Lost laptops. Unused software licenses. Ghost assets. For too many organizations, these IT failures are really a failure of IT asset management (ITAM). In these companies, hardware and software tracking is too challenging a goal, or one that gets bumped down the pecking order every year.
Here’s the truth: It doesn’t have to be this way. Over the past 20 years, we’ve learned that ITAM must be implemented in every organization, no matter how large or small. And along the way, we’ve uncovered six truths about the most successful ITAM programs and how to get your own off the ground.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that asset management is attainable by all. Let’s uncover the truth, and help your organization get on track for an ITAM plan.
The six truths of ITAM
Truth #1: ITAM is 80 percent process, 20 percent tools. Asset management seems simple enough – buy an autodiscovery tool, let it run, and your array of IT assets is accounted for. But the reality is far different, and that’s because ITAM is a business discipline, not a set of software programs or tools.
Eighty percent of ITAM is the process of identifying, tracking, and constantly auditing current IT assets. The process is unique to an organization based on its size and scope, but the idea is universal: Better policies ensure IT resources are properly accounted for and monitored, and company-wide buy-in helps improve asset tracking and licensing considerations.
Here’s why the process is critical: Failure to understand the entire ecosystem leads to increased costs and licensing noncompliance. Many IT assets aren’t caught in the sieve of autodiscovery, including hardware devices disconnected from the network, and complex licensing policies need close inspection regularly. The tools organizations typically use for hardware tracking and software license management are just one part of this greater process.
Truth #2: ITAM can’t be fully automated. Autodiscovery isn’t true asset management, as it yields no insights into the assets disconnected from the network. Likewise, tools that promise easy ITAM automation won’t do a complete job – there are many functions of ITAM that cannot be automated.
Sure, some aspects don’t require manual intervention, such as inventory and purchase feeds, but those still require a thorough process in place first. If we look at hardware asset management, we can see why a focus on automation would fall flat; a new laptop requires an IT professional to set up and configure, and properly tag and scan, the machine. The same is true with decommissioning an asset, as reclaiming a software license can’t be automated.
Software management is even trickier, because vendors’ licensing policies often change. It’d be almost impossible to automate license management, remain in compliance, and escape an audit.
Truth #3 – ITAM has value, but half a solution isn’t a solution at all. Asset management is an imprecise science: There’s no algorithm for quantifying the value of asset management, what it will be in the future, or what savings it will generate. The value of asset management is better controls, decreased chances of software audits, and fewer hours spent tracking down lost computers – all benefits that are hard to put a price on.
But ITAM is an all-or-nothing proposition. To get value, organizations from top to bottom must follow through on ITAM adoption: develop processes and policies; gain absolute buy-in from the entire company; set up audit procedures; and install and configure the right tool sets. For example, if a goal of your ITAM policy is recapturing software licenses before hardware end-of-life, a manager that trashes devices destroys the entire ITAM process.
Also, ITAM can’t live in a spreadsheet. Keeping track of current IT inventory, especially software licensing that can change based on vendor policies, is complicated, and shouldn’t sit in spreadsheets that are reviewed only a few times a year. An organization isn’t truly managing IT assets if it is simply inputting data into a spreadsheet.
Truth #4 – ITAM needs executive-level buy-in. Organizations need company-wide buy-in for the process of tracking and managing its IT resources, and it starts at the top. That’s because ITAM is a culture change, and any new business discipline is generally difficult to implement.
But IT faces the challenge of convincing the C-suite that ITAM is worth it. Executives may ask, “What’s so hard about keeping track of laptops?” Well, what’s so hard about keeping track of money? Why do we have such sophisticated tools for accounting?
Asset management requires a process that may be difficult for executives to understand at times and requires constant attention (we’ll get to that later). However, IT can show the value of ITAM through improved hardware tracking, more accurate licensing, and better processes that save the organization money. Once these metrics show a clear benefit to the organization, you’re more likely to get senior-level sponsorships. The pieces start to fall into place after executive buy-in, as lower-level managers accept ITAM as a new business discipline.
Truth #5: A process without an audit is worthless. ITAM is a self-reflective process, and once a process and baseline have been established, they’ll need to be constantly audited and updated. When compliance audits aren’t built into an ITAM solution, and poor buy-in and a misunderstanding of ITAM’s importance creeps in, the process fractures.
Once that process breaks down, it’s hard to recover from – anomalies surface and restoration of accuracy requires yet another physical inventory assessment, which most companies can barely spare the time or money for the first time around, let alone the second.
To be successful in ITAM, IT and the C-suite must lead the way in following new procedures and policies, and auditing the ITAM system so it can be constantly improved. If others in the organization see leadership following these practices, they’ll be more likely to get in line. That’s critical: The success of ITAM is dependent on process, and the success of process is highly dependent on following compliance audits and establishing new baselines.
Truth #6 – ITAM is not an overnight solution. You don’t switch on ITAM on a Monday. Really, ITAM is continuous improvements or controls — the process of ITAM never stops.
Launching an ITAM program could take a year or more, since perfecting the process and audits takes time. These asset management procedures won’t be internalized in the corporate structure overnight, and organizations should set the expectation that it’s a step-by-step process. Ultimately, building a highly focused program in phases, and setting organizational expectations accordingly, helps an ITAM project succeed.
One last truth – ITAM is challenging
If an organization achieves full buy-in and constantly adjusts its policies and process, a strong ITAM program is attainable. But crafting the right process, accurately tagging all assets, achieving full buy-in, and finding that measurable value prove to be difficult for many organizations.
With all this in mind, organizations may decide to partner with an ITAM expert that can coordinate and implement a full ITAM solution. Third-party ITAM experts focus on process planning, and are capable of working on tool implementation and automation where possible, as well as defining value that is visible to the C-suite.
A critical part of a successful ITAM solution is establishing metrics for success, such as identifying the number of laptops on hand or a year of audit-free software licensing. Defining those metrics upfront will help organizations monitor the success of their ITAM program, and measurable results will drive buy-in from executives. Remembering these six truths will assist organizations in crafting a strong but elastic asset management plan that’s scalable and beneficial for the entire company.
Do you have questions about ITAM? Contact your SHI representative to get in touch with an ITAM professional.