Service Management Blog

What is IT Asset Management? ITAM Explained

Stephen Watts
by Stephen Watts
5 minute read

We talk a lot about coordinating the skills and services of IT teams with business needs – anything from overseeing hard skills like programming, developing agile and DevOps cultures, and prioritizing projects based on needs, skill sets, timelines budgets, and even politics.

But one thing we hear less about: how to accurately manage the resources that allow IT to work with maximum efficiency.

Enter IT asset management. Sometimes shortened to ITAM, IT asset management is a set of business practices that supports the management life cycle to inform strategic decision making. Industry insiders often see ITAM as the lynchpin between money and compliance with innovation and improvement.

No matter your business needs – as straightforward as a few employees using in-house computers and unique software to a large company managing shipping and logistics – ITAM processes help oversee your entire asset portfolio. ITAM is not to be confused with Software Asset Management, which is a subset of the broader IT Asset Management discipline.

In this post, we will explore IT asset management and how it can be effectively deployed to benefit the bottom line.

Defining assets and IT Asset Management

Before defining ITAM, let’s talk about assets. Assets are the software, hardware, and any physical pieces that the company owns. Assets are typically classified as CapEx (explore the difference between CapEx and OpEx for IT).

Hardware assets for an organization could include computers, computer networks, servers, printers and copiers, phones, and any number of mobile devices. Depending on your industry, other physical assets can include cars and trucks that the company owns – anything that is inherent in delivering a service to users.

Software assets can include licenses, versions, installed endpoints, all users, etc.

Managing the depreciation, utilization, and general life cycle of hardware and software assets is the next step. As recently as a decade ago, most companies who tracked assets – sometimes known as inventories or portfolios – did so manually, with unwieldy spreadsheets. While certainly formulas and macros could be employed within the spreadsheets, this sort of rudimentary tracking is fundamentally error-prone, out of date (and thus inaccurate), and time consuming.

With the rapid advancement of technology and cloud computing, modern IT asset management systems can now track and manage assets much easier and more accurately. Cloud-based systems drive ITAM processes and rely on iterative automation to mature the management system.

IT auditing is one of the more critical components of IT asset management. Let’s compare the differences between a manual process and an automated approach: in a manual ITAM system, the IT owner would have to physically track down each piece of software, compare licenses with actual use, and likely coordinate with finance departments to know purchase date, requestor, etc., and verify all the current and past users. With automation, systems can discover assets quickly and compare them to licenses, active and inactive users, and even analyze the output to find redundancies.

But what are these ITAM systems tracking? In a word, everything. The important parts in the life cycle of hardware and software alike often includes the following:

  • Acquisition, including the user request, the approval process, and the procurement.
  • Life cycle maintenance and management, including financial details of what was spent on the asset, licenses and version updates, measurable objectives, such as ROI, downtime, etc.
  • Redeployment and disposal

An essential part of asset management is that it must include all assets, whether they’re currently in use or not. If the company is responsible for an asset or has at any point in time spent money on that asset, it is part of the portfolio. This is critical for a variety of reasons including:

  1. to avoid waste by not purchasing assets which the organization already has access to
  2. to accurately forecast costs through a complete financial accounting of IT asset spending across the organization
  3. to find cost-savings opportunities by identifying commonly used assets across the organization via combining licenses or through similar means
  4. to ensure full utilization of resources by redeploying or divesting of unused IT assets
  5. to identify all critical dependencies during IT project planning
  6. to solve for a knowledge gap or discontinuity due to personnel changes within an organization
  7. to crowd-source tribal knowledge within an organization from experiences with vendors, brands, types of assets, configurations, etc.
  8. to improve IT security and compliance which could both be negatively affected by an incomplete inventory of IT assets
  9. to reduce IT staff time by improving visibility and understanding of legacy assets when dealing with trouble ticket
  10. to reduce MTTR and improve other key ITSM performance metrics by more quickly identifying root causes across disparate systems

Benefits of ITAM

With an inventory of all IT assets, your organization has much more visibility into areas that will allow for better decision making across all sectors of the company and improve efficiencies.

Consider the benefits that accompany an established ITAM system:

  • Tracking business performance objectives
  • Aligning asset costs to specific needs
  • Improving how assets are used
    • Reducing time and money spent on unnecessary purchases and training
    • Promoting existing resources, as they fit, which employees likely already know how to use
  • Supporting organizational change
  • Minimizing risk with ensured, updated software and security
  • Complying with auditory and regulatory requirements

When an ITAM system is successfully employed, it typically touches many, if not all, parts of the company. ITAM provides service-oriented teams with data for assets they use so the company can make accurate decisions for users and making changes. On the other hand, finance-related teams get a macro-level view of IT’s balance sheet and compliance.

It can be difficult to quantify the value of modern IT asset management processes, but we can look to hard numbers for specific software solutions. For example, BMC Discovery for Multi-Cloud contributes to an IT asset management program by automating asset discovery and dependency mapping across data centers and multi-cloud services. According to the IDC White Paper titled “The Business value of BMC Discovery Software”, organizations that deploy this solution can expect to achieve benefits worth +$35,000 per 100 servers ($4.5 million total per organization on average). This is realized through a combination of IT staff productivity gains, risk mitigation (and related user productivity benefits), IT infrastructure cost reduction, and additional business productivity benefits such as application performance and scalability. This is visualized in the below chart, Figure 1 from the White Paper:

When an organization is evaluating and later configuring an ITAM system, there are many key criteria to consider, including:

  • Which assets you have and how they are expensed
  • What you’re tracking – the real-time status of servers or websites or the physical tracking of assets
  • Personnel resources – how much time is currently being spent on IT asset management and what is the potential cost savings of an automated solution
  • Budgeting and Use Cases – which parts of the organization can contribute to the upfront costs associated with an advanced ITAM system – and how that contribution will be offset by the overall gains realized by the solution
  • Customization – what are the requirements for your organization’s needs for customization. This could be based on pre-existing ITAM processes that are in place, based on ITIL Service Asset and Configuration Management, or could be based on organization-specific needs or software configurations
  • Integration with help desk ticketing, services and/or other IT services/solutions

With businesses moving at the speed of digital innovation, there is not only more to manage, but it is more imperative to effectively manage all the assets to maximize the bottom line. ITAM systems offer a much better way to manage it all. Take advantage of cloud-based ITAM systems to stay on top of business needs, encourage smart and measurable change, and minimize inherent security risks.

Whitepaper: Why Discovery is Critical to Multi-Cloud Success

Learn how multi-cloud discovery provides insight into your assets and their relationships across every environment.
Download the Whitepaper ›

These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

About the author

Stephen Watts

Stephen Watts

Stephen is based in Birmingham, AL and began working at BMC Software in 2012. Stephen holds a degree in Philosophy from Auburn University and is currently enrolled in the MS in Information Systems - Enterprise Technology Management program at University of Colorado Denver.

Stephen contributes to a variety of publications including, Search Engine Journal, ITSM.Tools, IT Chronicles, DZone, and CompTIA.