IT asset management is more complex than ever
From where we stand today, it seems laughable that 10 years ago a spreadsheet together with record keeping diligence was sufficient for tracking IT assets. In 2016, on-prem assets are tough to track, let alone off-prem assets. Most data centers now include cloud, a mix of perpetual and SaaS software, and employees have one if not three devices accessing software, sometimes without IT’s involvement or permission for that matter.
These changes have added a lot of complexity to the job of IT asset management (ITAM). The result: higher-than-ever risk exposure, possible fines, and wastage. Add to this, expectations from management that IT be a proactive decision maker, driving efficiencies while delivering ever-growing ROI. Not to mention pressure from accounting for accurate records and revenue conservation.
A few years ago, enterprise-level organizations bridged this chasm by investing in-house ITAM solutions. Now, mid-level and small organizations are adopting third-party solutions en masse.
“There are lots of ITAM solutions on the market, and they are extremely varied,” explains Softchoice ITAM veteran Dave Brisbois, who has consulted with hundreds of North American companies on ITAM projects. “If organizations look inward and establish their strengths and weaknesses before bringing on a vendor, they’ll be a lot happier with the impact of the solution.”
A fast and simple approach to assessing your requirements from an ITAM solution is to answer these four questions:
1. How difficult is it to access your usage data?
Is it a monumental task to create a report on usage at a single point-in-time? How easy is it to re-run the report? Point-in-time reports are fantastic for answering one-off questions like “How many seats do we actually need?” But how much more value could you drive with usage data that’s always up-to-date (dynamic) and accessible?
This is further complicated by the fact that many companies have a good grasp of on-prem assets, but they experience a gap with their off-prem cloud and other subscription-based assets.
Different ITAM solutions will cover different asset categories, and either give you static or dynamic data, so figure out where the holes are, and if the added cost for dynamic data would be worthwhile.
2. Which assets are you currently unable to obtain data for?
This is an ideal starting point because it will quickly narrow down the list of ITAM solutions that you should consider. It may help to consider your assets in terms of four categories:
- on-prem vs. off-prem
- subscription licenses vs. perpetual licenses
Solutions that offer on-prem usage data only are more common than those that aggregate off-prem asset data like SaaS licensing and cloud, so this may eliminate a large number of vendors options available to you.
If you have a good system for managing some (but not all of) of your assets, you might be able to find a solution that gives you insight into the remaining categories, rather than paying for overlap.
3. Does your asset management team have the full complement of skills required?
Establishing this will further narrow your vendor options because many ITAM solutions are purely data aggregators and won’t support you with the legal, technical, data analysis and decision making that you should have access to with your ITAM system. Here’s how the skill sets come into play:
Legal: Having the legal know-how to consume and decipher the complexities of each vendor’s contract is a key part of risk management. It’s not enough to know one vendor’s contract inside and out because each contract contains its own legalese. Violating software licensing agreements can result in steep fines that can be a real blow to a SME, so legal intelligence is a must-have in an ITAM team.
Technical: Each software contract outlines its unique data center requirements, so it’s important to have someone capable of aligning the data center infrastructure, both on- and off-prem, with your licensing needs. Their role will extend into monitoring for requirements changes over time as the number of seats you hold changes.
Data analysis and decision making: This role is at the crux of aligning IT with the business, and ensuring IT delivers positive ROI. Do you have someone who can interpret your data and make recommendations based on the findings? For example, in a cost savings exercise, your analyst may compare your current licensing arrangement with other licensing permutations. This may also be a role worth bolstering with the expertise of an external ITAM consultant.
Finding a single employee possessing all of three of these skills like finding a unicorn. Most likely your team will check a couple of the boxes, and you will need a third party to fill the gap.
4. Does your ITAM team have sufficient bandwidth to do the work?
Even with excellent people and tools in place, IT asset management is a consuming task that may require vendor assistance to accomplish. Consider what it will take for your ITAM team to be able to shift from reactive to proactive decision making, and focus on revenue-generating activities, innovation, and special projects. If bandwidth to accomplish goals is a gap for your team, look for a vendor that offers consulting service, with or without the data aggregator.
“Most organizations are simply not prepared, or lack the resources, to monitor and manage their IT assets, find cost-efficiencies, and ensure licensing compliance across the board,” says David MacDonald, Softchoice’s President and CEO.
In many cases, IT departments today have only one option: to invest in a third party ITAM solution to effectively control their IT assets. The challenge is wading through the many different ITAM solutions out there and finding the one that is best suited to your needs. To help with this daunting task, ascertain your needs before you start looking at vendors. Knowing where you have the competency and where you need support will enable you to prioritize must-haves over nice-to-haves, and find the best solution faster.