Any software you use has to make life easier. If it doesn’t, then your purchase is creating work, rather than reducing it. One of the ways that software makes life easier is by taking the most common tasks that a person does, and making them quick, and efficient, so that the person can focus on the bigger problems in their day-to-day work. Beyond that, your software should be able to generate reports automatically, that can be viewed and disseminated on demand, without the need to review and edit. Software should also make input, output, and other acquisition-related functions just as easy to assign and transfer equipment. Software that limits these functions, or makes certain functions difficult without additional effort, or even additional purchases, makes the software antiquated, and a money trap. Neither are things a public agency can afford to be anchored to.
Common Tasks in Asset Management
Any asset manager will tell you that the common tasks are assigning equipment to personnel, transferring specialized equipment between two parties, and receiving equipment back in from personnel. These are the tasks that happen frequently in an asset manager’s role, and are also the tasks that can take the most time. Software that provides a management system in this instance must take this into consideration and make these tasks as minimally invasive to workflow as possible. Because if an agency is going to rely on software for the management of equipment, then that software’s key value is that it reduces time and labor. If that software doesn’t provide a cost savings in manhours, then it’s not easy to use, and it’s not doing the job it’s supposed to. And if it can’t reduce the effort involved in these transactions, then it’s likely not going to help in any other ways that asset management software should.
Software management systems of all kinds have the basic function of generating reports, to analyze various facets of whatever that software is suppose to be managing. Many software systems on the market miss the fact that every entry, every action, every piece of data has intrinsic value on the back end, for the purposes of analysis. Instead of removing that data from the reporting functions, that software should find a way to incorporate the data in some useful way. And further, reports that put together should be useful, and automatically generated. Rather than the asset manager having to decide what goes into a report, much of the reports that they would commonly need should be a part of the software, and that data should populate into those reports, without the need for the asset manager to “generate,” or more appropriately, do the heavy lifting, of selecting data that goes into the reports.
Sure, custom reports that may be agency-specific is something that software can’t predict. But typical reports, like what’s in stock, what needs to be reordered, what is need of service, what will need to be checked for warranty compliance in the next 30 days, (and the list goes on), are reports that software that handles asset management should already have programmed in, and that software should be compiling that information for your asset manager without the need to select material. This is another major part of the asset manager role that can be streamlined, and the workload can be greatly reduced by automated software features.
Another facet of asset management that earns a lot of manhours, is maintaining vigil over what items need to be re-ordered, what is expiring, what is in need of repair, and other typical concerns of asset management. Too many software offerings out there don’t offer this capability. And many of the ones that do, don’t go in-depth with the types of alerts asset management software should provide. Focusing on basic examples previously mentioned, your agency may have anywhere between eight and twelve different sizes of uniform apparel that needs to be on-hand for your personnel at any given time. Much of the asset management software out there will monitor your uniforms, but they won’t break them down by sizes, they won’t account for the age of a particular uniform piece, they won’t provide the ability for specialized alerts that prompt your asset manager to visually inspect that older uniform items are still within range of acceptable color, which turns into an oft-overlooked concern involving uniforms. This can be a situation where we set ourselves, and our officers up for failure. As soon as the long-winded complaints about their uniforms looking faded and “bleached” come in, they get coupled with observations by those citizens that say the officers in question were also rude and unprofessional, which is troubling, since the officers in question were just complimented the month prior for their professionalism. It goes without saying that how our officers look makes a lasting impact on everything they say or do, positive or negative. When it comes to asset management, we have to do right by them, and that means the software you employ should do right by you.
Another type of alert that much of the software out there doesn’t even consider, is when a particular item has a questionable history of acceptable service. Let’s say a distributor makes a great pitch about a seat belt cutter, and your agency decides the price is reasonable, there appears to be a respectable product history associated to the cutter with other agencies, and so they buy it. The distributor says that the product has an effective shelf life backed by the manufacturer of five years, or five uses, before replacement is either necessary or recommended. However, after a year of having the product on hand, your software alerts you that at the rate of replacement occurring among officers, it recognizes your purchase is only going to last another year before a whole new order needs to be made. Virtually every asset management software system on the market can’t make this type of connection. Wouldn’t be helpful to your asset manager, and to you as an administrator to have this kind of information at your fingertips when that heart to heart with the distributor occurs? Accountability matters, and it shouldn’t be your face everyone is staring at when “cost overruns” gets so much as mentioned as a passing joke. If a product isn’t doing what it’s suppose to be doing, you should have that information available to you as soon as it’s noticed, and your asset manager has a lot going on, spatial problems are something that something spatial, like software, should be working out for you.
The simple fact is, software needs to work for you, not the other way around. Sure, setting up a configuration to your comfort level, inputting product dimensions that you want to capture outside of the typical are things that as a user you need to put into play. However, that is an action done at the front end of deploying software. Once that is done, on day one, every day moving forward, the software should be handling the heavy work of cataloging, reviewing, reporting, alerting, and achieving maximum efficiency for your asset manager, so they can focus on the broader aspects of their job, like making administration look sterling!
Be safe out there!