BMO focuses on inventory control for desktops, servers

TORONTO — The Bank of Montreal is close to hitting a major milestone in its effort to better manage its technology assets and the way they are configured.

By the end of this month, BMO expects to have completed an asset management

and inventory control database for all its desktops and servers, according to its manager of software services, Lee Dunn. The configuration management portion, which will see the bank track relationships between physical and logical components of its assets, is expected to be finished by the end of next year, she said.

BMO is basing its project on the principals espoused in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a series of books which offer strategic guidance on a number of service management areas. The bank’s IT assets include more than 2,000 servers, 38,000 desktops, 6,000 network devices and 35TB of data.

“”It was a huge piece to bite off,”” said Lee, referring to the decision to start with its desktop and server assets. “”What it gave us was the business case we needed to continue on.””

Lee made her comments at the sixth annual IT Asset Management Conference and Solutions Showcase.

BMO sees both asset and configuration management as being tied to inventory control, Dunn said, which was why the bank started off by meeting with various IT staff and agreed that all asset-related information would be recorded in a single repository. Each part of the company has a coordinator who makes sure information in the repository is updated. Some of this work is automated, but Lee said to some extent it remains a labour-intensive process due to the need for accuracy.

“”Two or three years ago, the bank was worrying about what to do about the new viruses and security incidents,”” she said. “”After you’ve spent a few weekends going through all this stuff to see where everything is, you realize you have to get better at this.””

One of the biggest challenges was deciding what kind of information needs to be in the database, Lee said. When BMO buys an IT asset now, the first stage is to determine whether it falls within the scope of something that needs to be tracked. If it does, the bank’s IT department will use the database to pull off records about the asset as well as the number of desktops and other hardware running in a part of the company once a month, and the person in charge of that area will sign off on it, she said. This helps ensure all users are using what they’re paying for.

Developing its asset and configuration management capabilities meant turning IT into more of a service culture, Lee said, which has not been easy to do. She defined the governance of her project as not only monitoring processes and introducing continuous improvement, but involving senior executives who can correct issues as they come up. Once all its services were defined, it made it easier to monitor for problems, she added.

“”A lot of this information was tribal knowledge,”” she said.

As it gains more accurate billing rates for its IT assets, Dunn said BMO plans to do an analysis on how it compares with the rest of the industry in terms of the costs of its services, and will potentially see how it can become more competitive.

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