Retire versus Dispose

There comes a time in the lifecycle of every asset when it must retire from service. An asset may be removed from active service and retired for a variety of reasons, whether stolen, damaged, replaced, etc.

IT asset management systems require each asset have a status. For example, with Symantec Altiris (CMDB Solution is installed), there is a total of eight out-of-the-box status types:

  1. On Order: Asset is soon available for use.
  2. In Stock: Asset is available for use.
  3. Active: Asset is in use.
  4. RMA: Asset has been returned for repair or replacement.
  5. Missing: Asset is still associated with the company but missing.
  6. Returned: Asset has been returned to Lessor.
  7. Retired: Asset is no longer is use but not disposed.
  8. Disposed: Asset is no longer associated with the company.

From an IT asset disposition perspective (ITAD), there is a critical distinction between the retirement and the disposal of an asset. This distinction makes perfect sense because there may be a significant time between the retirement (asset is no longer being used) and the physical disposal (asset is shipped to a disposal vendor). Of course, there is also a transfer of ownership.

An asset should not be considered Disposed until, and unless, there is positive transfer of custody established. A disposal vendor will not accept ownership or responsibility for an asset until it is received. It is the job of IT asset management to obtain hard evidence of custody (e.g. matching serial number and/or disposal tag). Without hard verifiable evidence, the disposal vendor will not accept responsibility and that asset should be considered Missing.

This critical distinction is not perfectly clear with out-of-the-box status types. Fortunately, this distinction can be easily handled with minimal or no modification.

One simple way to make this distinction clear is to utilize the Location field. If a Retired asset is in-transit to a disposal vendor, the Location should be updated to reflect the asset is in-transit. The status should remain as Retired until a positive transfer-of-custody is established. Once the manufacturer serial number and/or disposal tag of a Retired asset has been matched to what a disposal vendor received, change the status to Disposed.

Another simple way to handle this distinction it to add a new status called “Disposal Pending.” This status would be used if a Retired asset is in-transit to a disposal vendor. Again, the status is only updated from Disposal Pending to Disposed once a positive transfer-of-custody is established. In essence, the Disposal Pending status should be thought of as disposal “On Order.” A new asset On Order should not marked In Stock until it is received. A Retired asset should not be marked Disposed until it is received by the disposal vendor.

Making the distinction between Retired, Disposal Pending, and Disposed is strongly advised. IT asset managers have a professional obligation to detect Missing assets, so it is important to make the distinction crystal clear. Collapsing distinctions creates an opportunity for Missing asset to be inaccurately marked as Retired. Our job is to accurately track and manage assets. When a Missing/Retired asset is discovered, it makes ITAM look bad. It could also delay a legally required investigation and therefore lead to stiffer sanctions and penalties.

Making the distinction between Retired, Disposal Pending, and Disposed demonstrates that ITAM has a deep understanding of the privacy issues. It is the difference between being part of the solution or part of the problem.