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BOFH: The current value of our IT ASSets? Minus eleventy-seven...

Oh Beancounter, don't make us get the hose

Episode 9

"Ahhh... Just found some... uh... anomalies with the asset inventory checklist," our friendly neighbourhood Beancounter says to the PFY.

"What anomalies?" I ask.

"You didn't fill it out," the Boss says.

"I bloody did!" I gasp.

"You wrote at the bottom 'all present and correct' and signed your name," the Beancounter responds.

"In actual fact, I think you'll find that I signed the name Sharon T Pokeworthy, but that's neither here nor there," I counter.

"Why?" the Beancounter asks, reading the form again.

"I rarely use my own signature. It's a personal security thing."

Honestly, I could make crap like this up for a living...

"People rarely check," I add.

"I... So this checklist then..." the Beancounter says, handing over some sheets of paper, "we really need to know what assets we have so that we can get a realistic view of the book value of our assets, the depreciation burden and maybe work out whether our depreciation schedule needs to be more or less aggressive."

"I'm sorry, you lost me at strippers."

"I never said strippers!"

"Oh, that must have been the dream I was just having."

"Look, can we just find out what assets we have!" the Boss snaps.

"Oh, right! Well THAT one is here >tick<, so is that >tick<... and that >tick<... and this one caught fire so we dumped it >cross<, and that one we dumped because it was crap >cross<."

"Okay, two things," the Beancounter says. "One: you need to physically verify each machine is still there. Two: you need to note down the serial numbers for each thing."

"Surely you have the serial numbers already?" the PFY asks, scanning the list.

"We do, but it's an anti-fraud thing the auditors want. YOU enter the serial number then WE verify it against the database for that inventory item."

"You... realise we have access to that database and could just read all the serial numbers?" the PFY asks.

"Or, a far more likely scenario WRITE all the serial numbers," I add "Serial numbers like '1', '2' and 'A'. But in any case there are going to be problems."

"Oh yes, and why's that?"

"Well here, for instance," I say, pointing at a line item. "A4 gigabyte memory module."


"Well it MAY have cost £760, as it says here – when it was bought, a million years ago – but you should have depreciated it at 75 per cent per year to get an accurate view of its current value. And secondly, it's not an asset. It's INSIDE an asset."

"Which asset?"

"Who knows," I say, pointing at the servers in the list. "It could be any of them."

"You'll need to find it – so we can increase the book value of whatever it's in."

"In which case I'm guessing our bin has a book value in the hundreds of thousands of pounds," the PFY chips in.


>The next day<

"How could you just throw it out?!" the Beancounter gasps. "It's got a current book value of THIRTY THOUSAND POUNDS!!!"

"But a current actual value of about NEGATIVE ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS," the PFY counters.

"What do you mean?"

"It was a piece of shit," The PFY says. "It was a fibre attached SAN which required proprietary fibre cards in the client machines AND proprietary fibre switches to provide a redundant path to it.

"It used to pack a spaz every few days and flip back and forth to the redundant path - but only after it had been offline for 360 seconds. Removing the redundant path actually made it slightly more reliable, but it was STILL a white elephant because it was crammed with low capacity disks, could only do RAID 0, 1 or 5, AND required an extortionately priced licence upgrade to make any changes to it. Oh, and the management interface only ran on Windows ME."

"Tell me you at least sold it?" the Beancounter asks, praying for the ability to write down the asset.

"We... ah... let it go for a song!"

"Really, how much?"

"No – we LET IT GO for a SONG. We told the cleaner that we'd drop it out the window onto his supervisor's car if he'd sing Judas Priest's Turbo Lover," the PFY says.

"And it was great," I add. "Some tempo problems, but he got there in the end."

"So you threw £30,000 worth of hardware out the window?"

"Dropped it – yes."

"I... What about this?" he asks, gesturing at another heavily highlighted asset with a red X next to it.

"Oh we still have that. It's installed on the sixth floor. But no one uses it."

"Why not? What is it? It just says survelliance system."

"Yes indeed. One of my former managers realised we had 10k left in the 'Corporate Security' budget and told us to spend it by the end of the financial year otherwise you beancounters would subtract 10k from next year's budget because we obviously weren't spending everything we asked for."

"So you just went out and bought something?" he gasps.

"No, no, he was quite specific about what should be bought. In fact, I think we kept the memo in our noticeboard of shame, because sooner or later I knew we'd be having this conversation. >scrabble< >scrabble. Here we go..."

"Motion sensors. You can't spend 10 grand on motion sensors!"

"It depends on what motion you want to sense. And he wasn't that specific. We did it all with transducers because porcelain is an excellent conductor of sound."

"I...can't believe you'd do that!"

"Ooooh no," the PFY says. "No, I think you'll find that was Sharon T Pokeworthy."

"People rarely check," I add.

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