It can be a little intimidating selling an inventory tool to a
company that has built a strong reputation on its analytical
capabilities. But the team at systemhound did just that when SPSS Inc.,
a leading provider of predictive analytics technology and services, was
looking for ways to better understand its hardware inventory.
Chicago-based SPSS specializes in developing analytic applications, data
and text mining technologies, and comprehensive statistical software to
help transform enterprise data into increased revenues and reduced costs
for its customers. Even still, it faces the same internal challenges as other
businesses, including the need to more accurately track its hardware
Frits van der Greft, IT manager in SPSS’ Benelux office in the
Netherlands, says that with 1,300 employees around the world,
conducting and continuously updating physical hardware inventories was
too time consuming and costly, from a man-hours standpoint. The
company wanted to maintain a clear focus on its mission: providing
analytics software for customers in corporations, academic institutions,
and government agencies.
“We provide the tools for our customers to combine predictive analysis
with their own organizational business knowledge to gain critical insights
into customer acquisition and retention, up-selling and cross-selling, fraud
detection and patient outcome improvement,” Van der Greft explains.
“With nearly 20 offices spread around the world, though, keeping our
hardware inventory up to date was a month’s-long chore that detracted
from our main focus.”
“By looking at our internal IT operation, we realized we needed to make
ourselves more efficient,” he says. “Conducting inventories without the
help of a strong software tool just didn’t make sense for us anymore.
We’re too widely spread to rely on physical inventorying and it was taking
too much of our IT time.”
Van der Greft had previously worked with systemhound from UK-based
Software Innovations while employed by another company, and
mentioned it to his manager as a potential solution for SPSS’ worldwide
After seeing a demo of systemhound in action, SPSS’ IT team elected to
try the software. Following the installation, which took less than three
weeks and was completed both on time and on budget, the IT team
agreed that the system was an ideal solution.
“When we first deployed systemhound, we were looking solely for an
accurate hardware inventory, with the possibility of exporting the
information to our databases in order to generate management reports,”
Van der Greft says. “We have deployed systemhound to every one of the
2,500 [Microsoft] Windows®-based computers in the company. We also
have seven systemhound servers around the world, constantly collecting
data for us on the corporate level.”
That was more than three years ago. Today, it takes the SPSS IT team
just three days to inventory the entire company’s IT hardware assets, and
the organization is now looking at ways to maximize its systemhound
deployment. At SPSS’ main office in Chicago, Sam Griffith uses
systemhound for IT planning around PC replacements and upgrades, and
for pure asset management. Griffith is also starting to use systemhound
to track software usage at his company and to keep on top of software
licensing due dates and quantities.
An additional benefit, Van der Greft adds, is that systemhound is available
as a support tool to all of the SPSS systems engineers. “When a user
calls, it is very easy for a systems engineer to access systemhound’s
database to see what type of system they have. If someone calls saying
they need 50 gigabytes of extra disk space, we can look at details
regarding their system and identify what they have. Armed with this
information, we can make the determination whether the extra storage is
Even without initially taking advantage of systemhound’s ability to track
software deployment and licenses, Van der Greft says his company was
able to achieve a complete return on its investment within the first
six months of ownership.
Purchasing systemhound was easy to justify, Van der Greft says. “When
I was asked to do an inventory of our office in Spain, it took just
30 minutes. Without systemhound, it would have taken days. That
was a tremendous time saving.”
|Island Community Hospital Tracks IT Assets to Save Time & Money
In a decade when many communities have experienced tremendous growth, historic Beaufort, South Carolina is no exception. And as the community’s population swelled to about 13,000 residents, the sea island community’s Beaufort Memorial Hospital saw tremendous growth in demand for its services as well.
What began as a 25-bed hospital in 1944 is now, 60 years later, a progressive community hospital with 182 beds, 1000 employees, and an affiliation with Duke University Medical Center in the areas of cancer and heart care.
Sixty years into its existence, Beaufort Memorial has acquired lots more than new beds and strong community support. In the midst of a rich 500-year regional history that began with the discovery of the island by the Spanish, the hospital has entered the 21st century in computing technology and found it needed a better understanding of all its hardware and software assets.
