IT asset management (ITAM), software asset management (SAM), software license management (SLM), and software license optimization (SLO), are often looked at from one or, hopefully, two perspectives: 1. cost reduction (or optimization) and 2. improved governance, including compliance. However, there’s a third perspective which shouldn’t be overlooked – the insight that effective ITAM provides to help with other IT, and business, decisions and activities.
This blog offers some examples of this, before showing the power of even simple ITAM activities and then offering 10 tips for getting started with ITAM quick wins.
The Wider Insight Provided by ITAM Activities
The benefits of ITAM data and information don’t stop at the aforementioned asset-based cost optimization and greater governance. For example:
- Service desk agents can employ asset data (hardware, software, and services) to speed up all three of incident and problem resolution and service request provisioning.
- Change management personnel can get greater insight into the impact, and costs, of proposed changes.
- Corporate accountants can get a better understanding of the cost of IT across different perspectives such as business units, locations, and services – this includes the total cost of ownership (TCO) or return on assets employed calculations.
- Facilities teams can make better-informed decisions on office utilization (given the level of mobile device provision by team) or even on data-center space and utilities optimization.
- Purchasing teams can undertake demand planning to negotiate improved unit prices (especially through standardization) and ensure that new asset expenditure is undertaken only when needed. Contract management personnel also have extra leverage in respect of contracts.
- Risk management personnel can make better decisions in the context of asset-related compliance and risk.
- Senior IT executives can make enterprise-level decisions on how best to manage existing IT assets and future spend. For instance, delaying personal-productivity device refreshes for an extra year for certain device types and manufacturers.
However, while this is all great, there’s no escaping the fact that many organizations will require a very visible, and quick, return on whatever funds they initially invest in ITAM activities. This can be done quite simply, with significant quick wins, as the following example shows.
An Example of the Possible Returns from Even the Most Basic ITAM Investment
An organization that I previously worked for undertook a small project to verify the existence and productive use of the PCs and laptops delivered (and charged for) by an outsourced service provider. This identified significant “wastage,” i.e. unnecessary IT spend, due to:
- Over-billing – where the outsourcer was unintentionally billing for IT assets that had been retired due to refresh or replacement.
- A lack of control over leavers – with assets either left in situ or leaving the organization with the employee (with both scenarios meaning non-productive assets were still being charged for).
- Other non-productive assets – where assets were either just “gathering dust” or individuals had multiple assets without a real need (when assessed against the cost). Again, these assets were still being charged for by the outsourcer.
It was relatively easy for us to weed out this “wastage” using three key data sources:
- The outsourcer’s billing data source – its IT asset register
- The organization’s employee directory (which was fed by the corporate HR system)
- Network scanning data provided by the outsourcer.
With this data used to identify assets being paid for that had not been recently scanned – which were made up of all three types of the above “wastage.” Plus, the HR data was used to identify leavers (and their assets) and the asset register data to contact employees with multiple devices or where their devices had been swapped out, but two device charges were in force.
This initially project-based ITAM activity resulted in a net reduction of 7,000 charged-for IT assets in 18 months with an associated drop in outsourcing fees of £10m per annum. And it really wasn’t that difficult.
So, what can your organization do? And simply.
10 Tips for ITAM Quick Wins
This is in no way a definitive list, but hopefully these 10 tips are enough to start your organization’s investment in ITAM such that it can quickly deliver sufficient benefits to support ongoing activities and improvements.
- Follow the above example – take the three data sources (or two if there isn’t already some form of asset inventory) to understand what is and isn’t being used. This is a systematic process that involves many of the other tips that follow in hunting down “missing” and unproductive IT assets.
- Create an official asset inventory if needed – start with the scanning data if possible (with a minimum of asset details and last known user). If not, look to other data sources such as IT support records and purchasing data for known assets. These data sources can also be used to supplement (and cross reference) the scanning data to identify assets that haven’t (recently) connected to the network.
- Target leavers – put a formal leavers process in place if needed, plus use an HR-provided list of previous leavers to track down their IT assets, i.e. were they: collected by IT, left with a manager/colleague, or taken with them? Over time this activity can be extended to movers to ensure that employees in new roles only have the right IT assets needed to do their jobs.
- Run a prize draw for returned assets – for example, in the example provided above, the monthly prize draw resulted in the return of circa 100 underutilised assets per month in return for a single, monthly games console prize. Of course, each submission was checked to ensure that productive assets weren’t mistakenly being returned.
- Invoke a service desk/IT support asset check – it’s as simple as asking the caller (or self-service user) about the assets they currently have in their possession. This highlights previously unknown assets and helps to ensure that existing asset data is accurate.
- Use HR data to identify personnel with no known IT assets – this not only highlights productive assets that aren’t being scanned (or similar), it also possibly highlights assets that can be returned to IT.
- Ensure that new assets are always added to the asset inventory – either from purchasing or IT-provisioning data.
- Put asset change management procedures in place – this will range from changes of assets or “ownership” to following up on assets that were but are no longer being scanned on the network.
- If resource allows, go beyond hardware to assess software usage – while your organization is ideally already ensuring that its license position is one of compliance, it doesn’t mean that its software use is optimal. Software usage tracking technology can be employed or a simple reconciliation of scanning data to the roles of asset owners can still flag opportunities to uninstall/reharvest costly – but unneeded – software.
- Use the ITAM data to make informed decisions about maintenance renewals – this should reflect both volumes and usage levels, with the latter an indicator of the value of the maintenance spend.
So, how is your organization’s IT asset management capability doing? If you have a tool to help, then great. If you don’t, then please try the above 10 tips to get you started (or to improve) and to support your future investment in even more productive ITAM activities.