Introduction to Fixed Asset Management

There are obvious benefits from implementing and maintaining a record and control over assets. Savings can be obtained from being able to both see current asset deployment and thereby maximizing their use. Monitoring assets will reduce unauthorized use or misappropriation and insure employees leaving a firm return assets under their control. In some cases a system is mandated by government regulations, terms of lending, public grant terms, insurance terms etc. One person can maintain and manage all fixed assets of a business if they have software to assist them. Computer systems and software available reduce complexity, save time and prevent mistakes. Why use an asset management software program?

While paper and pencil methods can be used, software programs assist in the recording, maintenance and auditing of assets. This saves time and gives a clearer picture of assets since sorting and viewing in different ways is quick and easy.

The most basic ‘solution’ would be using a spreadsheet program such as excel. Even after migrating to software specifically designed for asset management there are times that a spreadsheet program may continue to be useful.

What is an Asset?

What you call an asset often depends upon your business activities. The first thing that comes to mind is fixed assets such as computers, production equipment, office furnishings etc. You might even wish to consider employees as assets or even service and maintenance contracts. A flexible asset management software program can provide a way to track many things most of us would not consider to be assets.

What are my first steps in setting up a system or ‘solution’?

1: Decide what assets will be managed.

The more assets the more work in setting up your system. Limiting assets to only those over a certain dollar value is a good idea.

2: Deciding what characteristics of assets it is important to record within the software.

Your choices will not only have an effect upon the amount of work required but also the extent to which you can manipulate and view asset information by sorting on asset information field or combination of fields.

For example if you setup a field for ‘location’ then you can sort data to see what assets are in each location. If you also have a field for ‘type’ or ‘class’ then you could further sort and display to show only certain types of assets such as computers at one or more location.

As in every aspect of life one has to make tough choices between what is ideal and what is feasible. Your choices will have an effect upon data entry when new assets arrive as well as collecting information about existing assets. Choices you make will also have a bearing upon your choice of software since some may not handle everything you want. One such a limitation is found within the AssetTrakker Pro software program. TrackitSoftware does not provide a method of tracking depreciation because it was felt this added too much complexity requiring the collecting and maintaining of a lot more data. Additionally, they felt, handling depreciation requires superior knowledge of government rules and regulations beyond the expertise of the very people that stand to benefit most from asset management. Accounting departments already calculate and account for depreciation. *Some software does promote depreciation calculation but only offers limited functionality that in most cases is not the way regulations demand.

Some help!

Below is a listing of Asset Attributes ‘fields’ for your consideration. You will not want to use all of them for your own ‘solution’ and may well have additional ones you need.

Asset #: The key identification reference used to track assets. They can be straight numbers or a number with an alphabetical prefix. (0001 or A001). This number is used for audit purposes and perhaps for cross-reference.

Make: Manufacturer

Model: Useful when arranging service or buying parts. Useful as allows grouping by model type.

Serial #: Specific asset identification. Needed when making warranty or insurance claims.

Cost to Repl.: Estimate of the cost of replacing an asset. Useful for planning, risk assessment and insurance.

Cross Ref. #: Reference other asset number or tie together group of assets.

Type: Can be used for a general grouping such as furniture, computer, shipping, etc.

Condition: Helpful to see what is likely to require replacement or decide on service needs.

Description: Other detail in addition to make, model, and serial number.

Memo: Additional information about the asset. If a computer you might want to list details of the hardware configuration or even the programs installed on it.

Department: This is helpful for sorting assets by department to assist in auditing.

Location: Good field to have so that a search/sort can give you a clear view of where assets are located.

Used by: Necessary if you have assets in the personal possession of an employee and/or assets off business premises.

Date Assigned: Useful if assets are moved around or for telling how long an asset has been at its current location.

Expected EOL: The anticipated date when the asset will no longer be useful.

Funded by: Source of funds if provided by Bond Issue, or outside funds (loan) or a grant.

Cost: Total cost of acquiring an asset.

Date Acquired: Helps give some idea when replacement might be required.

Disposed: Indicates an asset has been disposed of.

Disposed Date: Date asset was disposed of.

Business Use %: Used if an asset is not used full time by the business to break down asset use. Not for everyone, but a field that imagination might find an indispensable use for.

