IT Asset Management: Concept, benefits and implementation challenges
Most of the companies that develop monitoring systems include within their proposals products associated with IT Asset Management (ITAM) processes.
This is sensible if we consider that the processes of collection, maintenance and presentation of the monitoring data, once implemented, can easily be used to carry out the administration of IT resources.
On the other hand, the professionals that are responsible of maintaining the optimal functioning of a company’s platform and systems are usually also responsible of the control and management of computing resources.
Therefore, it is not unusual to raise the issue of ITAM in meetings dedicated to the advantages of monitoring systems.
Now, what is an IT Asset Management system?
According to Wikipedia, ITAM is the set of business practices that join financial, contractual and inventory functions to support life cycle management and strategic decision making for IT environments.
This concept sounds a little bit abstract but in practice, it is easy for all of us, whatever our role in an organization is, to recognize that it is worth maintaining and protecting the investment made in technology.
However, many times what leads companies from the general objective of protecting their investment in technology to the final implementation of processes associated with ITAM is usually a crisis.
This crisis could be a failed internal or external audit process, the unforeseen payment of a maintenance contract, the sudden need to apply patches of a system without knowing how it is distributed in our platform, etc.
But once installed, an IT asset management system can bring a lot of benefits to an organization:
- Better justified purchase plans.
- Defining asset redistribution plans.
- Improving the IT services quality.
- Having a better knowledge about the cost associated with assets.
- Performing better processes of retirement and disposal.
- Saving money in acquisition, installation and maintenance of technology.
Throughout the rest of this article, we make a brief review of challenges we have to face up when assuming an IT asset management implementation:
If we consider that an asset is every piece of software and hardware that is part of our platform an obvious core activity will be to have a complete list of assets, or inventory.
We present next list with the idea to show the diversity of the assets and their nature:
- Software: operating systems, development tools, utilities (like office tools, web browsers, antivirus systems, etc.) database systems, end user application software, server application software, etc.
- Hardware: computers, monitors, netbooks, keyboards, removable media (like CD-ROMs, DVDs, portable hard drives, PC card storage devices, USB storage devices, etc.), servers, wiring elements (like cable, patch panels, extension cables, patch cords, etc.), network switches, routers, firewalls, modems, PBXs and phones, power supplies, printers, etc.
Describe the asset through fields:
The challenge here is to define the field list for a complete description of such diverse assets:
- Serial Number or License number: For most of the assets we can determine a serial number or a License number but we also have to consider those assets that don’t have any serial number like memory modules, pen drives, wiring, printing consumables, etc. Maybe for this kind of products, a lot number (identification number assigned to a lot of material from a single manufacturer) should be used instead.
- Type: an internal classification like software, office equipment, server, printer, etc.
- Physical Localization
- Contract Number: If the asset is covered by a warranty, service contract or any other kind of contract, we need to put in this field the number that identify it
- Contract conditions: what is the contract coverage
- Expiration date: for warranty or contract
- Assigned to: person to whom the asset was assigned to (if applicable)
- Custodian: maybe it is possible to designate a person to be a custodian for a group of assets, for example, a branch office manager.
Understand the lifecycle of assets:
We understand for lifecycle the sequence of states through which the assets of an organization transit during their period of ownership. Take the following list as an example of basic lifecycle of assets:
- Deploy and discovery.
- Maintenance and support.
- Retirement and disposal.
Understand the relation between assets:
Let’s consider for a moment an asset like server type bladecenter. This kind of product is formed by many other assets like chassis, disk controllers, hard disks, memory, blade servers, etc.
We can say the server contains the other assets, but every one of them must be inventoried separately. Now, our IT asset management system has to be designed to reflect this and other kinds of relationships.
WE should also bear in mind the relation between equipment and consumables or equipment and pieces, like printer and toner cartridges or printer and its main tray. It is possible that you request answers from your IT asset management system to questions such as how many consumable of a given kind a printer has consumed in a period of time? or how many times the main tray of a certain printer had to be replaced in a period of time?
Define an effective process of Deploy and Discovery:
Whether you are starting a project from scratch or IT asset management processes have already been implemented, discovering and obtaining asset’s information and inventorying all that information can be hard.
The main goal is to achieve the automation level we need to reduce time and errors associated with manual procedures. Here, the relation between ITAM and monitoring system could be helpful.
This is the case of Pandora FMS Inventory system, which allows to retrieve and store this kind of useful information. We invite the reader to check out our website for more information about it.
ITAM and Help Desk System:
In the market we can find some solutions of ITAM integrated on an overall IT help desk solution. Among the benefits of this approach, there is the quality improvement of IT services as well as more information about the assets usage. On this same blog you can read about Help Desk System and how to avoid user’s resistance.
Consider the influence of new technologies:
It is clear that the assets’ base is changing with the emergent new technologies such as virtualization of servers, containers and cloud computing.
The challenges of software licensing, cost optimization, data collection, and security risks involved in these new technologies are very complex.
Therefore, it is obvious that the asset management system must adapt itself and evolve. We recommend the article that was published in The ITAM Review in this regard.