When considering the deployment of IT Asset Management (ITAM) Software within a business, it's important for IT teams and other stakeholders to understand which ITAM tool is best suited for their IT workflows. Whether that be managing software licenses, tracking IT hardware, or improving network security.
What Is IT Asset Management (ITAM) Software?
In its simplest form, IT Asset Management (ITAM) is the process of creating an IT asset register that encompasses all essential data of a business’s hardware and software IT inventory. This is why IT management tools can often be referred to as IT inventory management.
By tracking and monitoring data regarding IT assets, businesses can build a complete database of their organisation’s entire IT asset inventory. Typical IT asset registers can consist of:
- On-premise software tools
- Cloud-based software apps
- Routers and servers
By monitoring all IT assets moving in and out of an organisation, IT managers are able to effectively manage the life cycle of each asset. The management of an IT asset’s life cycle starts at planning and goes through to purchase, deployment, maintaining, and eventually retirement. This detailed monitoring process allows managers to make the right financial, tactical, and strategic decisions that are going to benefit a business’s bottom line. For instance, businesses that focus on the life cycle management of their IT assets can reduce their cost-per-asset by as much as 30% in the first year.
For an organization of any size wanting to track and monitor its IT assets, the processes can be overwhelming. Particularly for large businesses with hundreds of thousands of assets to manage. But that’s where IT Asset Management Software can help.
ITAM Software is an automated and computerized solution that provides IT teams, IT asset managers, and stakeholders with a holistic overview of a business’s entire IT inventory. Whether a business is made up of digital assets, software assets, hardware, or IT licenses, the right ITAM tool enables personnel to track the life cycle and location of each asset in the most time and cost-efficient ways.
The understanding of an IT Asset Management Software solution can be broken down into three standpoints; data, technical, and terminology.
What Is ITAM From a Data Standpoint?
An IT Asset Management tool is able to record the metadata of a business’s entire IT Inventory. This is the core data that identifies and individualises each asset. Examples of metadata include:
- Serial number
- Software version
- User name
- Employee ID
- Purchase date
- Project allocation
- Service allocation
- Service Instance
What Is ITAM From a Technical Standpoint?
The management of IT assets is the technical process of:
- Discovering assets using an agent or agent-less discovery options
- Mapping end-points and software applications to locations and users
- Monitoring and safeguarding LAN/WAN environments
- Managing entitlements
- Securing networks against unidentified cyber intrusion
What Is ITAM From an IT Terminology Standpoint?
IT Asset Management Software can relate to a number of different processes, such as:
- Network Management
- Systems Management
- IT Security
- Database Management
- IT Help Desk
- Application Management
- IT Inventory management
How Can ITAM Software Improve the Management of IT Assets?
IT asset management is a process that changes and evolves along with a business’s IT needs. This makes it important to note that the definitions of managing an organisation’s IT Inventory can change rapidly. Businesses tend to depend on:
- The number of on-premise and cloud-based assets
- Hardware (desktops, laptops, mobiles, servers) access for employees
- Projects and services that a business provides
- Cyber risk
Without the use of ITAM software, a business's IT asset management processes become overwhelming and, as a result, begin to suffer. For example, an IT team may be using outdated methods such as pen-and-paper or spreadsheets to organise IT assets. If a company has more than 50 employees, then keeping an accurate record of IT inventory by using spreadsheets can often lead to missed renewals and entitlement opportunities. Whereas an IT Asset Management Software tool helps IT teams to quickly know the location, status, usage, and user of each asset.
As well as replacing the need for spreadsheets, ITAM software can solve many other inventory-related problems in the workplace. Including:
- Creating rules to manage IT Inventory that is personalised and configured to a user’s IT needs
- Providing clarity on location, status, usage, and users of all IT Assets
- Helping to safeguard hardware and software inventory, reducing cyber risks
- Reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) of IT Inventory
- Tracking compliance adherence
- Providing data for audit management scenarios
The 4 Key Areas of an IT Management Tool
Managing Software Assets
Software assets consist of computerized programmes and operational information used in IT systems. Using an ITAM tool to manage software can be beneficial in a number of ways, including:
- Automating software updates that improve safety and make sure security standards are met
- Allowing IT asset managers to have an accurate record of all software in one system
- Enabling correct and accurate licence management of all software
- Integrating with procurement systems to have the ability to order and request software products
- Effective asset life cycle management that can lead to efficient forecast spending to dispose of or replace assets
Managing Hardware Assets
Along with software, hardware is also an important asset in an IT setting. Hardware assets consist of machines, wiring, and other physical components of a computer or electronic system.