OUT: Used for Tool/Equipment Tracking,

Taken By/In From: Used for Tool/Equipment Tracking to indicate who is taking or returning item.

Date Due: Used for Tool/Equipment Tracking to show when an asset is due back.

Recovered Value: Net proceeds of the disposal of an asset.

Disposed Detail: Notes on how and where an asset was disposed of.

Warranty: Indicates if asset is covered by a warranty or could be used if covered by a service/maintenance contract.

Warranty Expiry: It is useful to see what expiries are approaching for tracking maintenance or service agreements. Helps prevent paying for service covered by warranty as well as prompting the repair of items before expiry.

Image: Can assist in asset identification or where ‘look’ is an important feature. Useful if insurance claim ever made.

Value: Could be amount the asset is insured for. Risk exposure control.

Leased: Helps keep track of Leased vs Owned assets.

Lease End: Used to warn when assets have to be replaced or the lease has to be renewed according to the terms of the lease.

Lease Start: Commencement date of lease on leased equipment.

Lease Co: The name of the company from which an asset is leased.

Audit Date: This column records the date the batch scans of assets were made for audit purposes.

Auditor: Record the name of the person who performed the audit.

What next?

By now you have a good idea of what asset information you want to track. Before looking at the various software packages available you should consider how many people will be entering data and how many will be accessing the data. For a smaller organization it is likely that just one person will be involved but in larger firms perhaps a number will wish to participate. Your situation could require purchasing more than one software license and the software must support multiple users.

Use a Barcode Scanner?

A barcode scanner can be used to speed data entry and auditing. This will add to the cost and most lower priced software packages offer limited support for barcode scanners. If properly incorporated into software a scanner can provide excellent value and save a lot of time, particularly for annual audit purposes.

Below are outlined the types of barcode scanners used with asset management software.

A ‘dumb’ tethered ccd scanner is cheapest and purchased for around $70. This can only be used when plugged into the computer and acts similarly to a keyboard in that you scan a barcode and it is put into whatever cell or space you are in.

A ‘laser’ tethered scanner is more money but will be able to scan smaller barcodes and perhaps have a deeper field of view (easier to scan a barcode quickly).

A ccd or laser scanner which has built in memory so scans can be made and then the scanner can be brought back and plugged into a computer, and those scans uploaded. This is extremely useful for audit purposes. For maximum utility your software should be optimized to take advantage of this ‘batch’ memory capability. A capable unit can be obtained for around $150.

A laser scanner with internal memory, as well as an input screen and keys, means that after scanning a barcode you can add additional information. These are more expensive and again their use has to be integrated into your management software. While prices are coming down you are looking at units in the pocket pc price range plus scanner cost. It is usual for software utilizing these units to also, for some reason, be priced higher.

Asset Management Software

The range of prices for asset management software is $200 to $10,000 and all require you to do the entry of existing asset data as well as some setting up for your requirements. Some offer telephone advice at additional cost but hands on assistance only comes with expensive packages (this level of software requires expensive sales force and marketing expense so perhaps their price, for the features provided, may seem high).

Purchasing Criteria a lot of people seem to use. You may have more.

1: Price 2: Ease of implementation of system 3: Ease of use 4: Ability to fit the business 5: Functionality 6: Potential to handle growth

What you can obtain for a reasonable price

A program with full relational database, such as MS SQL Server Express, or open source database. Today there is no reason to settle for less power or quality. Microsoft provides their SQL 2005 ‘Express’ DB version at no cost.

A program that allows you to attach images of assets. While not necessary for everyone it is something that someday you might want to use.

A program that integrates the use of inexpensive ‘batch’ memory barcode scanners because, if not now, at some point in the future such an accessory will save time and money. Used in auditing it assures an asset was actually seen as barcode had to be scanned.

A program that will permit the management of 10,000+ assets. With decent memory in your computer and a fast full relational database engine there isn’t much of a limitation anymore and while certain functions might slow down a bit even a low cost program should handle over 10,000 assets.

A program that is flexible so you can take advantage of features later instead of having to implement everything at once.

*If more than one person is to be given access to the database then you should ensure that different levels of access can be set for different users to prevent unauthorized changes to data.

