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What is IT asset management (ITAM)? Features and benefits

What is IT asset management (ITAM)?

IT asset management involves tracking an organization’s valuable assets, including details about location, ownership, and usage. It offers a precise assessment of the costs and risks associated with the lifecycle of IT assets. The primary objectives of asset management are to keep an accurate inventory, optimize costs, mitigate security risks and ensure compliance.


What is an IT asset?

An IT asset refers to any hardware, software or digital resource that is owned or leased by an organization and used in the support of business operations. IT assets can include physical equipment such as computers, servers, printers, and mobile devices, as well as software tools like licenses, applications, databases, and cloud services.


Why is ITAM important?

You can’t manage and secure an endpoint if you don’t know it’s there. Without asset tracking software, it can be difficult to know where patches need to be applied and the scope of what needs to be protected.

Keeping track of assets through other means, such as manually with a spreadsheet, poses the risk of not remaining up to date with your current environment. There may be personal laptops, tablets and smartphones that employees use on your network that go unnoticed. To avoid a malware incident that could cripple your entire infrastructure, an IT asset management solution helps identify every endpoint on your network and apply critical patches to them. This also applies to aging or forgotten machines that could become a target for hackers.


The IT asset management process

There are four capabilities that your ITAM solution should have to secure your environment:

Discovery includes finding employee devices that IT is not aware of to prevent bad actors from entering your network. With automated discovery and provisioning, you get a granular view of what’s in your environment, with details around device count, location, and ownership.

With full discovery, you can create a comprehensive inventory that includes the type of hardware, the operating system and applications, and how each device is configured. There can also be an option for agentless inventory, which expands the range of devices that can be managed. An agentless feature enables businesses to monitor connected non-computing, agent-intolerant devices like printers, network devices, and storage devices.

Once you establish what assets you have, you can automate deployments, patching, and remediation. Your IT asset management system should be able to support nearly all operating system versions, allowing the business to seamlessly scale.

Security and compliance are products of having discovery, inventory and management covered. Having completed patches for every endpoint helps reduce vulnerability to cyberattacks and prepares the organization to meet regulation standards. An automated asset management solution will provide the forms and reports to prove compliance. If there is an audit by a major software vendor, you can quickly show proof that all your licenses are up to date.

The IT asset management process

Pillars of IT asset management

Effective ITAM practices are crucial for organizations to maintain compliance, optimize resources, and strengthen resilience. By adopting key practices, organizations can reduce risk and maximize the business value of their IT investments.

Asset inventory
Having a thorough inventory is necessary to understand all your owned and potentially unowned items. A robust asset management tool should include inventory discovery and scan networks to identify all your assets, both authorized and unauthorized. Effective management is impossible without clear insight into your environment.

Stakeholder buy-in
It’s important to garner support from all stakeholders. Imposing changes without stakeholder buy-in is likely to encounter resistance. Participants need to understand the significance of ITAM, its benefits, and its contribution to security and reducing costs.

User training
Investing in training ensures successful adoption of an ITAM solution throughout the business. Without proper training, software may go unused due to lack of knowledge or improper configuration. Integrating the solution into existing systems across departments and tailoring it to specific company requirements also helps to simplify the asset management process.

Efforts should be made to automate tasks and standardize processes. Streamlining policies and procedures ensures consistency and simplifies end user interaction. Tasks like importing licenses and tracking warranties can be automated to dramatically improve productivity.

Policies and procedures
Clear documentation needs to be provided for all elements of IT asset management. Policies establish a foundation for consistent decision-making throughout the business and encourage unity in ITAM procedures. Clearly established processes also work to limit the threat of data breach or non-compliance.


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Features and benefits of ITAM

Several features of ITAM contribute to its effectiveness in managing IT assets:

Detailed discovery and inventory
Comprehensive visibility into assets allows IT teams to better control their environment, knowing exactly what hardware and software assets they have and where they are located. Accurate inventory data enables organizations to stay in compliance with software licensing agreements and regulatory requirements. By tracking software installations and license usage, businesses can identify potential compliance issues, such as over- or under-licensing.

Conservation of resources
By accurately tracking IT assets and their maintenance needs, organizations can better allocate resources. Efforts can be prioritized based on asset importance, usage patterns, and expected return on investment, ensuring that resources are directed where they are most needed.

Asset lifecycle management
IT asset management includes overseeing the entire lifecycle of assets, from procurement to disposal. Organizations can reduce the total cost of ownership and maintenance costs associated with aging assets through optimization of asset use, planning for timely upgrades and replacements, and properly disposing of outdated or obsolete equipment.

Reporting and analytics
Reporting and analytics support data-driven decisions by providing valuable insights to stakeholders. With actionable information on their assets, organizations can make informed decisions to align with business goals. They also supply feedback on ITAM processes and performance. Using these metrics, companies can identify areas for improvement and measure progress over time.

Integration enables seamless data exchange and workflow automation between ITAM systems and other management tools, such as IT service management. This streamlines processes, eliminates manual data entry and minimizes the risk of errors. It also offers central visibility into assets with consolidated data from disparate systems and sources.

benefits of IT asset management

What is the difference between ITAM and ITSM?

While both IT asset management and IT service management (ITSM) focus on improving operations and delivering value to the business, they have different areas of focus.

While ITAM primarily centers on managing the lifecycle of assets, ITSM concentrates on managing IT services to meet the needs of the organization and its customers. It includes functions such as incident and problem management, service desk operations, and service management. ITSM provides a framework for delivering and managing IT services in a structured, systematic manner.

Integration and collaboration between ITAM and ITSM can help organizations achieve business goals more effectively.


How to choose IT asset management software

Selecting the right ITAM solution directly impacts your ability to manage technology assets and drive business value. Here are steps to consider when looking at the different software products available:

  1. Assess organizational needs

    Start by evaluating your specific requirements for ITAM. Identify key objectives, such as improving compliance, reducing costs, or streamlining workflows. Consider factors such as the size of your organization, the complexity of your environment, and any regulatory or industry-specific requirements that may impact your needs.

  2. Define key features and functionalities

    Based on your assessment of organizational needs, identify the key features and functionalities you require. This may include inventory management, software asset management, license management, compliance tracking, automation capabilities, integration with other IT management tools, etc.

  3. Research available options

    Research the market to determine what asset management solutions meet your defined needs. Consider both commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions and open-source options.

  4. Conduct vendor evaluation

    Once you have identified potential ITAM software vendors, conduct a thorough evaluation of each vendor and their offerings. Request product demonstrations, trial versions, or proof-of-concept deployments to assess the functionality of the software with your organization's environment.

  5. Evaluate total cost of ownership

    Consider the total cost of ownership associated with implementing and maintaining the asset management system. Compare pricing models and licensing options to determine the most cost-effective solution for your organization.

  6. Seek input from stakeholders

    Involve primary stakeholders, such as IT managers and end users, in the decision-making process. Gather feedback to ensure that the selected ITAM software aligns with everyone’s needs and expectations and addresses any specific pain points they may have.

  7. Make an informed decision
  8. Based on your evaluation criteria, feedback from stakeholders, and assessment of available options, make a conscious decision on an asset management tool that best meets your organization's requirements. 

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