About two years ago, Kathy Ross, Vice President and CIO, tasked Clay Perry, assistant director of information systems, with the objective of finding a better technology for tracking computers and software.
After all, it can be costly to maintain PCs that are not used, pay for software licenses that aren’t in use, or to risk sanctions for using unlicensed software. Understanding the hardware in place means knowing where systems are needed, where they are not being used, and understanding traffic usages and patterns.
At his former job, Perry had been tasked with finding a good, cost-effective IT inventory solution and, after an exhaustive study, his former hospital selected systemhound from Software Innovations, a British company. Because he’d already done the research at his previous job and knew the software worked well, Perry recommended systemhound as the best choice for Beaufort Memorial as well.
“I had looked at most of the other solutions – including Microsoft’s Systems Management Server (SMS) and HP’s Altiris – but most of the other packages provided more than we needed and were more expensive. All we needed was an inventory tool, and that’s what we got,” Perry said. His main concerns were to understand the hospital’s assets. “systemhound fit the bill and at an initial price of less than $5 per seat, it was exceedingly cost effective as well,” he says. “Reporting through systemhound is simple and timely.”
Both Beaufort Memorial and his prior employer had recently migrated from Unix and VAX environments where employees were using dumb terminals to personal computers. When Perry arrived at Beaufort Memorial, there were only about 300 PCs in use, compared with almost double that number today. With that type of explosive growth over a short period of time, “We needed to transition from a manual inventory process that required many man hours to update to an automated one requiring very little intervention,” he says.
The hospital has been using systemhound for about 18 months now and upgraded to the latest version six months ago. “Physical inventories just aren’t accurate and they are very time consuming,” Perry stresses. “With systemhound you have a good comfort level that they are 99% accurate.”
Time is Money
In the hospital’s busy information system’s department, there is little time to spend surveying assets, and the same applies to installing software to help track inventory. The systemhound installation was straightforward and painless, and hospital IT staffers were able to conduct the install to the server with no outside assistance in just a couple of hours, Perry says. The software then automatically pushes out to each workstation on the network and reporting begins. The installation across the entire network generally takes just minutes, but since machines cannot be recognized for the first time until they are turned on, Perry says to expect some stragglers for the first several days (a user may have been on vacation, for instance).
Perry and Network Administrator Brandon Stroupe agree their initial goal with systemhound was to better understand their hardware assets, “but we also use it frequently to find out which types of software reside on users’ PCs.” The hospital’s primary software is Meditech’s HIS hospital software, which runs on every PC in the network. Many of the PCs also run Microsoft Office.
Importantly, systemhound can track all software usage, both sanctioned and non-sanctioned. “It’s really easy to identify if someone has loaded unauthorized software on their PC. Sometimes they don’t realize it is there, and most users don’t realize that we can tell what is on their desktop. It helps us control people who may be tempted to bring in software from home and load it onto their PCs, and it helps us stay compliant with our software licensing as well,” Stroupe says. “By reporting back to us on all of our software, we can ensure that we’re not paying for extra, unneeded licenses,” he adds.
Another important side benefit, is the ability to ascertain whether each PC resides in the correct server grouping for print access, servers and switches. With an accurate mapping of all hardware assets, the IT team can make modifications to ensure that each PC resides within the proper server group for its user.
Perry says the hospital made back its investment in systemhound in about six months or less. “We have a fairly good idea where everything is now. The big savings is in the man hours savings rather than having to do a physical inventory.” Perry estimates he saves at least 200 man hours annually.
To date, Stroupe and Perry say systemhound gives them about a 99% accurate look at Beaufort Memorial’s inventory of hardware and software. In the older version, Perry said systemhound would occasionally report two PCs with the same name (not recognizing, for instance, if an older machine had been swapped out for a newer one). In the new version, however, the system flags those discrepancies for the IT department to take a closer look and to adjust the inventory to reflect that an old machine has been replaced.
Documentation is available online and “it’s pretty thorough” Stroupe says. “If you have any questions they are good about responding back to the email promptly.” He also notes that systemhound offers a live helpdesk via phone, but he has not needed to avail himself of that option.
“systemhound is a great product and I highly recommend it,” Perry says. “It continues to exceed my expectations.”