What you can get but not cheaply.

A program that integrates directly into your current accounting system.

A program that has full professional depreciation calculations.

A program that runs directly off your company server (lower cost software runs off workstations and while a central database can be located on your server and accessed by individual workstations this is not the same as complete software being server based with applets on workstations.

Hand holding and in house training to get your system up and running. There are firms that will sit down with you and ask you all the right questions, set up your software, audit and list all your assets and then train your staff how to operate and maintain your ‘solution’. Most, to my knowledge, will recommend a mid to high priced software because it is easier to sell (commission higher as well) and easier for them to install due to their familiarity with it.

Nuts and Bolts

Gathering your Asset Information How you perform this step depends upon your situation. In our discussion below we assume you do not have existing asset information, in an existing excel spreadsheet or other format. If you do then you would save work by export/importing that data into your asset management software.

Starting your Asset Listing and Numbering from Scratch

This is an advantage because you are not limited by inherited constraints. Of course it is more work, as you cannot just load in existing asset information but have to collect everything yourself.

Collecting asset information is time consuming. Getting this information accurately, with as little work as possible is important. Thinking about how to do the job and planning will help make this big job easier.

The following is how I suggest doing this but you may have your own, perhaps better plan.

Create data entry sheets that you will have people write in information about assets under their control. Your asset management software may create these or you could make up an excel spreadsheet to obtain them.

Try and obtain some ‘buy in’ from the department or location manager with control over assets. The closer to the asset you can allocate some responsibility the better that asset will be controlled. ‘It’s my department’s asset’ is more powerful an incentive than ‘it’s I.T. Dept’s asset’.

Final steps

After entering data, that your co-operative managers helped you obtain, it is time to work with that data within your asset management software. It should not take long to become familiar with how it can present information to you on screen and in reports.

Now sit back and enjoy how easy it is to administer your assets.

Citibank’s Transformation of Traditional Money Management Into E-Business

Citibank’s strategic intent is to convert its traditional money management business into an e-business framework. How does Citibank transform its traditional assets into digital assets? What issues, if any, do you envision that Citibank must overcome in order for the implementation to be successful?

According to Porter two main ways for a company to compete are on cost advantage or on differentiation. Citibank chose not to compete on price, but instead chose to compete on differentiation.

Since many other companies have similar products and services, Citibank bases its differentiation on customer service. Traditionally, this involved “offering telephone hotlines, relationship managers who understood clients’ needs, product consultants who provided service expertise and most important, continuous investment in technology to support both the front-end and the back-end electronic banking systems”. In order for “successful” transformation of traditional assets into digital assets the company must maintain or enhance its differentiation. Since the company’s differentiation is based on customer service, that means that in the transformation from traditional to digital assets the company must continue to be highly responsive to the customers’ current and future needs, and must do so to a higher level than the competition.

One main way that Citibank achieved transition from traditional to digital was via alliances with such technological companies as Oracle, Commerce One Inc, SAP AG, Wisdom Technologies and Bolero.net. Earlier the company invested millions of dollars on its own in multiple areas of e-business, and failed. Technology is not Citibank’s area of expertise, and it found dealing with constantly changing technology to be an expensive struggle, which it ultimately lost. However, by 2000 Citibank had changed its strategy to one of garnering alliances and using its partners’ strengths to create the technological infrastructure that the company needed to access markets and meet its customers changing demands. Working through alliances reduced Citibank’s risks and costs, increased its effectiveness, and allowed it to remain flexible in meeting changing technological and customer demands.

Customer demands varies, both in the short term and long term. According to McCauley and Kahn, one of the most important obstacles for Citibank to overcome in migrating customers from traditional to digital service was meeting their deep seated concerns about security. While to some degree this hindered Citibank’s efforts in rolling out Web-based applications, Citi did actively implement “multi-layered security architecture… public and private access keys, single-use passwords and multiple authorization controls” in order to meet customer needs (2002, p. 9). In addition, with digital processing it looked to transform repeatable processes that could be “commoditized” into an efficient digital factory. Commoditizing repeatable processes improves efficiency, but also allows resources for additional regional focus — localization. So too, Citibank’s strong brand name is a resource that translates into increased trust as a “trusted provider” when competing with Deutche Bank and other competitors. In fact, most Fortune 500 companies assign value to Citibank’s specific offerings, and prefer it to other international payment providers. Citibank, then, offers multiple areas of value to customers.

