What is IT Asset Management?

According to the International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM), IT Asset Management (ITAM) is “a set of business practices that incorporates IT assets across the business units within the organization. It joins the financial, inventory, contractual and risk management responsibilities to manage the overall life cycle of these assets including tactical and strategic decision making”. Assets include all elements of software and hardware that are found in the business environment.

IT asset management is sometimes referred to as IT inventory management because it typically involves gathering detailed hardware and software inventory information which is then used to make decisions about purchases and how assets are used. Having an accurate IT asset inventory helps companies use their assets more effectively and avoid unnecessary asset purchases by re-using existing resources. IT asset management also enables organizations to lower the risks costs of unknowingly building new IT projects on outdated (or unknown) infrastructure foundations.

IT Asset management is made effective using metadata and electronic records to track and categorize the organization’s assets. Metadata is the description of the physical or digital asset and any supporting information that is needed to inform asset management decisions. The metadata depth can vary depending on the needs of the organization.

Let us now deep dive into following areas:

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Why is Asset Management Important for IT?

IT organizations manage a large proportion of the company’s total asset footprint. IT assets are both costly to acquire and to maintain. As a result, asset management plays a critical role in helping IT teams to ensure efficient use of the organizations resources in supporting the needs of users and business functions.

Gartner defines IT Asset Management (ITAM) as: “providing an accurate account of technology asset lifecycle costs and risks to maximize the business value of technology strategy, architecture, funding, contractual and sourcing decisions.” This definition highlights that IT Asset Management isn’t just about inventorying assets, it about using the information that is captured to drive decisions. Increasingly, IT organizations are focusing on the usability and informational value of IT asset data to drive business value instead of just focusing on data quantity and accuracy.

Here are some of the key goals of asset management in IT:
  • Enforce compliance with corporate security policies and regulatory requirements
  • Improve productivity by deploying the technology to support user and business needs
  • Reduce licensing and support costs by eliminating or reallocating underutilized resources and licenses
  • Limit overhead costs of managing the IT environment

Types of IT Asset Management

Asset Management is a broad term and can mean a lot of different things. Here are some of the most common types of asset management that are often present in IT organizations

IT Asset Management

Is the overarching set of business practices that join financial, contractual and inventory functions to support life cycle management and strategic decision making for the IT environment. ITAM is part of a company’s IT Service Management function.

Digital Asset Management

is a part of the company’s intellectual property management functions and is a form of electronic media content management concerned with managing digital assets such as photos, videos, and digital data that the company either produces or licenses from third parties.

Software Asset Management and License Management

are concerned with the effective management, control and protection of software assets. This includes those produced by the company and those licensed from 3rd parties to ensure that all software in use within the organization is properly paid for and in compliance with licensing agreements.

What is an Example of IT Asset?

With IT environments becoming more complex and more diverse as technology evolves and more offerings become available from 3rd parties, providing a clear definition of what an IT asset is can be difficult. Many companies have begun moving away from strict definitions and instead

Infrastructure hardware

Network devices, data centers, physical servers, etc., that your company has purchased and operate.

Facility and infrastructure lease agreements

Infrastructure provided by 3rd parties are not considered to be assets of your company. The agreements to access and use the 3rd party infrastructure may be considered assets.

In-house developed software

Things your IT staff has written or built internally that your company owns.

Software Licenses

Sometimes referred to as Common Off the Shelf (COTS) software, these are things that someone else created that you have purchased a license to use for a period of time. Keep in mind that the license is the asset, not the software itself.

Company owned end-user devices

Desktop computers, monitors, printers, phones and other end-user devices have traditionally been considered IT assets. Keep in mind that employee owned/provided devices are not company assets. This is important as BYOD becomes more widely accepted.

Digital data from operations

Increasingly, data is being treated as an IT asset that is valued, costed, managed and maintained through its lifecycle. Operational data is particularly important to digital enterprises

The definition of IT assets will vary from organization to organization based on the nature of business, the role of specific types of things within the overall IT ecosystem and the needs of information to support decision making.

What is the IT Asset Lifecycle?

Assets are things that have a finite useful life. To maximize the value generated for the company, asset management processes use the concept of an asset lifecycle to structure activities and support decision making. As discussed above, each type of asset management function within an organization may have their own definition for the lifecycle stages and information that they care about, but whether you are talking about buildings, equipment or software, the underlying cycle is the same. Asset management is the systematic process of developing, operating, maintaining, upgrading, and disposing of assets cost-effectively.

In the context of IT asset management, the asset lifecycle is often structured as:

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Plan

The strategy and decisions about what assets are needed within the organization, how to procure them, how they will be used and how they will be funded. Planning often includes TCO and Cost/Benefit Analysis of alternatives.

Acquire

The procurement of assets through building, buying, leasing or licensing them

Commission

Introducing the asset into the IT ecosystem. This includes installation, integrating with other components, establishing operations / support processes and provisioning user access.

Maintain

As the asset is being operated and used, maintenance, repair, upgrades and overhauls may be necessary to maximize value to users, extend useful life of the asset, mitigate risks and reduce support costs.

Retire

At the end of an assets useful life, the asset must be disposed or otherwise dispositioned. Retirement often includes transitioning users to other resources, updating asset records, cancelling support agreements, terminating license renewals and initiating the planning for replacement assets.

Everyone deals with change and has a different perspective on what change management is. By understanding the commonalities and the differences, you will be better prepared to select the best change management framework and change management software to meet your organization’s needs.

What is an Asset Management Tool?

Asset management is a highly data intensive set of processes. Automation can play an important role in helping an organization capture, catalog, manage, analyze and report on asset data. In modern organizations, asset management technology is essential to enabling operational processes and decision making to scale across large asset footprints. Here is a sampling of some of the common types of tool capabilities that companies are employing to support asset management processes:

Discovery / Automated Inventory

Intelligently “discover” hardware and software components installed in the company’s IT ecosystem.

