of the dollar and cents problems this bad buying decision created for your agency. Why does this information help? It gives you negotiating power the next time you’re up for new pistols, either with that vendor (bless you for going to the second round), or with a new vendor that wants your business. Sure, the numbers may be embarrassing in this situation, but the will remain that you have true transparency, and know exactly what equipment is costing you the most. If your asset management software can’t do this, you’re going to fighting upstream for a long time. Let’s change the scenario and say these firearms worked well, and only a few needed additional parts and services beyond recommended maintenance. When you attempt to purchase it again, the vendor informs you that the price has increased to $649.99. While the numbers may be easy to calculate mentally, having asset management software that can calculate the differences, and provide that information as part of a summarized report is very handy when going to your city council for an increase in funding, or when soliciting other vendors, you can gauge differences between each quickly, efficiently, and provide formalized paperwork to purchasing authorities in a timely fashion.
As you can see, the first five functions are excellent tools for evaluating costs, repairs, time invested, but most of all key facets in organizing not only equipment on the shelves but workflow. Keep in mind these are basic functions, or at least they should be. Is your asset management software providing you these functions? See you next week when we revisit this topic and the next five that should be available to you through your asset management software.
Be safe out there!
Related Articles: 10 Functions to Look for in an Asset Management Software: Part 2