I was told once that IT asset management is a process, not a project. Truer words could not be spoken. Yet, I think that many organizations implement IT asset management as a reactive measure to a particular incident. When that issue is resolved, the organizational focus on IT asset management is deprioritized until the next incident. Then the IT Asset Management project starts all over again.
Ask someone in the IT asset management discipline why their company is investing and they will most likely tell you about an event that finally brought the need for IT asset management to the attention of their management. Perhaps it was a failed audit resulting in a big bill from Microsoft or Adobe. Maybe there was a sudden need to apply patches on systems that were spread far and wide to ensure continued credit card processing capabilities (a common Payment Card Industry requirement). Or it might simply have been a security concern, often born out of what many now affectionately refer to as the “Snowden effect” (a need to control access to information or specific devices through the use of external drives.) Any number of reasons may be given, but I haven’t run into many saying they instituted IT Asset Management processes because they thought it was a prudent business practice.
But it should be, shouldn’t it? The investment in your technology—hardware and software alone—should be worth maintaining and protecting, right? To that end, I started compiling a list of some of the key things that should always be considered. Here are my top ten IT asset management best practices:
- Have an executive champion. Better yet, have more than one. Without an executive champion, most IT asset management (ITAM) initiatives fail or fade away as priorities and budget are shifted. A champion can also help evangelize the value ITAM delivers. Communications with management/understanding the value will keep the project funded. The project has to drive value…and be able to prove it.
- Organize your ITAM implementation team thoughtfully and bring them in on the ground floor. If people are handed a process, they may follow blindly. If people are involved in the process, they are invested in it and more likely to help evolve the process over time.
- Don’t boil the ocean—pick a place to start, have a plan.
- Define criteria for what constitutes a critical asset. It may be a specific type of hardware. It may be certain software titles. Discovery and inventory will produce a large asset list. Some assets will require more oversight or management than others. Determining what falls to which categories will keep you from being overwhelmed.
- The Lifecycle based approach to ITAM is tried and true—don’t deviate. IT asset management starts from the time the request for purchase is made and ends after a device is deprecated (reclaiming software licenses and maintaining the historical asset information, of course.)
- Do you have a CMDB? It’s not necessary for all organizations, but can be a useful way to manage configuration items, including IT assets as well as understanding how they are interconnected. It is particularly useful to normalize data from multiple sources. Again, be thoughtful about what data you choose to feed the CMDB. While it can be an important single source of truth, it doesn’t need to contain every piece of data you have to be most effective. Leave out the kitchen sink.
- Automate, automate, automate. Whatever you are manually or repeatedly doing today ask yourself, “Can this process be automated?” Odds are the answer is “yes.” From patching, to application deployment, to reporting—there are many opportunities to set it up once and forget it.
- Are you making the most of the data you have collected? Consider who in your organization may benefit from the ITAM data you have collected or the access to manage device changes in an automated or remote fashion. One of the most common integrations is with the service desk—this integration often results in fewer escalations, automated self-service fulfillment for some requests, and an overall increased satisfaction rate for both the business user and for IT. Change management can also benefit from the asset data ensuring that changes do not result in unplanned outages or other issues that could impact critical services or business users.
- When it comes to software license management, knowing what you are entitled to have deployed is often more important that what you actually have deployed. More often than not, organizations fail software audits for over-deployment because they can’t prove exactly what they have the right to have deployed. Sounds strange, I know. I guess it’s the proverbial “keep the receipt” thought process though. It’s worth it to have that one filing cabinet handy when software vendors come calling for a license true up.
- Allow for a feedback mechanism for the ITAM team, IT, and the business. Plan for process change and evolution. The longer you run and the more you integrate ITAM across your environment, the more you will learn. And the one thing that ITAM will teach you is that everything is always changing—IT is one of the least static environments out there. If you are managing something that is constantly changing, odds are you will need to change how you manage right along with it.
While there are many other things to consider when it comes to ITAM, how does this ‘Top 10’ list line up with yours? Share your thoughts! I’d love to hear from you.
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