When I first started consulting, clients would order computers, and I'd deliver and deploy them. I'd often crack the tape on new boxes upon arriving at the client site. After deploying hundreds of systems, my deployment process is entirely different. Here are the four steps my office now follows for a deployment. I hope you'll learn ideas that will enable your office to better service its clients.
1: Capture system details before deployment
My consultancy has strong anecdotal evidence that systems we wipe (i.e., erasing the manufacturer's factory software installation) and provide with a fresh Windows installation (from scratch) perform better over the computer's life than systems that go out the door with the manufacturer's default OS image, including requisite additional drivers, demo programs, support applications, trial antivirus software, and other detritus. I would love to see statistics on this issue, but I don't know how the difference could reasonably be tracked.
When preparing a system before it leaves your office, you're better able to accommodate components proving dead on arrival. The biggest benefit may be when it comes to helping clients track their IT assets (an important process that often receives too little attention) is the ability to easily capture new systems' serial numbers and Windows and Office licensing information.
You should consider creating a simple spreadsheet for each client and tracking every item you order (and then receive) for a client. Be sure to log the purchase dates, device information, serial numbers, product and license keys, and end user or site that receives the equipment. This information proves invaluable when you're troubleshooting, processing warranty claims, or helping the client complete an accounting audit.
2: Apply an asset tag to each component
The best time to apply asset tags to new equipment is upon its delivery from the manufacturer. Once a new system or device is delivered on site, there's typically pressure to get it online and running; end users have questions; and a new software program must get installed. Remembering an asset tag is often the first victim of this flurry of activity. Once the asset tag is added, you should go ahead and add the new inventory to the master list.
3: Track equipment by department or office
The problem with updating asset inventory information by end user is that staff rosters change. While Mike Smith might be the accounting director today, listing his name as the end user for a new laptop, docking station, monitor, printer, telephone, cell phone, and tablet makes it harder to track all those items when he's replaced by Jane Doe, who's later replaced by John Baker.
Consultants should instead track equipment by department or office. Ultimately, assigning equipment to an office location (e.g., cube 1079, office 318, etc.) usually works best.
4: Label boxes by project
Clients aren't always ready to receive equipment when the manufacturer ships. For instance, the client might be building a new facility, or perhaps a remodel or renovation is running behind schedule. This is why I recommend labeling equipment boxes by project upon arrival in your office. If a client is deploying different systems at multiple sites, you'll be able to track which assets are in which boxes. Labeling boxes by project also helps prevent the wrong assets from being accidentally shipped to the wrong client location or job site.
Share your own asset deployment tips
If you adopt different methods to better manage and track client assets, post them below in the discussion.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.