Two of the most important ITSM practices in today’s IT managerial landscape are asset management and configuration management. Since software and hardware components are at the heart of the service a company provides, understanding how these components work is vital in IT service management. It might sound tricky since management has so many branches that extend anywhere from a company’s resources to its partners, its data, processes, and suppliers.
In this piece, we’ll take a look at the key differences between asset management and configuration management, as well as the areas where they might overlap so as to avoid confusion when dealing with each one of them. In order to be successful in managing these components, a definition of each is in order.
In simple terms, configuration management has to do with the correct documentation of changes that have been made to systems or service configurations. Configuration items (CIs) and technical CIs are resources that are under constant scrutiny both in their physical and virtual variants.
Because of this, if these resources are subjected to any sort of change, said changes are always (or should be) well-delineated, documented, and managed. In other words, configuration management databases are concerned with the utility, function, and availability of a service asset rather than its value, ownership, licensing, or appearance.
Additionally, it’s important to understand that what separates asset management from configuration management is how the latter is more of a technical and engineering practice than a business process. This means that those in charge of the configuration management database should be looking into things such as service configuration (assets and service assets that compromise operational services and how they are connected) and item-level configuration (the technical configuration of an item itself). Consequently, knowledge management and release management are essentially a part of configuration management.
Here’s a quick example: imagine a situation where IT staff needs to perform some updates on a company’s server. A configuration management database holds records of changes, its operating system, patches, memory, disk drive storage capacity, and more. With this information, IT server maintenance staff can know which are the patching schedules and the agreed downtime so that SLAs can be met without further inconveniences. This could also come in handy when performing service transition operations, for instance.
The primary concern of asset management systems is to keep track of asset details such as its purchasing value, the vendor, the date of purchase, invoice number, serial number, and phone number. One could say that the practice of asset management has to do with the financial management and inventory management of an organization’s assets and service assets. Configuration management differs in that it’s not concerned with the asset data because it does not expand on the recourse’s intended purpose.
From a practical standpoint, asset management isn’t exclusively an IT practice, but a practice that permeates all aspects of an enterprise. This means that all assets owned by the company fall within the range of action of asset management systems such as InvGate Insight. This means buildings, office infrastructure, servers, and even individual devices such as phones, computers, or printers.
The correct management of asset lifecycles is at the core of this discipline. What is understood as lifecycle management includes asset acquisition, operation, care, maintenance, and subsequent disposal. When vendors and suppliers come into the picture, contractual aspects that include procurement, leasing, and support become additional focus areas.
Because assets unfailingly bring forth economic and risk impacts in any company, matters of regulatory compliance are also included in the scope of asset management. This could be anything from accounting standards to security compliance. This is why companies use IT asset management solution such as InvGate Insight to keep proper records and tracking of these factors.
Another distinguishing factor is that what is at stake in asset management systems is not as potentially devastating as what is at stake with configuration management. For example, if an individual physical asset such as a mobile or desktop computer is lost or removed from a huge pool of assets, the entire service would not be greatly hindered. A failed software update could, on the other hand, cause plenty of problems to the service’s otherwise smooth operation
What’s the actual difference between asset management and configuration management?
While it’s true that asset management and configuration management complement each other (in fact, some might consider configuration management as part of the broader asset management), let’s lay it all out clearly:
Asset management is in charge of tracking assets from the day they are brought on board to when they're retired from the organization. Its focal point is on the financial attributes and it aids managers in decision-making, money-saving, and getting the most out of every asset.
Conversely, configuration management has a much broader and interconnected scope. While asset management works within the financial and asset lifecycle sphere, configuration management supports all other service management processes and is concerned with the correct delivery of the service itself as well as a component’s attributes and the relationships between them. Configuration management is aimed at controlling configuration items by ensuring they go through the correct change management channels.
Another key difference between configuration management and asset management is how they are brought into and out of the company’s environment. IT services are brought into an environment through a service implementation framework often integrated in a company’s service desk. This would be an area where configuration management would take the wheel and perform tasks related to keeping the service’s configuration data in order.
The same principle does not apply to a printer, mobile or PC. If they are no longer functional, they go through an asset disposal process and their decommissioned state is simply updated in the asset management system.
In summary, configuration management looks at how assets are interconnected and how they can best work within the IT service infrastructure, while asset management tracks assets and their financial information within the company.
Where do asset management and configuration management overlap?
Still, assets tend to be configuration items themselves, thus falling within the area of effect of configuration management. A physical server, for example, is an asset. It has a certain lifespan and accounting rules apply to it. However, it is also a configuration item. It is subject to change management processes applied by the IT teams as much as other resources that would belong to the realm of configuration management systems.
Items such as certificate entries have value (like any asset would) even if they don’t actually exist as a physical asset. They are not factored into an asset management program because of their intangible value but they must be documented, controlled, and managed through configuration management.
It’s clear to see then, how the two concepts are not entirely divorced from each other but rather work in tandem towards the goal of profit and IT infrastructure longevity and ease of use. They might be fundamentally different in their scope but they are inextricably linked in the grand scheme of things.
To sum up, asset management systems focus on tracking assets and the financial side of the resources in use. Configuration management systems are concerned with managing asset information that can be managed and controlled.
We’ve also learned that though they might have fundamental differences, they are inextricably linked when it comes to increasing profits and allowing companies to scale up in the long run. Thus, though they are different, they are definitely not at odds with one another and should be seen as cogs in a much more complex machine that is a company’s IT infrastructure.
Such a machine might be complex but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Thanks to InvGate Insight, both asset and configuration management can be easily done through an intuitive and easy-to-use solution that neatly organizes all aspects of your IT infrastructure following ITSM best practices and a sleek and seamless InvGate Service Desk integration.
InvGate Insight is a solution that allows these two systems to jell together in a way that saves both time and money in the process. This highly customizable solution not only allows for great configuration management and tracking but also has an easy visual interface for all company assets and resources whether they are on-site or hosted in the cloud.
What’s more, Insight allows for a clearer overview of a company’s risk management in case assets or their configurations need special support. Learn more about InvGate Insight and take the leap.
Frequently asked questions
What is asset management?
IT asset management (ITAM) is the practice of managing assets across their entire lifecycle.
What is configuration management?
Configuration management is focused on managing asset information that can be managed and controlled.
What is the difference between asset management and configuration management?
Configuration management makes sure that future changes made to an IT resource are approved, measured, and managed while asset management is concerned with the cost of the resource and its lifespan.