The key question, however, is whether this value translates into a competitive advantage which translates into additional profits. Though Citibank met their customers’ needs in the area of information technology, how unique is what it offered? Cutting edge technological capabilities can soon become “hygiene factors”, which are considered to be required, rather than a competitive advantage. These then, do not qualify for differentiation or competitive advantage. While at one point Citibank may have offered cutting edge technological capabilities, the competitive advantages these afford can quickly be eroded. Customer service and transactional efficiency are important. However we need to ask what other areas of business require attention in order for Citibank’s ultimate success. If these are not met, the corporation will not meet its growth goals.

Disability Retirement For Federal Workers – The Importance of a Coherent and Consistent Application

Federal and Postal employees either fall into one of two possible retirement systems: FERS (an acronym for Federal Employee Retirement System) or CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System). Whichever system the Federal or Postal employee falls under, the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement is an option which is available, in the event that a Federal Government worker is no longer able to perform at least one of the essential elements of one’s job. Remember that, in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the medical condition or injury does not have to be job-related. Indeed, one could have incurred a career-ending spinal injury while on a skiing trip, and still qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS.

The Agency which determines that a Federal or Postal Employee is entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits is the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). They are empowered by statutory authority to scrutinize each application for approval or disapproval. In order to be eligible for the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement, one must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, three basic components:

(A) a Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS has a medical condition;

(B) the medical condition prevents him or her from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; and

(C) that the Agency is unable to accommodate the individual or, alternatively, to reassign the individual to a position in the same pay or grade.

In order to successfully prepare and submit an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, two overarching elements should always be kept in mind: Coherence and Consistency. “Coherence” has to do with the form of the application, while “consistency” has to do with the content, or substance of the application. Both elements are important in preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application. Thus, an effective Federal Disability Retirement application will make logical sense and “fit together” with everything (coherence), as well as have an internal structure of information which agrees with one another (consistency).

How does one prove that he or she is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits? Is there a table or schedule of accepted medical conditions? As to the latter question, the general answer is “No”. Qualifying medical conditions have more to do with the symptoms of a medical condition, rather than the formal diagnosis. Thus, physical conditions can range from Cervical & Lumbar diseases, Degenerative Disc Disease, Spondylolisthesis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Failed Back Syndrome, Chronic Pain; Fibromyalgia; to total hip replacements which limit and restrict flexion and mobility; cardiac issues; migraine headaches; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Chemical Sensitivity issues; Asthma; Hypothyroidism; Plantar Fasciitis; Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; shoulder problems, often referred to as bursitis or shoulder impingement syndrome; trochanteric bursitis; lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, as well as a great many other conditions which are not named here, and which are too numerous to catalogue. As for Psychiatric conditions, the list can be just as long: Major Depression, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Bipolar Disorder, Agoraphobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, ADD & ADHD; Paranoia; Schizophrenia; Asperger’s Syndrome; and multiple other psychiatric conditions. Whether attempting to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits based upon a physical medical condition or a psychiatric medical condition, it is important to prove that one is eligible for the benefit.

Which brings us to the first question: How does one prove that he or she is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, either under FERS or CSRS? In any application for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits, one must make sure that the application is both coherent, as well as consistent. Coherence of an application results when all of the various components of the application “fit” together. Thus, for example, in preparing the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A), Block 4 asks the applicant to “Fully Describe Your Disease or Injury”. If the disease or injury is a physical one, then the focus of the narrative should be to describe the pain, the physical restrictions and limitations, etc. Then, when one comes to Block 5, where it asks how your disease or injury interferes with the performance of “your duties, your attendance, or your conduct,” the focus should have a coherence with the previous answer – meaning that, if the narrative described physical issues, the impact upon one’s job should therefore focus upon the physical aspect of the job. Thus, by way of example, to say that you “cannot concentrate or focus” upon a certain aspect of the job, would only be coherent if either (A) the job required cognitive-intensive work and the severity of the pain impacted one’s cognitive faculties, or (B) the medications prescribed to alleviate the physical condition impacts one’s focus or concentration. Conversely, if the narrative concerning one’s medical condition entails primarily psychiatric issues, then the impact upon one’s job should encapsulate cognitive issues (i.e., focus, concentration, ability to analyze, evaluate, etc.). As you can see, coherence in an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is an important component.

