I’ve written about ITAM adoption before and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so for many years to come. That, for many companies, IT asset management (ITAM) – including software asset management (SAM) – has long been on the enterprise-IT to-do-list, but for many reasons it has never risen high enough up to gain real traction in terms of attention and investment. ITAM has been, and continues to be, the poor relation to corporate IT service management (ITSM) activities.

Every year I think that corporate IT organizations will finally wake up to the fact that they’re wasting a significant amount of their IT funding each year on: 
  • New hardware and software procurement when they don’t actually need to

  • Support and maintenance fees for more assets than they actually need/use (or for “shelf-ware”)

  • Internally-supporting and hosting, and paying maintenance on assets that should have been decommissioned

  • And now with SaaS and cloud, how many companies are paying for subscriptions for services that they no longer use?

Plus of course, let’s not forget that software license compliance is still very important too.

So what’s holding up widespread ITAM adoption?

I could be mean and say that many corporate IT organizations don’t have to be careful with what they spend, and thus don’t need to be good at ITAM (or financial management). But I think that this is an outdated (and pre the 2008 financial crisis) viewpoint – in my experience, most IT organizations are under pressure to spend less these days.

Another argument is that it’s expensive to “do” ITAM, especially SAM. That the cost of specialist software, and the people required to get the most out of new ITAM processes and technology, is too heavy a financial burden to bear. But I have two retorts for this. Firstly, ITAM can be done at minimal cost, using existing capabilities, to produce huge savings – trust me, I’ve done it. And secondly, ITAM done right should more than pay for itself; even if you take software vendor ROI calculations with a pinch of salt.

Plus ITAM-enabling technology might already be part of your existing ITSM and IT management toolsets. Even if it’s only offers a subset of what the focused ITAM solutions provide, it’s probably enough to start an ITAM program and to justify greater investment at a later date if needed. 

So is the real issue the lack of freely-available ITAM best practice?

IT assets are generally a large capital and annual spend, and one where ITAM best practice can help to manage and to most-likely reduce associated costs (along with other aspects of the asset lifecycle such as asset sweating and end-of-life planning). But where is this ITAM best practice? Yes there is best practice available from the ITAM solution vendors – available to customers or via public-facing blogs – but where is the “universally agreed” set of things that organizations should consider and possibly do?

Available ITAM best practice

I think most of us would appreciate best practice when justifying, commencing, or maintaining an effective and hopefully successful ITAM program. So where can you look for help with ITAM adoption?

There’s the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM) which offers training and best practice information to both members and non-members. It doesn’t have the economies of scale of ITIL’s ITSM best practice portfolio though – with the IAITAM Best Practice Library selling to members for US$ 1695 and to non-members for US$ 6995. Of course lower-cost ITAM best practice publications are available from IAITAM and other parties. Then there’s the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards for SAM and ITAM – five ISO/IEC 19770 documents – available to buy at between US$ 100 and US$ 200 each.

It’s probably wrong to state that this is “universally agreed” best practice though (see the alternatives below) – it’s more like “good practice created by people in a good position to know” (and many would argue the same for ITIL). But it’s there and available to all, even if at a cost.

Then there’s 
ITAMOrg which has also developed ITAM best-practice-based training and certification, taking advantage of ITSM best practice (ITIL) and supporting the work of the ITAM ISO working groups. Importantly, this certification program has been adopted by both EXIN and the BCS. ITAMOrg also runs an annual conference (www.itamconference.com, this year’s was in conjunction with the BCS) and is currently working with KPMG in Germany to provide a tool certification for ITAM tools.

Finally, a free ITAM resource worth checking out is The ITAM Review. This website offers readers topical news, best practice information, ITAM tool reviews, training, and both US and UK conferences.

So maybe it’s not the lack of available ITAM best practice after all?

Maybe I have to return to a variant of my opening gambit? That ITAM adoption is lower than that of ITSM, and that ITAM has struggled to take hold to the extent of ITSM, because IT organizations don’t have to do it, or at least to do it proactively. Maybe asset-based risks and the proffered benefits of ITAM are still insufficient to make many IT organizations “grasp the nettle”?