License Management

Provide a repository for license entitlements (which can then be reconciled against data provided by inventory tools to provide the organization with a view of where the organization is under-licensed (at risk of a compliance audit) or over-licensed (wasting money on unnecessary software purchases). License management tools also track license terms sometimes referred to as EULAs) and expiration dates.

Patch & Version Management

Automates the deployment of software patches to ensure that computers are up-to-date and meet applicable security and efficiency standards.

Request Management

(often part of a procurement or provisioning system) allow employees to place requests for software products, devices and other assets using a centralized form and designed to capture and assess specific license requirements as well as to manage and track the procurement and deployment process.

Product/Service Catalog

Provides a master listing of assets and resources approved for used within the organization. This can include both standard offerings and non-standard approved items. The catalog captures product specific information such as name, edition, version and license agreement types as well as other key data.

Configuration Management Database (CMDB)

Typically a part of an organization’s IT Service Management system, the CMDB provides a centralized repository to record IT assets, their configuration and relationships with other components.

Fixed Asset System

A part of the organization’s financial management system, the fixed asset repository is responsible for managing and reporting asset data to support finance processes.

Digital Asset Management

The business process for organizing, storing and retrieving rich media and managing digital rights and permissions. Rich media assets include photos, music, videos, animations, podcasts and other multimedia content.

Everyone deals with change and has a different perspective on what change management is. By understanding the commonalities and the differences, you will be better prepared to select the best change management framework and change management software to meet your organization’s needs.

Asset Tracking Software

Asset tracking combines physical devices, desktop softwares, barcode scanners, barcode labels, and mobile devices to streamline the tracking of assets from acquisition to retirement in an organization.

Asset tracking basically has three main functions:
  • Documentation of all devices within an organization
  • Identifying where these devices are at any point of time
  • Scheduling Maintenance and calculating depreciation of these assets
Why do we need Asset Tracking Softwares?

Assets by the nature of it are purchased and deployed at various place. If you consider IT Assets, the deployment varies frequently as well and spread across multiple offices or locations. When a particular asset requires any troubleshooting, it might be really hard to track everything that has happened with the asset. You will not have enough data to make a decision. Asset tracking provides us with the history of Assets and all the changes that the asset has gone through over a period of time so it becomes really easy for a service desk agent to solve any issues that might occur with the asset.

Over a period of time, assets age and need to be replaced or maintained. Asset tracking creates the predictability in which this happens and we could keep track of the assets throughout its lifecycle thereby making sure our financials and taxes are in check.

License Management

License Management helps us to reduce risk, cost and complexity associated with software assets. Everyone wants to spend less on software assets while also making sure they are fully compliant with licensing rules. License management usually involves creating trial or demo for the softwares, obtaining license keys for the softwares, activation and deactivation of the softwares as well as making sure the softwares are renewed at the right time to make sure the operations run smoothly for the end users. It also involves running a frequent check on all the software licenses that we are paying for and making sure we don’t overspend on licenses.

Benefits of IT Asset Management

Informed Purchasing and Deployment Decisions

A key benefits of IT asset management is understanding what assets you have and what they are being used for. Consistently maintained and accurate IT asset management data can help an organization evaluate past purchasing and deployment decisions and guide future actions. This includes selecting the best vendors based on not only purchase price but also product/service quality and post-sale support. IT asset management can also help improve deployment decisions and avoid over-purchase of resources that are not needed.

Business Continuity

Disasters and outages happen. IT asset and configuration data can help leaders and staff identify the impacts of business impacting events and more confidently make decisions to restore services to users. Asset data can also be a valuable input to developing IT architectures that are redundant and resilient to many situations.

License and Subscription Compliance

One of the biggest challenges for modern IT organizations is tracking software licenses and cloud subscriptions to the company is not using resources that they aren’t paying for or paying for resources they don’t need. Non-compliance is not only a legal and financial risk for the company but a potentially costly problem to remediate.

Total Cost of Ownership

The cost of an IT asset is a lot more than just the purchase price that was paid to acquire it. For IT assets to create value, they must be operated, supported and maintained throughout their lifecycle. TCO is a measure of the overall cost of owning and operating an asset. Managing TCO effectively helps eliminate costs from duplication of assets or not using them after they are purchased.

Standardization

Non-standard IT equipment and software can cost an organization a lot of money. It causes IT staff to be less productive because they lack expertise managing the non-standard assets so each issue results in a learning process. Applying standards to IT assets not only makes IT staff more productive, users are also more productive interacting with systems and data that they are familiar with.

IT Asset Management Standards

While ITIL and other frameworks provide guidance on asset management processes in the context of operations, the officially recognized standards for IT asset management is maintained by the International Standards Organization (ISO). The ISO 19770 family of standards consists of 5 major parts and was recently updated in 2017.

ISO/IEC 19770-1: A process framework which outlines best practices for IT Asset Management in an organization. It enables an organization to prove that it is performing ITAM in accordance with the standard sufficiently to satisfy corporate governance requirements and support IT service management activities.

ISO/IEC 19770-2: A data standard for software identification tags (SWID) This standard enables organizations to uniquely identify software is deployed on a given device.

ISO/IEC 19770-3: A data standard for describing the entitlements and rights attendant to a piece of software and the method for measurement of license/entitlement consumption.

ISO/IEC 19770-4: A measurement standard that allows for standardized reporting of resource utilization. This standard is particularly important when managing complex datacenter license and for management of cloud-based software and hardware resources.

ISO/IEC 19770-5: Provides an overview of the ISO defined ITAM standards and vocabulary

Other Resources

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