For large enterprises, the development and use of IT asset management plans and tools are an important component that drives and streamlines business operations, as well as organizing and managing the product lifecycle of hardware, software and services assets. But in recent years, IT asset management has been adopted by more small- to medium-sized businesses, giving them the same kinds of advantages that larger companies have enjoyed for years.
IT asset management starts with knowing what physical and virtual IT assets include, where those resources are located and how they all fit within the company’s business, operations and workforce, says Barbara Rembiesa, the president and CEO of the International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM). When that information is known and quantifiable, IT asset managers can help companies save money and improve their performance, especially today during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she says.
“Right now, that’s very important because with work-at-home mandates and many companies laying off employees, there’s money to be found within organizations,” says Rembiesa. “And it can be found very quickly by looking at their technology, how they’re managing it and looking at their contracts. What’s being automatically renewed? Are we using everything that we’re paying for? Can we make cutbacks on what software we’re using? Could we reuse hardware?”
It is a time for IT asset managers to shine today, she says. “They’re the superheroes right now. They could go in and save companies all kinds of money, some 10 to 15 percent off their full IT budgets,” which can then go back into helping to preserve some of those jobs during the health crisis.
“It’s one of these things that is such a key part of business,” says Rembiesa. “But sometimes businesses don’t realize it’s something they should be following.”
For many companies, IT asset management practices come into play due to business maturity or an emergency, such as a software audit, a coronavirus pandemic or a terrorist act such as the September 11 attacks. “Unfortunately, like 9/11, these were threats that directly impacted companies and organizations and they really had to take a step back and look at what they had.”
To create or update their IT asset management program, organizations need to understand and map out exactly what they have, what they want to manage, and where they want to start to get things organized, says Rembiesa.
“They can’t eat the elephant in one bite,” she says. “They really need to look at the needs of the organization and determine what is a critical path as far as managing their technology, and then start at that point.”
That process can take years and each step should be documented and quantified to show how it has saved money and time for an organization, she says. Those savings can then be reinvested back into maturing the whole program. “It doesn’t matter if it’s mobile assets, IoT or whatever new technology is coming,” she says. “If you have those solid processes and you follow that blueprint, you’ll be able to manage it.”
Cloud computing assets are another area where IT asset managers must initiate and integrate best practices that can streamline an organization’s operations, says Judith Hurwitz, the president and CEO of the Needham, Mass.-based analyst firm, Hurwitz & Associates.
“There was a period of time where IT was saying how they didn’t trust cloud services because they were letting go of their control,” says Hurwitz. “They’ve given that up. To manage it all, it needs to be managed together with all the other IT assets.”
That is especially important for smaller businesses, which are steadily increasing their use of cloud resources within their operations, she says. For them, it becomes a matter of carefully evaluating the exact costs, deconstructing the complicated pricing offered by vendors and ensuring they are receiving the value they are expecting, says Hurwitz.
“Cloud vendors are very clever at continuing to change their pricing models,” she says. “They might say that if you sign a three-year deal you can buy it for this set price, which sounds good but maybe a year later it is cheaper and you are locked in. It’s not necessarily easy to figure it out.”
For IT asset managers, that is one of the issues that favors more of a multi-cloud approach, which provides small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) and other users more choices without being locked in, as well as the ability to move workloads when needed, says Hurwitz. “You’ve got to do your homework.”
This is where cloud best practices coincide with IT asset management best practices, she says. “You need to do that in combination with your business leaders. It more than ever has to be a collaboration,” she notes.
We are seeing more organizations move their assets to the cloud, according to Hurwitz, and that means IT managers will have to ask what the changes mean, which is not a simple question.
“With quite a few of the cloud vendors, it’s a deliberate strategy to make it complicated and difficult to figure out what things actually cost,” she says. “So, if you are in charge of managing those computing assets you have to be prepared and you have to understand the financial models of the vendors you are looking at.”
Bo Guilbeault, an IT asset manager for the retail infrastructure technology team at Starbucks, says the first task for an IT asset manager is to understand the culture of the organization and then develop their program to compliment that culture. That means getting people involved in all departments to ensure that IT asset management is accepted throughout the organization. For example, in the human resources department, that means setting policies for assets including mobile devices, which can be lost or stolen, he says.
“What are the procedures to properly show due diligence in such circumstances? ” asks Guilbeault. “When you think of IT asset management, we’re a unique professional organization that looks at all aspects of the business and is the glue that is neutral. Our job to gather, retain and report information. It really is the practice that allows more educated business decisions. Unless there is one center of truth, there can be a margin of error.”
One of the most important functions IT asset managers can provide is to look at all aspects of the business from a technology perspective, including researching assets for potential purchase, acquiring them and managing them all the way through their productive lives, he says.
In the past, IT asset managers were seen more as inventory control managers, but that old approach has dramatically been transformed over the years to now encompass contractual obligations including compliance and governance, financial obligations such as return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO), and inventory processes including controls, accounting practices, securing brands and intellectual property issues.
“They’re all hand in hand with each other,” says Guilbeault. “The real deal is asset management is becoming more and more important in an organization. What an asset manager does is complements all the other business disciplines in an organization because technology is used in all business areas in today’s world.”