You can expect the growing complexity in IT environments, coupled with the urgency to optimize costs, to drive interest in IT asset management, or ITAM. This is a key finding in Deloitte’s IT Asset Management Global Survey 2021. So what’s ITAM, and how does it address issues regarding rising complexity and costs?
In this article, I’ll dissect the basic concepts of IT asset management, why it’s important to businesses, its benefits, some of its best practices, etc. After reading, you’ll better understand ITAM’s role in complex, cost-conscious, IT-driven organizations.
Let’s begin by defining ITAM.
IT asset management, or ITAM, is the practice of discovering, tracking, and managing IT assets. Specifically, it involves keeping an inventory of all those assets, knowing what and where they are, and the value they contribute to your organization. Moreover, ITAM involves knowing those assets’ current state, utilization, end-of-life, licenses, costs, etc.
IT assets can be hardware, like physical servers, routers, switches, storage devices, etc. They can also be software, like operating systems, applications, virtual machines (VMs), and containers. Lastly, they can even be cloud-based subscriptions like SaaS, IaaS, or PaaS or facilities like a data center or disaster recovery site.
So why exactly do you need to track IT assets? Let’s talk about that in the next section.
Your business is bound to accumulate a massive collection of IT assets in today’s technology and data-driven world. These assets can be widely dispersed—in your offices, your data center, the cloud, and even your remote workers’ hands. While many assets’ lifecycles last for years, others, like those of virtual machines and containers, only last for a few days or hours. All these attributes can present challenges when you need to perform certain tasks.
How would you know which assets are due for upgrades? Which ones need replacements? If you want to improve your security posture, do you know where to scan for vulnerabilities? What software installations need patching? When you need to conduct a software licensing audit, do you know where to look? If you wish to acquire a new piece of technology, is it already compatible, or will it integrate well with your existing IT infrastructure?
You can get the answers to all of these questions and concerns using a well-planned and executed ITAM program. IT asset management offers many benefits to your company overall. Let’s have a look at some of them in the next section.
ITAM offers several economic, security, operational, and management benefits. In the following subsections, I’ll review some benefits of adopting ITAM in your business. I haven’t arranged these benefits in any particular order.
As indicated earlier, IT assets are mostly dispersed across various locations and exist for varying periods. A robust ITAM program will allow you to aggregate all your IT asset information in a centralized location. In turn, this makes it easy for you to keep tabs on your IT assets and view any current and relevant information about them.
You can’t manage what you don’t know. An ITAM database will typically store your IT assets’ inventory, financial, and contractual data. By extracting information from that database, you’ll know, for example, your assets’ exact locations. In addition, you’ll know each asset’s model, purchase price, quantity, vendor name, depreciation, etc. You’ll also know their version and license details. This will help you gain complete visibility of your IT assets despite how complex your IT environment is.
Aging IT assets sometimes cause an IT infrastructure’s poor performance. An ITAM system will help you follow each IT asset’s lifecycle, from the moment of purchase to its end-of-life (EOL). This will help you determine when to upgrade or replace an asset. You can maintain optimal performance while avoiding unnecessary costs by upgrading at the right time.
Ignorance of your existing IT assets can lead to duplicate purchases and underutilized resources. In turn, this can lead to wastage and unnecessary costs. Furthermore, a lack of visibility can result in software installations exceeding license limits, triggering hefty fines. The visibility gained from an ITAM system can help you avoid these undesirable scenarios and the unnecessary costs accompanying them.
You can only implement patch management, vulnerability scans, and other security initiatives that reduce risk in your IT infrastructure if you track your IT assets. You can’t secure what you don’t know. Because IT asset tracking is integral to every ITAM program, having such a program in place will complement your security initiatives nicely.
To avoid deployment challenges and other related issues, you must look at the compatibility and integrability factors of your future potential IT solutions. Will they work with your existing assets? Keeping track of your IT assets will help you answer that question. By implementing ITAM, you can ensure overall compatibility and integrability in your IT environment.
And those are the 6 major benefits of implementing IT asset management in your business. What’s next, you might ask? Well, different types of IT assets are normally handled through different IT asset management categories. Let’s talk about those categories now.
As you know by now, ITAM covers different types of IT assets, from hardware and software, to cloud services like SaaS and IaaS. Since each type of IT asset has its own characteristics, e.g., versioning might make sense to software but not hardware, you need to treat them differently.
For this reason, several specialized ITAM categories have emerged. Here are 5 of them. I’ve written a brief description and a list of benefits for each.