Hardware can also fall under traditional asset management solutions that can monitor and track physical items. Using an effective tool to manage hardware assets can be beneficial in a number of ways:
- Track and monitor IT hardware in real-time
- Reduce the number of hardware assets that are lost, stolen, or misplaced
- Manage maintenance and effectively plan for replacements once an asset reaches the end of its usable life
- Accurate hardware license management to avoid under-licensing and over-licensing issues
- Significantly improve the process of auditing and compliance
Managing Mobile and Tablet Devices
A modern IT Asset Management tool can often be managed on-the-go using a mobile or tablet device. This can be extremely efficient when monitoring physical assets across multiple sites or by different teams.
With an increase in the use of mobile phones and tablets in the workplace, asset management is an effective solution to managing these portable devices. It allows IT managers to:
- Manage an entire inventory of devices in one centralised system
- Deploy pre configured WI-FI and email settings, where devices have the capability
- Create, assign, and modify device policies
- Enforce and manage security settings such as access, data security, and passwords
- View and manage apps installed across all devices
Managing Cloud Assets
Cloud asset management is the management of cloud applications, platforms, and infrastructure. As opposed to the management of physical or digital assets on a cloud-based system.
It’s predicted that over 80% of IT budgets will be committed to cloud applications and solutions in the future, so this is a fundamental group for any ITAM tool.
With this in mind, most asset management systems have standardised the feature of cloud asset management. This can offer a vast range of benefits for any business, including:
- Effectively managing digital assets stored on cloud databases
- Monitor the condition and uptake of cloud services and coverage
- Instant and full access to subscriptions and usage data
- Managing the current budget of cloud activity and forecast future spending
- Improving security and assurance of cloud assets
What Are the Benefits of IT Management Software?
Implementing the best ITAM software can offer a range of benefits when it comes to enhancing a business’s IT asset processes. The top five benefits of IT Asset Management Software, include:
1. Providing Continuous and Accurate Discovery of IT Inventory
Very few IT teams have an accurate view of their IT Inventory on their Local Area Network (LAN). And, if offices are spread across multiple locations, businesses will have multiple LAN’s. Which compounds this problem.
One way to identify a business’s IT Assets, without the use of ITAM software, is to work with the procurement department and get an export of all assets that have been purchased. However, one problem with this approach is that most vendors do not provide network-identifiable details within invoices. So, developing an IT Asset Register using data from procurement can be challenging. If a business also has more than 50 IT assets to register, then using a spreadsheet-based method can become an issue.
When building an IT asset register, it’s important to note that metadata regarding IT Inventory can change frequently. For example:
- Software versions change after updates
- Patch details change
- Employees leave so their data needs to be stored for their replacement
- New joiners need to get their IT Inventory on time
- Software patches can change metadata
- Hardware renewals
- Instance Server Changes
But, that’s where IT Asset Management Software can help. Asset discovery capabilities enable IT managers to continuously and accurately get an insight into IT Inventory on their LAN network.
2. Providing an On-Demand and Data-Accurate IT Asset Register
Listing an asset on a network is only one part of the equation. But, there are areas for improvement regarding the data collected about each asset. With ITAM software, businesses can build an asset register packed full of efficient data. This allows your IT teams to know:
- Who is using IT inventory
- When an IT Asset was purchased
- The renewal dates of software licenses
- If IT Assets are related to a project, a service, or a department
IT Asset Management Software also provides a flexible, yet personalised, framework for businesses. For example, ITAM tools can:
- Provide clarity on hardware and software apps by users, location, and department
- Record license renewal dates by location, department, and criticality
- Help to tag hardware inventory with barcodes, QR Codes, or NFC’s
3. Defining and Maintaining Dynamic Relationships Between IT Assets and Employees
The fundamental idea behind using IT Asset Management Software instead of spreadsheets is that ITAM allows users to define and maintain dynamic relationships between IT Assets, workflows, and employees. This can often be referred to as CMDB (Configuration Management Database).
The word dynamic is important. It highlights the difference in how a business deals with IT inventory for C-level employees, managers, and associates. In fact, businesses will generally need a different configuration for each of these types of employees.
For example, a support team may require two monitors but the sales team may only require one. Whereas remote employees may require a VPN or cloud-based access to store data on servers.
4. Reducing the Cost of IT Ecosystems With Reporting Tools and KPIs
Once a business knows the user and usage time of their software and hardware inventory, it’s easy to optimise the costs of their IT Ecosystem.
Businesses can also be proactive with their procurement activities, such as reviewing alternative products and services well before current IT Assets come up for renewal. As well as reducing the number of software licenses needed, just by knowing their usage levels.
Altogether, if an IT Asset Management Software is implemented correctly, businesses should be able to see a reduction of 10% to 30% from their overall IT costs.
