IT Asset Management (ITAM) is the act of gathering detailed hardware and software inventory information and using it to make informed decisions about how technology is purchased and used within an organization. This is a critical job for the IT department. When done properly, it can lead to a reduction of unnecessary spending and a better understanding of what your company needs now and for future IT transformation.
To be done well, asset management needs a combination of people, processes and technology. Technology-wise, IT asset management tools are a vital component of this strategy.
IT asset management tool capabilities
The process of IT asset management is highly data-intensive. Companies don't just capture inventory information, they also catalog, manage, analyze and create reports based on that information.
Capturing and analyzing all of this information normally takes a large team of experts. However, there are tools that can streamline the process. The key is knowing which type of tool your business needs.
According to the experts at The ITAM Review, asset management tools can be broken into six capabilities:
- Visibility: Take inventory of everything you have.
- Identification: Identify your inventory correctly.
- Risk: Prioritize the riskiest assets.
- Efficiency: Do more with the resources you have.
- Continual service improvement: Mature your ITAM and/or Software Asset Management (SAM) strategy.
- Agility: Improve your decision-making ability.
When choosing an ITAM tool, this list of capabilities is a good place to start. Ask yourself: What’s your business having difficulty with? If you're not sure how many Microsoft licenses are actually being used, perhaps the best place to start is with a visibility or identification tool. If you're looking to identify and trim unnecessary spending, a tool with the efficiency capability would be helpful.
Types of asset management software
Within each of these capabilities, there are a number of different tool types. A single tool may have multiple capabilities; however, it’s more important to invest in the right one for your specific needs than hold out for that “silver-bullet” solution that claims to do it all.
Below is a list of common IT asset management tool types:
This is usually asset tracking software that helps companies “discover” and manage hardware and software components in their IT ecosystem. A tool with this capability is perhaps the most critical part of your IT asset management arsenal. Before you can start gathering pertinent data and using it to make more informed decisions, you have to know what assets you actually own. So, understanding what you have in your inventory is an essential first step.
Your business may already have a way of tracking this information, it may even have a tool that automates the process. If that’s the case, as you look at adding to your management strategy, it’s important to make sure your additions properly integrate with your inventory management system.
Network discovery tools can be considered a subset of the inventory tool category; however, they fit within the identification capability of the above list.
Essentially, network discovery tools prove your inventory is correct and exhaustive. This is something software publishers often perform when they do an audit. But instead of waiting for an audit, your business should perform an exhaustive discovery every now and then. This ensures your company has up-to-date asset information and an inventory tool that’s working correctly.
Software license management
As a main software asset management tool, license management software is another critical part of your overall IT asset management strategy. It’s something that can and should work in close conjunction with your general inventory tools.
License management software provides a place to track and view license entitlements. This information can then be reconciled against the data provided by an inventory tool and give your organization an idea of its current entitlement position. License reconciliation shows businesses where they are under licensed and therefore at risk of publisher audit. Additionally, it reveals where companies are over licensed and wasting money on unnecessary software purchases.
Many license management software tools also help keep track of software contract terms and when those contracts are up for renewal.
Your contracts database may not be its own tool, but rather a capability within a larger ITAM software solution. It’s designed to manage the lifecycle and major milestones of IT contracts, particularly those associated with your software assets.
Patch and version management
An important part of the software asset management ecosystem, a patch and version management tool ensures all computers are up to date with the latest version and security functions of your software. The beauty of these tools is that they’re automated, freeing your valuable resources from having to update computers manually.
Successful ITAM is about keeping track of your assets from beginning to end — and proper procurement tools represent the beginning. There are a number of solutions that can be used separately or in conjunction with an existing e-procurement platform.
For example, request management tools allow employees to request software, hardware and other assets in one centralized location. These solutions can then capture and assess license requirements, as well as manage and track procurement and deployment.
Product catalogs are another critical procurement tool. They provide employees a master list of pre-approved assets, including hardware and software. Not only does this make the purchasing process quick and easy for employees, it helps the IT department ensure the right technology brands and versions are being acquired.