IT asset management (ITAM) encompasses everything related to managing, upgrading, and optimizing a company’s digital assets. As organizations undertake increasingly complex digital transformations, ITAM has become an essential part of business success.
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This blog post will take a detailed look at ITAM and how you can best implement it as part of your business' day-to-day operations. Especially if you're an ITAM novice, mastering the basics is essential to strong, efficient IT and data management.
What is IT Asset Management (ITAM)?
In the simplest of terms, ITAM is all about making sure your business’ most important technology assets are tracked, maintained, and used correctly.
This involves monitoring every stage of an asset’s lifecycle, from acquisition and implementation to eventual upgrades and, when the time comes, retirement. During this time, ITAM processes make it easier for companies to get the most out of their tech tools.
What is an IT asset? Generally speaking, IT assets fall into one of the following four categories:
- Cloud and Infrastructure
- Digital Information Assets
Let’s take a look at each one in a little more detail.
IT assets that fall into the hardware category include:
- Laptop or desktop computers
- Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices
- Physical servers and data storage devices
- Printers and copiers
- Any other physical asset that’s used for IT or data management
The hardware aspect of ITAM involves formatting and preparing devices for new employees, diagnosing and repairing existing ones, and purchasing new hardware assets or upgrades.
Since technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, IT management is counted on to ensure that businesses have the best physical tools available.
For the vast majority of businesses, software apps are indispensable operational tools.
From basic productivity programs like word processors and email clients to communication platforms like Skype, Slack, and Zoom, employees leverage technology to do huge amounts of work every day.
According to this Wall Street Journal report, in 2018, large firms had deployed an average of 129 apps, while nearly 10% of those companies have more than 200 pieces of software in use. Naturally, this makes managing those digital assets a difficult task.
The software aspect of ITAM goes far beyond simply installing various apps on a given device. It also involves meeting compliance standards, monitoring license expiration dates, making sure that IT isn’t being installed without management knowledge, and even upkeep for Smart TVs and small appliances.
Cloud and infrastructure
More and more businesses are embedding cloud assets into their everyday operations. Typically, these assets fall into one of three categories:
- Software as a Service (SaaS), which describes any platform where upgrades are pushed out to users regularly as part of a monthly or yearly subscription fee. Google’s G Suite apps and Dropbox are common SaaS examples.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS), which delivers cloud components for certain software. It also serves as a framework for developers to build customized applications. Windows Azure and AWS Elastic Beanstalk are well-known PaaS examples.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), which covers digital infrastructure options for servers, networking, and data storage. These assets are usually available through a third-party dashboard or an API. AWS, Rackspace, and Microsoft Azure are popular IaaS choices.
There’s plenty of crossover between this sector of ITAM and general software management. In addition to issues like compliance and general maintenance, IT management must also avoid long blackout periods that can lead to catastrophic IT downtime for their business.
Digital information assets
Finally, we have what amounts to a catch-all category for any other digital or IT-related asset. This includes photos, videos, text-based assets like eBooks, contracts, legal documents, and so on.
Why IT Asset Management is So Important
It wasn’t so long ago that computers, the internet, and other pieces of technology were strictly reserved for IT departmental use. Now that technology is so ubiquitous in everyone’s lives, proper ITAM is more important now than ever before.
As Atlassian explains, rising employee expectations have transformed that ITAM means to modern organizations:
“Subscription-based software and employees expectation to customize the tools they work with through marketplaces and app stores, present new asset management challenges. The way modern teams work requires that IT teams be flexible and adapt their asset management process to best enable the business.”
As departments like HR, marketing, and sales continue to escalate their technology usage, ITAM will only become more crucial to every kind of business professional.
Here’s a detailed look at just some of the reasons why ITAM is
ITAM supplies a single source of truth
When IT managers talk about establishing a single source of truth, what they’re really talking about is centralization. In short, ensuring that key information is all in one place and accessible to those who need it.
Without a single source of truth, there is no ITAM structure—only chaos. Digital assets are tracked by too many people and information is scattered across too many small, ineffective hubs. With that comes data inaccuracy, which in turn leads to poor business decisions.
Once a single source of truth is established, IT managers can focus on bigger, often more pressing organizational issues. Ultimately, cross-functional operations run much smoother as a result.
ITAM improves productivity with sacrificing dependability
Digital transformation success is predicated, at least in part, on how efficiently organizations track their digital assets.
Forget just monitoring laptops and tablets. Teams that utilize agile and scrum or other concepts like DevOps often need access to different functionality or digital services quickly. As a result, organizations rely on ITAM to accomplish this without sacrificing reliability.
With increased control over how these two disciplines align, IT managers can also mitigate risk and avoid scenarios of excess IT asset consumption. It all adds up to better efficiency and decision-making, which in turn boosts an organization's overall productivity.
ITAM reduces costs associated with unused technology
Though it may not be apparent to all employees, unused technology costs the average business lots of money.
Global IT spending exceeded $3.5 trillion in 2019 and, despite recession concerns, was forecast to increase again in 2020. However, despite the willingness to spend more, companies are wasting around 37% of their software budget on apps they’ll never or rarely use.