5. Offering Effective Compliance and Audit Management Tools
Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, Adobe, and almost all medium-to-large software vendors routinely audit the license conditions of their software usage. By using network-based monitoring tools, software companies can identify how their licenses are being used. IT teams, therefore, need to know who is using their software licenses and how.
The right ITAM solution will allow IT managers to review a business’s software licences by usage and users, which makes IT teams aware of the compliance adherence with their contractual agreements.
7 Typical Features Found in IT Asset Management Software
Most ITAM solutions have similar software features, though some may be more complex than others. In general, to achieve complete efficiency from an ITAM system, the following features are highly sought-after.
1. Asset Discovery Capability
IT asset discovery means to gather a complete inventory of all your IT assets. These can include company computers, printers, photocopiers, mobile devices, software applications, and more.
As IT infrastructures frequently change, asset discovery can still provide a regular up-to-date view of all assets.
So, as far as ITAM features go, this is one of the most crucial ones.
2. Software Management
If a business has a range of software applications, this feature will help to store, track, and manage them all in one place.
For example, software asset management tools can show how many users there are for each software license. It can also highlight which version of an application has been installed on which employee device.
When licenses are due to expire, this feature will also help to renew or dispose of them easily without incurring penalties.
3. Configuration Management Database (CMDB)
A CMDB allows a business to keep a complete repository of all Configuration Items (CIs) in an IT environment.
Through a CMDB, businesses can better understand the relationship between CIs and identify the impact that one CI might have on other CIs. A CMDB is designed to support complex IT infrastructures.
4. Purchase Orders and Contract Management
When purchasing IT assets, having an effective order and contract management tool helps to manage the purchase order cycle. While sending notifications out to stakeholders to approve procurement.
Likewise, if a business has contracts with multiple vendors, it can keep everything together. Essential information such as terms and conditions, expiry dates, and renewal information are all stored in one accessible place.
5. IT Asset Monitoring
Some software solutions also provide performance monitoring options to help track network, CPU, and memory usage for various workstations.
If a business has sister or parent websites, URL monitoring can alert them if they suddenly become unavailable.
There’s also hardware and software monitoring, which can produce alerts when illegal or unwanted software is installed.
These alerts can be used in similar scenarios too, like when an unknown flash drive, for example, is connected to a workstation.
6. Help Desk Features
In an ideal world, an IT help desk tool should go hand in hand with IT asset management.
By having as much information about hardware and software assets as possible, a technician has a better chance of quickly resolving end-user issues.
Remote access is another feature linked to help desk management. With this, a business can take control of IT devices remotely and resolve issues.
Integration with help desk tools also help to improve service quality and satisfaction across the organisation.
7. Analytics and Reporting
Predefined and custom reporting is another essential feature of an ITAM system.
Accurate reporting can help keep control of IT inventory, check how IT assets are performing, and understand where they are in their lifecycle. Additionally, this also helps with compliance and auditing processes too.
What Is the Difference Between ITAM and ITSM?
IT Asset Management (ITAM) and IT Service Management (ITSM) are both critical for organizations that rely on their IT processes. But, both solutions vary in purpose and objectives when it comes to maximizing IT resources and achieving optimal IT-business alignment.
How to Find the Best IT Management Software for Your IT Processes
Identifying the best IT Asset Management Software for your requirements is a complex and time-consuming process for any business. But, by following our 9-point framework, you’ll have a better picture of what the best ITAM tool looks like for your IT processes.
1. Ask Yourself: Do You Need IT Management Software?
Sometimes, a spreadsheet is a better solution. This is particularly true if you’re a team of fewer than 10 people with less than 75 IT Assets. In this case, a spreadsheet-based IT asset register can be practical and value-effective. But, for IT teams who manage more than 250 IT assets, ITAM software is the right option.
However, implementing the right tool is only part of the solution. There are many other components to consider when wanting to achieve effective management of IT inventory. Such as:
- Having clarity on what you mean by IT asset management
- Setting targets you want to achieve with an ITAM solution
- Managing your IT Inventory management processes and workflows
- Correctly deploying a tool that can be used by your IT team and employees
It‘s common for IT managers and businesses to view an ITAM tool as the only solution to their IT problems. But, an IT tool only has the power to automate processes using the data you already have. Meaning, if your data is not optimized for your IT needs, then it will be just another tool that collects data.
So, ask yourself; do you need IT Asset Management Software to automate your correct data and improve processes? Or, are you searching for good data and processes within an ITAM tool?
If the first question is relevant to you, then you’re ready to shortlist and compare ITAM software.
