Thinking of purchasing a combined ITSM and ITAM solution? Consider this first

 In End-User Devices, Hardware, SAM/IT Asset Management, Software

If you’re like most organizations, you probably have an IT service management (ITSM) tool to manage patching, upgrading, and pushing out updates. You might have noticed that a lot of ITSM tools are now adding on IT asset management (ITAM) as well.

On the surface, it might seem like a good idea to do all your management in one place. But ITSM and ITAM are different disciplines requiring different skillsets. We are already hearing from organizations struggling with the ITAM part of the equation.

Looking closer at these tools uncovers several things to consider that not only speak to these new combined tools but also to the nature of ITAM and the challenges you’ll likely face if you pursue a do-it-yourself (DIY) ITAM tool.

Thinking about using an ITSM extension to address your ITAM issues? Read on before you do.

The difference between ITSM and ITAM                      

ITSM focuses on operational and support services. It helps monitor and manage how IT services work with your infrastructure and affect security, how to patch a device if there is a malware outbreak, and so on. It’s all about processes and procedures, and keeping the systems running… no matter the cost.

ITAM, on the other hand, is about making sure those processes are running optimally and cost effectively with a focus on compliance, optimization, and the financial aspects of hardware and software licensing. It delves into the complexities of licensing from potentially dozens of publishers. It’s about what you have deployed, what you’re entitled to have deployed, and analyzing the difference to understand risk and how to optimize your licensing.

There is some overlap in the disciplines, but the motivations, stakeholders, skills, and resources required for each are vastly different, which is why combining them might not be the right choice for every organization.

Why combining ITSM and ITAM can pose problems

For organizations lacking the right expertise, a DIY ITAM tool may not be much more helpful than a spreadsheet. Sometimes organizations don’t know the best way to inventory their IT assets using the tool, or there is no good way to distinguish new data from old. Most importantly, companies often do not have employees who are able to understand and interpret the data from an ITAM tool and translate that into a strategy.

Sometimes they cannot even identify whether the data is accurate, let alone whether the proper rights and amendments have been applied.

Any step toward ITAM is a step in the right direction, but many organizations that use ITSM tools might assume ITAM tools will work similarly, only to end up calling for help in interpreting the results, or worse, fail to recognize they need help. Unfortunately, many of the companies offering ITAM tools don’t offer that support.

This isn’t to say that an ITAM tool isn’t useful for certain organizations. Organizations should just be aware of the pros and cons before taking this path.

Pros and cons of DIY ITAM

There are many reasons why organizations choose the DIY model. These tools give them the most control, are generally contained to their own environment, and can be used independently without having to rely on a third party.

However, there are drawbacks to this method. The total cost of ownership to maintain and ensure the tool is working correctly is high. The failure rate for organizations that adopt a DIY ITAM tool is also high. When organizations do succeed, it takes a longer time to realize value — expect 12-18 months before the tool is fully implemented. Over the years, Gartner has reported:

  • 70% of customers who attempt to implement ITAM themselves fail.
  • For those that do not fail, on average it takes three years of onboarding an implementation to show value.

On top of that, when your organization is just learning how the tool works, how can you be certain that the data it’s collecting is accurate? How can you know the tool is actually collecting the data you need?

What you need to know when adding ITAM to your ITSM tool

When considering a DIY ITAM tool, be sure to ask yourself a few questions first:

  1. Do we have the skills to support this tool?
    • Do you have the in-house talent to interpret and analyze the data the tool will generate?
    • Do you have employees familiar enough with the licensing practices of major publishers to efficiently manage your environment?
  2. What is the total cost to adopt this tool?
    • It’s not just the cost of the tool, but the cost of the employees you’ll need to run and manage the tool.
  3. How quickly will we see value?
    • Can you wait the 12-18 months (with a potential add in of three years) it typically takes to get started, and continue to uncover enough value year after year to justify the costs of the program?

The alternative to adopting a DIY ITAM tool is to seek out a managed service. In some cases, those services can be less expensive than a tool because you gain all the expertise you need without adding salaries and benefits. ITAM services can help you get the project off the ground faster because there’s no trial and error like there would be if you kept ITAM in house.

As more ITSM solutions add on ITAM, it’s important to approach these new tools with a healthy dose of skepticism, armed with questions about how they will actually work in your environment. For some organizations that want to maintain control and have the in-house talent to run an ITAM tool, it makes perfect sense. For others, a managed service might be the best route to realizing the benefits of ITAM.

Which would work best for your organization? Contact your SHI account executive today to discuss.

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