Perhaps ITAM is in the same bucket as things like ITSM’s service costing and service portfolio management best practice? They are things that don’t get done because IT can manage without them despite the lure of attractive IT and business-level benefits.

But IT organizations are fooling themselves if they think they are acting in the best interests of the business without ITAM adoption. Or that they can “run IT as a business” or “run IT like a business” while continuing to ignore such disciplines – a real business wouldn’t, well not if it wants to be successful. So take a long hard look at your ITAM capabilities, or the absence of them, and take the time to consider and address the shortfalls.

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Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals.
 
Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.
  • Jesper Østergaard

    Stephen,
    This is a very relevant and valid question asked. Why hasn’t there been greater adoption for ITAM? A question I’ve also been asking myself quite a few times. But let me try and share with you my thoughts on it.
    ITAM has it’s origins as an inventory task and a means to control mainly the hardware assets in a company. Following onto managing CI’s in the more complex and demanding CMDB the challenges in handling and controlling things was just just getting more and more complex.
    In recent year the overall complexity in IT has just exploded letting new technologies and routes to consuming IT taking the agenda in IT. Devices and apps of all kinds, some of which are not owned and controlled by IT, are here and at the same time the demand from the business lines to provide better, faster and more agile services also has lead to lack of control from IT.
    If you then add to this increased complexity the fact that the software vendors since 2008/9 has found more profitable routes to secure revenue via a dramatic increase in auditing then the question asked becomes even more relevant actually.

    So the key thing at this point is, that it’s actually very difficult to get in control with your ITAM. The good news however is, that if you do invest the time and effort then it really pays off. Not just financially but from several aspects.
    The question is then – how to tackle this challenge and what we, at ITAMOrg, has suggested as the “best practice” route ahead?
    What we’re suggesting is, that you take advantage of your existing ITSM processes already in place to the fullest extent incl. also SAM processes and add to this also the concept of organizational maturity as spelled out in the ISO 19770 standard for sofware asset management.
    The work in the ISO groups is also supporting these initiatives and will continue to do so over the coming years. The latest standard for software entitlements, the 19770-3, has just been released and will help organization gain control on software entitlements once implemented by the suppliers. As a customer you can actually help yourself getting in control by demanding from your suppliers that they need to comply with the ISO standards if they wish to be a supplier to your organization. (or at least demand that they do so within a given timeframe).

    So there’s still lot’s of work to be done at many levels, but the good news of course is, that there’s so much to gain from a dedicated effort in getting in control with ITAM and start seeing ITAM as one of the key areas and disciplines in your corporate governance.

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  • incontroltech

    Great article and Jesper also sees it right…
    The issue is ITAM, unlike ITSM, is 20% technology and 80% process (work).
    Though the 20% has to be very accurate and complete. So it MUST include all platforms and devices for a complete picture. Not only focus on the desktop, but ,must include the Data Center and connected devices. From Windows, UNIX, Linux, MAC and includes the hardware, software, configuration and services being delivered.
    Add to that Switches and Routers, expensive equipment that have OS’s and configuration, to PDU’s, Network Printers,, etc…
    Now when ANY IT project comes up, or a DR scenario – you are always going to be the Go-To person with the information.
    Link that to Locations and People then the financials – and now you have ITAM.
    In doing this for over 20 years I can always show and prove the value of a solid ITAM solution.
    Gary
    CTO
    InControl Technology

  • ITAM & SAM has historically been driven from a finance asset perspective. A stick from the licensing bodies to do or be caught and a need to be compliant and possibly reduce costs for llcenses not required etc. These remain part of the value, but to drive to a true service driven organisational approach not only do the relevant processes need to be in place, but the i information to enable effective resolution needs to be held. What hardware, software, versions, etc does the user have (and not as often dealt, by asking the user at the time of incident!). Serving an internal user quickly to resolution has an impact on external users also ! having been on the phone many a time to someone apologising for their PC having to reboot before they can help me! ITAM and ITSM need to go hand in hand, we are living in a service delivery world where expectations are higher than ever whether it be an internal or external customer.

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  • Wings2i

    Quite an insightful read on the what & why of ITAM… Good read