Furthermore, an effective application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS should be consistent. Each element of the application should “agree”, wherever possible, with all of the other components. Where inconsistencies occur – for example, between what the treating doctor says and what the applicant states in his or her explanation on SF 3112A – a red flag may arise, providing an opportunity for a denial from the Office of Personnel Management. Thus, don’t try to “oversell” the description of the medical condition. Remember how, when you were deathly ill but your voice sounded perfectly normal over the telephone? You had to call in sick, and you had to “sound like” you were sick, even though you were in fact deathly ill. In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application, this is not the time to “sound like” something more than what the treating doctor states.

Ultimately, the success or failure of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS as submitted to the Office of Personnel Management will depend upon the coherence and consistency of the application. Preparation is the key to success, and it is important to always remember that coherence and consistency are two elements which must always guide the formulation, preparation and submission of a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.

Medical Assistant 101 – Duties And Responsibilities of Medical Assistants

Curious about what Medical Assisting is? Well, it is one of the fastest growing careers nowdays. Experts say that this job will be the most promising for the next ten years because of the technological advancement in the medical field and the increased number of people in need of medical treatments.

Becoming a medical assistant is very easy for it only requires a high school diploma or a GED equivalent and there is no formal education or training requirements needed unlike other career such as nursing. Aspiring MA must only undergo programs which will only take six months to two years to complete.

Program courses include medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology. Students are also taught to have the knowledge on keyboarding, recordkeeping, accounting, insurance processing and transcription. Moreover, students learn some laboratory techniques, pharmaceutical principles, clinical procedures as well as diagnostic procedures.

Program courses are specifically designed to give them a broad perspective in medical field to help them perform their task efficiently and effectively. This is because their nature of work is to perform or to keep medical establishments organized and to keep it running smoothly. Moreover, since they will always interact in almost all people in the hospitals even with the patients, their program courses also include patient relations, ethics and medical laws.

Medical assistant is different from a physician assistant or a nurse. Physician assistants perform medicine or treat patients with the supervision of doctors while MAs are to perform both clinical and clerical tasks.

Generally a medical assistant handles administrative duties and or clinical duties.

1. Administrative Duties and Responsibilities

– Answering telephone calls
– Greet and assist patients
– Appointment scheduling
– Do patient's billing
– Bookkeeping
– Handling correspondence
– Filing and updating patient's medical records
– Handles insurance forms
– Arranging hospital admissions
– Assisting in laboratory services

2. Clinical Duties and Responsibilities
– Taking patient's medical history
– Recording patient's vital signs
– Preparing patients for medical examinations
– Assisting doctors during medical examinations
– Explaining to patients the procedures
– Collects and prepares the laboratory specimens
– Purchasing medical supplies and equipment
– Disposing of contaminated medical supplies
– Preparing medical instruments
– Making sure that hospital rooms such as waiting rooms and examination rooms are clean and tidy

In some hospitals medical assistants are allowed, under the supervision of doctors to perform basic medical tasks such as:
– Basic laboratory tests
– Prepare medicines and administrator medications
– Instructing patients in taking medications and some diets
– Drug refills
– Draw blood
– Changing of dressings
– Removing sutures

With these large scope of duties and responsibilities, medical assistants should be well-organized and can do multi-tasking at the same time. They must also have pleasant personality and must be good communicators for they must make the patients feel comfortable and at ease before and or during examination. Moreover, they must be neat and well groomed for they should look presentable when dealing with patients.

Duties and responsibilities of medical assistants vary depending on the hospitals they work. In small hospitals or clinics that are to perform both administrative and clinical duties while in large hospitals where there are other medical staff, they are encouraged to perform specific tasks under the supervision of the department administrators.

Regardless where medical assistants work, they are very useful in helping other healthcare workers to perform their jobs more effectively and efficiently. As a result, the increased needs of people's medical attention are met through them.