Software asset management (SAM) helps you manage digital IT assets such as operating systems, applications, and other forms of software. Here are some of its benefits:
Hardware asset management (HAM) seeks to monitor your physical IT assets. These include servers, routers, storage systems, load balancers, modems, scanners, and other physical IT assets. The following list looks at some of HAM’s benefits:
Mobile asset management (MAM) looks at managing your company’s mobile devices, such as phones, tablets, and other related devices. Here’s a list of some of its benefits:
Cloud asset management (CAM) ensures the tracking of cloud-based assets such as SaaS applications, virtual server instances, containers, cloud storage buckets, IAM policies, and other related assets. Here are some of the benefits of implementing CAM:
Digital asset management (DAM) helps you manage digital assets such as images, videos, documents, presentations, audio content, and other files of value to your organization. Here’s a list of several of its benefits:
Regardless of category, any ITAM program requires more than just proper planning and execution to succeed. In the next section, I’ll share some best practices to help you roll out and maintain a successful ITAM initiative.
Your ITAM program is bound to encounter several obstacles along the way. To prevent it from falling by the wayside, you’ll want to institute some best practices to help you persevere. I’ve outlined some of those best practices below. I haven’t arranged these best practices in any particular order.
One of the major pitfalls of implementing ITAM is treating it as a one-off exercise. Let’s say, for example, in response to a looming software audit, you roll out a full-blown SAM program. This typically involves scouring every single endpoint device across all your offices. Then, after some time, you lose focus, and your SAM program dies with it. What happens if the next audit comes along?
It’ll be much easier if you apply consistency and treat ITAM as an ongoing practice, tracking every asset through its entire lifecycle. It’s even better if you strive to establish an ITAM culture. That way, you don’t have to start over whenever you need a comprehensive inventory of your IT assets.
As with any major intraorganizational undertaking, getting leadership buy-in is important. You can’t expect to establish an ITAM culture if you don’t have support from the top. An ITAM undertaking will require substantial company resources and employee cooperation. You can’t get those unless you have someone from the top championing your cause.
Focus your initial efforts on convincing people from senior leadership about the importance of ITAM. Leadership buy-in will make it much easier to get budget allocations for your ITAM program and acquire employee cooperation.
Unless you’re managing a small organization, it’s nearly impossible to discover every single asset in a reasonable time using just manual methods. This is especially true if your business units are geographically dispersed. Imagine discovering and tracking every single physical and virtual server in a multinational company. That’s an IT nightmare in a nutshell.
To improve the speed and accuracy of your ITAM processes, you’ll want to employ automation wherever and whenever you can. This may entail purchasing a reliable ITAM software solution. Don’t worry; the return will be worth the expense.
This is a point that I can’t emphasize enough. An ITAM program is a huge undertaking, especially if you include all major ITAM categories. The sheer number and diversity of IT assets you’re supposed to discover and track can be overwhelming. The key point to remember is that an ITAM undertaking is a marathon, not a sprint.
Therefore, it’s best to identify your most important IT assets. These are the assets that are critical to your business—the ones that provide the greatest value. For example, an employee’s laptop can’t be as critical as your file transfer server. Once you’ve identified your critical assets, give them top priority in your ITAM program. This approach will enable you to achieve quick wins.
Before I end this article, let me first share some tips for choosing an IT asset management software.
One of the key best practices I highlighted earlier is automating whenever possible. This implies employing an IT asset management software solution. Designed specifically for ITAM, an IT asset management software solution will have several built-in functionalities that will simplify your ITAM endeavours.
Of course, each ITAM software differs from the rest. Have no fear; I’m here to help you out! Here are 3 tips you can apply when choosing an ITAM software solution, again arranged in no particular order.
These are probably the most basic features you should look for. If a so-called ITAM solution doesn’t have discovery and inventory features, it’s probably not an ITAM solution. An ITAM software must be able to scour your IT environment and automatically discover IT assets for you. The software should also be able to add those assets to your asset inventory. That way, you can easily view and inspect your assets whenever necessary.
Another essential feature you’ll want to consider is an ITAM database. This will be your main source of truth for all inventory, financial, and contractual data regarding your IT assets. Your ITAM software must either have a built-in database or a way to easily integrate with an external one. A single source of truth for your IT assets will eliminate confusion, improve efficiency, and reduce risks in your ITAM initiatives.
Remember that you have plenty of different types of IT assets. You must ensure your prospective ITAM software supports the IT assets in your IT environment. If it doesn’t, see if it easily integrates with other solutions that do. The more types of IT assets your ITAM solution supports, the fewer manual entries you’ll have to carry out.
I think that’s everything for now. You’re now ready to begin implementing ITAM. Let’s wrap things up.
To conclude, this article looked at how IT asset management reduces complexity and costs by allowing you to discover and track your IT assets. In turn, this enables you to make informed decisions when managing, maintaining, securing, replacing, and disposing of those assets.
In addition, I outlined the different types of IT assets and the corresponding ITAM categories you can use to manage them. These categories included software, hardware, mobile, cloud, and digital asset management. I also discussed several ITAM best practices which included making ITAM an ongoing practice and securing leadership buy-in.
Lastly, I discussed tips on choosing the right ITAM software solution for your business. You should look for discovery and inventory features, ensure the ITAM tool has a database or can integrate with one, and make sure it supports your other assets. Remember to focus on your business’s needs and requirements when implementing ITAM.
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