Missing and Dangerous: Consequences of Poor Asset Information Management

Items cited here are not fiction but real events that went on in high-level organizations on this planet. Asset management becomes a gripping topic when expensive, vital or potentially dangerous items vanish from an organization’s inventory.

The more dramatic losses present a clear threat to public safety. This is well exemplified with the case in US when 2,000 encrypted two-way radios, disappeared from the inventory of the US Marshals Service (USMS) .

radio comms

Before you dismiss it as just a mere incident affecting a department in US Government, let;s try to understand who USMS are:

The USMS is charged with protecting federal judges and courts, apprehending federal fugitives, and protecting those in the Witness Security Program. It fields highly-trained, heavily-armed fugitive task force units in over 75 districts, where they aggressively pursue violent criminals. Rapid, secure, field-level communications lie at the heart of the US Marshals’ ability to fulfill its mission. Loss of such sensitive and vital equipment clearly jeopardizes that mission.


To start with,

  • the lost radios have to be accounted for, secondly,
  • the USMS’s communications’ security protocols and encryption systems would need to be revisited and possibly re-engineered from the ground up to prevent compromise.

This will not be cheap: Why?

  • the original radios were valued at US$6 Million.
  • It is estimated that reworking security and communications’ protocols and providing new radios to potentially the entire USMS force would reasonably be assumed to cost almost double the original investment.

Cost of Negligence and Incompetence

It was no daring daylight raid that took such valuable assets, but, in the words of the USMS Office of Strategic Technology, “It is apparent that negligence and incompetence has resulted in a grievous mismanagement of millions of dollars of USMS property. In large part attributable to poor record keeping as a result of an older property management system, as opposed to equipment being lost.”


This may be true, but without a modern assets management system capable of generating immediate and accurate audit history and check-out reports over multiple locations, it is hard to say.

Common AIM Missteps

Where do organizations go wrong in the area of Asset Information Management?

Many organizations rely on out dated manual asset management techniques that are full of pitfalls. Companies and government agencies that are using spreadsheets and written asset management systems make many of the same mistakes:

data mistakes1. Using people to manually enter data – When data is entered manually there will be errors and they will be costly, it is unavoidable.

2. Tracking assets in a spreadsheet or static database like Access – Tracking assets in a static database that isn’t updated in real time means you never really know if your database is up to date and if the assets are where you think they are.

3. Failing to calculate asset depreciation – Using a manual system to track assets makes it more difficult to track them over time and to keep track of their aging and depreciation, which can be an important way to reduce costs and cut tax liability.

4. Relying on one or two people to track assets – When a small team or individual are the only ones with access to an asset database the risk of fraud increases greatly and the ability to scale the organization and bring in new people is diminished.

5. Don’t track user accountability – With a manual asset tracking system like Excel or Access it can be almost impossible to track who has made what changes, making it difficult to hold employees and user accountable for mistakes or issues.


Five Steps to Competent Asset Information Management

1. Find the best asset management system for your needs – Before choosing an asset management system it is crucial to assess your organization’s needs and long term goals as well as the features of the system.

2. Use automated bar-code based technology to label and track assets – Barcode technology was developed to increase the efficiency of identifying assets or inventory and reduce the potential for human error.

3. Track assets as they age to accurately report their current value – Using a sophisticated asset management system allows you to easily track assets as they age and depreciate and accurately assess their current value.

4.Create a centralized database that is updated in real-time – An asset tracking system is no realtime data entry-1good if it can’t really tell you where your assets are. A centralized database that is updated in real-time allows you to be confident when auditors come or reports need to be drafted and it ensures you can always find an asset when you need it.

5. Track users to ensure accountability – Using a system that tracks users enables an organization to hold people accountable for their mistakes and reduces the risk of fraud.

Getting the right skills on how to manage your organization assets can go along way in getting in the control seat of your asset management program.


Sophistication at its best
The aim of sophistication is to make things at the other end easy

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