Leveraging Your AV Inventory

technical debt 0 1

Technical Debt has been the topic of several of my blogs recently, and I was able to speak about it during LAVNCH WEEK 9, a weeklong virtual event put on by rAVe. A critical aspect of being able to manage technical debt, and keep your systems running well, is being able to tell a solid story that is clear and concise, when asking for support monies. The only way to start to create this story is by having a proper inventory.

In my previous blog, I wrote about the important aspects that drive the need to eliminate technical debt. Two of those drivers are security and the obsolescence of equipment. Knowing that this is what you need to have knowledge about helps you create your inventory.

An AV inventory system should have the basic information about all equipment that is on the network, or connected to equipment that is on the network. This is anything that is networked, whether it is behind firewalls or on a separate VLAN. If it can be reached remotely in any way, you need to have information on it. This information includes the type of device, location of the device, MAC address, serial number, model, manufacturer and date of purchase. A common problem I have seen with inventory systems (or any database for that matter) is the lack of consistency. If rAVe [PUBS] is a manufacturer of devices in your institution, you need to standardize on a specific way to label them as a manufacturer. That is, it can not be rAVe [PUBS] in some records, rAVe in others, and rAVe Publications in a few. The same goes for specific models of equipment. The point of this standardization is that when rAVe puts out a security patch or a software upgrade for a specific model, you will be able to go into your inventory and perform a search for that model. At that point you will have the pertinent information for every single instance of that model you have on campus.

Another field you need for each record is the date that the equipment stopped being sold. This field then allows you to start to get a sense of how out of date the equipment is, and how much longer it may be supported. Many manufacturers will continue to support a device after they stop making it, but the window does start to close on how long that device is supported. A related field is whether a device is end of life’d or not. This field is different from the end of manufacturing, as it will tell you that a manufacturer has announced that support has stopped for this device. This is a critical field, as it builds the story for replacement. Knowing that you have 20 classrooms dependent on controllers or touch panels that are no longer supported by the manufacturer allows you to develop a budget for replacement. It also gives you credibility when you can name the rooms, models and potential impact for failure. This makes a much better argument than if you simply only knew that “things are getting old.”

Many of us have inventories that are not always fully kept up to date for a number of reasons. Typically though, I think it is simply because we are busy and don’t feel as though we have the time to do it. That is why this article is so timely. If we ever have a slow(er) time in higher ed, it may be the month of June. Our new fiscal year has not started and the hectic pace of the regular semesters is in a lull. This is a great time to spend several hours on building this inventory, or updating the inventory. If you have no system, it is a great time to start building one. If you have a system and throughout the year you have not kept up on the inventory, you can go through your calendar, your help tickets and the orders you placed to recreate the work you have done and the equipment you have placed into service. Once that work is done, you can spend some time sorting through the various models and checking with manufacturers on where they stand in their life cycle. It is a great way to unwind from the year, but also be extremely productive and forward looking.

It is likely you will also find that you need to update software on systems that you may have missed during the year. It also happens to be the time of the year when all the manufacturers are showing off their new equipment, so you can think about replacements for your equipment.