IT asset management (ITAM) as a business practice was long thought to fall solely under the technical side of the organization; with little to no regard for standard business practices and disciplines. IT was, and still is, foreign territory to executive management and therefore immature compared to other business practices―lacking executive buy-in and having no program level adherence to the goals of the organization.
ITAM, simply put, is the process of managing the business side of IT. In today’s environment, without that investment in IT, your business operations would cease to exist. So, the faster you begin to manage your IT asset operations like any other business practice, the faster you will begin to bring value back to your organization, reduce risk, and increase enterprise-wide efficiencies.
The broad reach that ITAM has within an organization can be overwhelming to anyone embracing the task. With strong business practices, a solid plan, a bit of education, and a lot of executive buy-in, ITAM can bring value back to the organization, save bottom line dollars, and make you and your executive team the super heroes of the organization.
To start on this journey, an organization must first determine a direction and pathways to success. To build a program, you will begin with three foundation processes:
1. Backed by Policy: ITAM, as with other business practices, must be backed by corporate policy. All policies should be clearly written, easily understood and uniformly enforced across the enterprise. Without strong policy to back the ITAM initiative your program is certain to fail.
2. Communication & Education: The intent of the ITAM program must be communicated regularly to those impacted as well as internally selling or marketing your program’s successes. Everyone within the organization should be educated at some basic level regarding their involvement and the impact the ITAM program has on their role.
3. Program: It needs to be clearly understood that ITAM is not a project. ITAM is a program which requires ongoing management and is never ending as with other core business practices.
Once you understand the role these foundational processes play, then you must expand upon that foundation and look at the other areas that are essential to the success of your program including:
Acquisition Management: Effective IT acquisitions empowers the rest of your ITAM program by applying process, determining pathways for exceptions and generating the initial documentation and records for the IT assets before the acquisition is even completed.
Asset Identification: Asset ID is a key enabler of many related activities in the software life cycle, hardware life cycle, IT acquisition and documentation management key process areas (KPA) when an organization applies a unique identifier to incoming IT assets.
Compliance Management: Compliance management is the focal point for risk avoidance and audit response within an ITAM program.
Disposal Management: A mature disposal process will allow your enterprise to avoid costly storage of unused assets, mitigate risk associated with disposal, reallocation of software, and maintain security of information before the disposal process all the while increasing return on investment.
Documentation Management: This process area encompasses the management for all IT asset-related documents throughout most of their life cycle; from request and acquisition onward throughout the enterprise.
Financial Management: Financial asset management is the backbone to savings within your ITAM program ranging from budgeting to invoice reconciliation in order to uncover savings and determine true cost of ownership to the bottom line for IT assets.
Legislation Management: Managing legislation is the focal point for any laws or regulations that could have an impact on your organization and must be monitored―not only for where the assets reside but how they are being used.
Project Management: Project management defines those characteristics of a project team that are essential to successfully conducting the initiatives that are needed to meet the goals of the ITAM program. Like any other business initiative, project management will play a key role in bringing about a positive result or deliverable.
Vendor Management: Vendor management defines the attributes of maturity in how well you are communicating with, leveraging and negotiating with your vendors. Vendor management is concerned with building a long term and mutually beneficial relationship with your vendors.
It would be impossible to discuss in the article all the relationships and dependencies of the above areas and their potential impact, be it financial, risk avoidance or increased efficiency for the organization, but I thought I would give you one example: tracking a paid invoice and the impact this ITAM process has on the organization.
In this example, the acquisition process orders the assets but is unaware of when they arrived. Asset ID does not forward the correct documentation to financial, acquisition, compliance or documentation management. At this point, the asset is not recorded anywhere in your organization and often goes missing once it leaves the receiving area.
If the asset was then deployed and the proper documentation was not routed to the appropriate documentation storage area, then your organization may very well be a target for a compliance audit―assets deployed but undocumented.
Your organization could pay a hefty settlement fine all because of the simple fact that your documentation was not properly routed.
As Seen on TV
We see articles and news stories all the time about companies not knowing where their assets are and the majority of these infractions is because the correct business practices are not in place for an ITAM program. This is a common scenario repeated in organizations around the globe on a grand scale:
- Do you know where your documentation is?
- Do you know what documentation you are required to maintain?
- Do you know where your assets are?
Roles within the ITAM program also have relationships and dependencies. You must remember though that roles and job titles are very different. One job title may have many roles to execute according to ITAM best practices. Each key process area is unique to some extent in that their roles have a common thread, a KPA manager. This person is ultimately responsible for the performance of that key process area.
A typical title within an organization may be software asset manager even though their role may include acquisition manager, compliance manager, documentation manager, negotiator, etc. Other titles may include hardware asset manager and IT asset manager. Each has multiple roles to perform in order to make the program valuable to the organization. Each title within your organization should receive proper education to perform their roles but also be informed as to the business drivers and goals of the organization.
My suggestion to any organization is to begin developing a plan, get educated as to your options, and always look at the whole picture. ITAM is not about simply counting assets, it is a core program in any organization and should be incorporated into the enterprise at a level of importance equal to the significance placed on the optimum performance of the assets it manages.
As President of International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM), Barbara Rembiesa brings over20 years of industry knowledge and experience to the management of IAITAM, and provides key guidance to it’s members. Before founding IAITAM, Barbara, was the CEO of Astria Software Services, a company dedicated to ITAM education and consulting.