Like most big companies, GlaxoSmithKline had systems in place to help keep track of its computers, servers and other IT equipment.
Even so, equipment would still fall through the cracks -- employees would leave, and managers would forget to call the desktop services group to pick up their computers. Or workers would need extra machines for special projects but then fail to turn them in when the projects were complete. Or people would ask to hold on to old computers after an upgrade to clear off data, and the unit would fall off the roster.
Multiply those instances over several years, and you wind up with a big pile of unused tech gear.
That's what Armin Jahromi, service development manager for GSK's IT desktop services group, discovered a few years ago when he decided to take a hard look around the company's physical plant. "There was a lot of IT equipment lying around -- laptops, desktops, monitors, all types of equipment," he recalls.
But where other managers might have envisioned big disposal bills, Jahromi saw another possibility: potential revenue. He rolled up his sleeves and went to work, partnering with PlanITROI, a Denville, N.J.-based asset value recovery company, to recoup cash from end-of-life IT gear.
Over a two-year housecleaning period that involved more than a half-dozen sites housing 20,000-plus workers, GSK's IT department took in an impressive $1.8 million -- that is, 60% of the total amount earned, with the remainder going to PlanITROI.
Refurbish and resell
Many companies struggle with finding the best way to get rid of outdated computers, servers and the like. The days of tossing units out with trash bound for the landfill are long gone, thanks to increasingly stringent recycling laws.
Companies can certainly get a recycling vendor to haul away tech trash, but fees vary widely, and the hassle can be considerable, in part because it's not always easy to determine whether these companies are getting rid of the e-waste in a responsible way.
Now, some organizations are trying an alternative: refurbishing and reselling their old equipment, either on their own or through a third party, to bring money back into the company coffers.
And as the GSK case shows, this can be more than pocket change. For companies that understand the potential returns and implement the right collection policies, the result could mean tens -- even hundreds -- of thousands of dollars.
For large firms, "savings in the millions of dollars isn't that unusual. That's a common number once they have a mature program in place," says Barbara Rembiesa, president of the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM). "It's a matter of understanding the value [of IT assets] and bringing the value back to the company."