Asset Disposition: Are your Assets Retired or Disposed?

IT assets, just like this mortal life we lead, do reach a point where they must hang up the boots. There are multiple reasons why equipment can be removed from active duty, aka asset recovery. Could be due to a fault, could be because they need replacement/upgrading, perhaps stolen even.

IT asset management systems necessitate every equipment to have a status. Looking at Symantec, for instance, you will see eight out-of-the-box kinds of status. They include: On Order (Asset is soon available for use), In Stock (Asset is available for use), RMA (Asset has been returned for repair/replacement), Retired (Asset is no longer in use but yet to be disposed), Disposed (asset is no longer linked with the company), and others.

Looking at it from the perspective of IT asset disposition, a clear line does exist between asset retirement and disposal (denoting both disposal and disposition). And it makes for a good case because there may be a significant amount of time during which the asset sits between retirement (no longer being used) and the physical disposal (shipping to the vendor).

Thus, equipment should not be considered disposed until successful transfer of custody from the owning company to the recovery solutions vendor has happened. By the same breath, the vendor cannot accept responsibility or ownership of any equipment until it has been received. This is partly why formalities like hard evidence (disposal tags/matching serial numbers) are necessary.

Without this kind of evidence, the equipment might be as good as missing because the IT asset recovery vendor will obviously not accept responsibility until the stuff is under their care. In such a case then, the status ought to remain ‘Retired’. It is only after both parties sign the papers and match the serial numbers/disposal tags of the retired equipment that the status should switch to Disposed.

A way around this is to add a new distinction in the name of a ‘Disposal Pending’ status which would come in handy when an asset that has been retired is in transit and yet to be received by the vendor.

Drawing a clear line between Retired, Disposal Pending, and Disposed is strongly recommended. Assets do get lost, and the annual numbers are indeed mind-boggling.

With the professional obligation to detect Missing assets, IT asset managers need to make clear distinctions. Otherwise you find that a Missing asset has been erroneously marked as Retired. This has a huge impact because any company caught up in such a scenario is a company that cannot properly account for its assets.


The missing assets could be a ticking time bomb once they land in the wrong hands because a devastating data breach could be the next thing you hear following morning. Remember the Coca Cola breach not so long ago that was traced to missing IT equipment? That’s one of the largest companies in the world, lest we need reminding.

It’s not just about the security alone. Missing assets are a missed opportunity for asset liquidation that could have earned your organization some funds. Additionally, discovery of missing assets could lead to legal penalties on your part, not to mention making ITAM look bad.

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