What Is IT Asset Management?
IT asset management (ITAM) is the process of managing all technology assets in an organization from initial planning stages to eventual retirement and replacement. Originally a process narrowly confined to IT departments and largely decoupled from enterprise ROI, the shift to commercialized, user-driven tools and technologies has pushed this process into the line-of-business spotlight.
Now, a comprehensive IT asset management program is critical for companies to streamline operations and meet evolving end-user expectations. That said, what is IT asset management? What are its key components, benefits and underlying strategies? How do companies maximize ITAM impact, and what’s the quickest way from initial adoption to ongoing benefit?
Here’s what you need to know.
Starting Point: ITAM Structures
Effective IT asset management requires two broad frameworks: asset identification and lifecycle staging.
Identification is critical to help companies understand what type of IT assets exist in their organization, where these assets are deployed, and how they interact. Common IT assets include:
- Software assets: This encompasses everything from proprietary, on-premise software solutions to cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) alternatives and web-based applications. Put simply, any software in the organization — from tools created in-house to those added through purchase or managed by providers — are part of this asset group.
- Hardware assets: Hardware assets encompass the physical enterprise IT stack — from servers to desktops to peripherals such as printers and scanners.
- Mobile assets: As companies embrace the need for always-on, connected technologies, managing mobile assets is critical. While these smartphones, tablets and even wearable devices could also fall under hardware, their unique personal/professional position within the organization makes them deserving of their component category.
- Cloud assets: With more than 90% percent of enterprises now using the cloud, companies must define cloud-specific asset inventories to assure they’re effectively managed at scale.
- Data assets: Data is everywhere. From data generated by autonomous processes to end-user information sources, the volume and variety of this resource necessitates an agile asset management strategy.
This doesn’t constitute a comprehensive list — any physical or digital component can be considered an IT asset depending on its form, function and place within line-of-business frameworks. Here, the goal isn’t creating immutable asset assignments but instead laying the groundwork for transparency and visibility that allows the evolution of current categories and the addition of new assets over time.
Next, companies are best served by defining the key stages of IT asset lifecycles. While individual applications will vary, five stages are typical:
- IT planning: This stage focuses on the creation of IT plans that identify what type of assets are needed, what roles they fulfill, and where they fit within the organization.
- Resource procurement: This stage speaks to the procurement and purchase of these assets and looks to balance the need for cost reduction and component reliability.
- Component deployment: With software, hardware and other assets in hand, companies must develop deployment strategies that minimize downtime, achieve resource optimization and maintain control of the asset location and status.
- Ongoing maintenance: IT assets aren’t fire-and-forget. Enterprises need ongoing maintenance strategies that prioritize proactive reduction of potential physical, functional and security risks.
- Asset retirement: The last stage of any ITAM effort, retirement requires companies to predict potential lifecycle of specific components — generally three years plus three to six months depending on the asset type — along with a plan to retire and replace key assets.
The Benefits of IT Asset Management
There are four broad benefits of effective ITAM: Enhanced optimization, increased reliability, improved process implementation and empowered visibility.
- Enhanced optimization stems from continual monitoring of IT assets and their interactions. By understanding where current assets excel, where gaps exist and what tools are required to bridge these gaps, companies help reduce the time and resource waste that stems from redundant processes, in turn streamlining operations. Specifically, positive control over software license lowers costs and the risk of penalties from OEMs.
- Increased reliability is tied to proactive maintenance. By developing and deploying a regular maintenance schedule that also leverages current operational data to monitor for sudden changes in device state or security, organizations can address and eliminate potential problems before they evolve into network-wide issues.
- Improved decision making across processes such as ITIL deployment, change adoption and incident management frameworks relies on the increased availability of data tied to effective ITAM. When teams have to access key information about how mobile devices operate, cloud services interact and hardware handles on-site operations on demand, they’re equipped to make better decisions around the implementation of ROI-generating processes across their organization.
- Last but certainly not least is empowered visibility. Here, ITAM streamlines this process by offering a single, undisputed source of truth. By centralizing the monitoring, management and reporting of key operational data — from overall performance and individual access rights to security controls and resource usage — all users leverage the same source for immediate decision-making and long-term strategy development.
Creating an ITAM Strategy
How do companies create an ITAM strategy that capitalizes on functional frameworks without increasing overall complexity?
First is assigning key roles and duties. Large-scale initiatives such as ITAM require a primary point of responsibility — often a CIO, CTO or CISO — to ensure the strategy development is consistent with business goals, financial performance and and corporate priorities.
Next, companies must develop a step-by-step plan using the asset and lifecycle lists detailed above that pairs ITAM actions with specific teams. For example, the planning stage might include consultation across the C-suite along with key IT team members to identify potential gaps in IT service along with possible pitfalls for implementation.
The rollout and integration of specific solutions, meanwhile, should include employees from affected departments along with IT liaisons, while maintenance and retirement management typically circle back to larger IT teams.
Here, the goal is to streamline ITAM by minimizing potential overlap: Clearly defined roles and responsibilities help reduce the risk of redundancy while increasing long-term efficacy.
Maximizing Asset Management Impact
On paper, the creation of an effective ITAM strategy appears simple: Define key goals, assign specific roles and ensure no digital stone is left unturned. In practice, however, the scope and scale of software, hardware, mobile, cloud and data assets is such that even small businesses often find themselves tasked with managing massive component sets with minimal IT assistance.
As a result, SMBs and enterprise organizations can benefit from the assistance of a third-party provider in creating, deploying and improving ITAM processes over time. In much the same way as other outsourced IT services, provider-driven ITAM allows companies to customize the type and amount of service provision to meet specific needs.
For SMBs, leveraging third-party provider ITAM offers a comprehensive approach to asset management that removes the need for new FTE personnel or in-house training. Instead, companies can rely on the expertise of market leaders to manage assets across their organization. For enterprises, meanwhile, provider-based ITAM makes it possible to fill the gaps — such as data or mobile management expertise — while working in tandem with on-site IT experts.
The Innovative Technology Solutions Advantage
Need better ITAM? ITS can help. From managing countless end-point devices to handling new applications, regulatory concerns and technology breakdowns, our skilled and scalable resources have you covered. With a focus on root cause analysis for common issues and continuous service improvement strategies, we can help your team improve current deployments, increase overall efficiency and implement effective strategies for end-to-end ITAM.
Ready to embrace more effective ITAM? Let’s talk.