CIO’s Jen A. Miller says the key to better software cost reduction is to let ITAM take the lead. Let your IT professionals help determine what a business unit needs and how the chosen tools will meet key business needs.
5 Tips for Implementing Successful ITAM Processes
Is your organization is just dipping its toes into uncharted ITAM waters, how do you get started?
Are you an IT professional who’s beginning their ITAM, how do you get the most of the resources at your disposal?
Regardless of manpower, budget, or your previous ITAM track record, here are some simple tips that help any business or IT team optimize their data management strategy:
1. Prioritize your ITAM task load based on pain points
Even if you’re an ITAM newbie, separating your business’ immediate, high-profile IT needs from less-urgent fare only takes a little investigating. It’s what you do with that information that counts.
Taking to existing managers and doing an audit of your organization’s assets and their usage patterns will determine your immediate technical capabilities. Once that happens, you can map those to address your most pressing IT issues.
Keep in mind that each ITAM solution you and your team provide doesn’t have to be a home run. Sometimes, the only feasible action to take at a given moment is a band-aid fix. However, it’s that patch job that can buy you more time to implement a lasting solution to an issue.
Even if you need to return to the problem at a later date, you still need to continually prioritize based on pain point severity. Keeping that hierarchy intact will prevent your ITAM processes from getting overwhelmed and, eventually, buckling under that weight.
2. Take a proactive approach to projects, risk management
Efficient ITAM practices use that planning and tackle each new task with a proactive approach instead of a reactive one. It’s the difference between taking proper fire safety precautions at the outset and constantly putting blazes out.
Now, understandably, not all ITAM projects can be carefully planned out or foreseen. However, even in that context, taking proactive steps to avoid certain problems before they arise can eliminate the stress and potential losses that come after issues crop up.
In a reactive environment, it’s also much harder to follow through on prioritization. As this Chron.com piece explains, reactive management is purely about the “here and now,” while proactive management puts that in context with the organization’s long-term plan.
The more proactive your ITAM strategy, the less likely you’ll be pulled away from important growth projects to spend time fixing preventable maintenance issues.
3. Be wary of “shadow IT” assets
As innocent as it may seem on the surface, “shadow IT” assets—ones being purchased, deployed, and managed outside of the IT department’s purview—are becoming bigger and bigger security risks.
According to this 2019 industry report, between 20%-40% of enterprise technology funding is spent without an IT manager’s involvement. However, in the same cited survey, respondents put shadow IT in last place among their seven biggest technology concerns.
It goes without saying that ITAM without the proper amount of oversight can quickly become a major cybersecurity hazard. Shadow IT risks share one thing in common with record-setting data breaches: they’re usually preventable.
Unfortunately, as this Forbes blog post points out, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution either:
“Ultimately, the only way to improve security for shadow IT is a combination of helping users become more aware and responsive to the potential risks and vulnerabilities of all the technology they use to interact with enterprise systems, as well as deploying more failsafe measures [...] Organizations should also understand the security protocols for application vendors and developers. Security and disaster recovery teams should include known critical shadow IT in their threat assessments.”
With more than one in five organizations surveyed here linking a cyber event to an unsanctioned IT asset, it’s an issue all ITAM practitioners need to be aware of.
4. Be pragmatic about ITAM project scope
Before you kick an ITAM project into high gear, it’s important to define its scope and, in general, err on the side of pragmatism. Even large corporations with seemingly infinite resources at their disposal can fall victim to costly budget overruns if they’re not careful.
HBR states that, on average, projects go over-budget by 27%. Additionally, Gartner reveals that projects with more than a $1 million price tag are 50% more likely to be deemed a failure. To avoid needlessly burning through resources, it’s crucial to be realistic about what you have.
Planning is part of this equation, but exercising sound judgment in the face of unexpected obstacles is also key to maintaining project scope. It will involve making tough decisions and saying “no” to certain stakeholders, but the alternative could be far more damaging.
For many organizations, time and money aren’t infinite, which means it’s important to maximize the usability of your digital assets. A pragmatic approach to IT management will help your business reach this state of technical nirvana.
5. Understand that ITAM is an ongoing journey
Finally, perhaps the biggest piece of advice ITAM professionals need to follow is that, as a set of management processes, taking care of your digital assets is a marathon, not a sprint.
Just like best business practices, ITAM is an evolving organism that will look different six months, two years, or two decades from now than it does today. As such, crossing a few items off a project to-do list doesn’t mean your ITAM journey is done.
Not even close.
The good news is that, because of this, the need for ITAM and the benefits it brings to an organization will never go away. As companies become more and more reliant on digital tools and infrastructure, the importance of lean, efficient ITAM processes will only be magnified.
An often unheralded aspect of IT and business management, ITAM is the unseen force that keeps an organization’s digital assets working, up-to-date, and accessible to those who need them.
And, as technology evolves according to consumer needs, it’s only going to become more vital to continued success.
Whether you’re a small business trying to carve out a solid e-commerce space or a large corporation trying to get the most out of your resources, efficient ITAM can optimize how you work so you can focus on delivering value to each and every client.
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Originally published Apr 7, 2020 3:00:00 AM
Topics: Asset Management