2. Identify and Clarify the Level of Your Organizational Readiness to Adopt an IT Management Solution
Most IT teams and IT managers that consider implementing a new ITAM tool are most likely carrying out their current IT processes using:
- Basic IT Inventory discovery tools
- Free alternatives to existing software
One main reason why organizations begin searching for an ITAM tool is to start the migration from using error-prone spreadsheets. In fact, 87% of the companies (analysed based on 641 leads on Comparesoft) looking for new ITAM software typically migrate from spreadsheets.
But, moving away from spreadsheets is not just a tool change. It requires a change in mindset and perspective too.
The way you record IT Inventory in a spreadsheet is very different from a contemporary IT tool. For example, you no longer have to export data from your network discovery tool or enter data in a spreadsheet. The best IT Asset Management Software tools integrate with agent or agentless discovery tools and import the relevant metadata efficiently.
Version and access control on spreadsheets provide significant flexibility. But, when it comes to “standardized information entry” and looking for “one source of truth”, a spreadsheet-based approach can be very challenging.
3. Set Targets for Your IT Asset Management Software
Your decision to invest in IT Asset Management Software is a decision to invest cash and time. But it should also be an opportunity to focus on improvements, such as:
- Better IT inventory management
- Building an accurate IT asset register
- Having a secure IT Network
- Having on-demand visibility of IT usage by users, amongst other qualitative parameters
Below, is a basic example of the targets you should set for your ITAM tool.
|IT Inventory||Quantity||Current IT Spend Per Year||New IT Spend With ITAM Per Year|
4. Identify the IT Data (Metadata) That You Want to Hold In Your ITAM Software
You can create a single source of truth if you agree on the details and data you want to collect with your team. But, it is worth noting that your IT Inventory will not have consistent data as every manufacturer records data differently. So, most IT Teams end up relying on serial numbers for core identification.
Identifying the data you want to hold by IT Inventory type is a detailed exercise. This may require mapping the fields between your asset discovery tool and your ITAM tool. In some cases, agreeing on the information you want to collect may clarify the issues you are having with your existing ITAM tool.
If you are considering utilizing help desk features then agreeing on the incident types, knowledge-base, incident routing, and escalation is highly recommended.
Be sure to carefully review and inspect data from your existing spreadsheet or system. Quite often, when you are looking to implement IT Asset Management Software, you need major workflow changes but minor changes to the way you capture and label metadata.
As you are considering a new ITAM tool, you may also want to review the terminologies and labels you have been using within your IT team. Such as:
- Inventory or stock
- Disk space or storage
- Cloud-based or web-based
- On-premise or installed
- Monitors or screens
- Entitlements or allocations
It’s important to keep the terminologies simple so that everybody in the team, from a new starter to an experienced employee, can understand them. Standardized simple terminologies compound IT effectiveness. The time you spend here generally pays multiple dividends in the quality of your ITAM system and also savings during implementation.
5. Highlight the Cybersecurity Benefits That an ITAM Tool Will Provide
Having effective IT Asset Management Software increases the chances of a more secure and less fragile IT network, which reduces cyber risk.
The fundamental concept is that with ITAM Software you will know how many IT Assets you have, their status, location, and users. Using this information, you can:
- Identify your most valuable and vulnerable assets
- Identify users who may require cybersecurity training
- Always keep your network patched
- Use data to identify patterns between users and usage, which will help you to ring-fence your IT Infrastructure
6. Identify the Features and Functions You Need From an ITAM Tool
The IT Asset Management Software tool that you have chosen should be one that’s been adopted in your industry. But, most importantly, it should include the features that are critical for your IT processes. This will ensure your organization benefits from your chosen tool and sees the best ROI.
The industry fit is more important than most people think, as every industry is different. However, the degree of similarities between the two businesses in the same industry is high. I guess this is a fancy way of saying Audi and BMW are similar, yet different.
Choosing an ITAM tool that is widely adopted in your industry has two main benefits:
- The product is already used in your industry so there is market validation that the terminologies of your industry can be easily used in the product.
- Every business is different. But within the same industry, the degree of difference is not very high, so the configuration of your IT Asset Management Software will be faster in a tool that is adopted by your industry.
Most tools have similar features and capabilities. It is very difficult to distinguish between tools based solely on features and capabilities without looking at a product demo. The key differentiating factor is the depth of the features. They can be found by knowing how/why a particular tool was built. There are ITAM tools that were built from the ground up to manage software assets. Some tools were built for hardware inventory management. Some prioritised help desk processes were built for agentless or agent-based discovery. It is advantageous to prioritize your requirements first, and then choose a tool based on those priorities.
The big differentiating factor is the user interface and how easy it is to use, but this aspect is very subjective. Some people like a clean, modern, and minimalist approach to user interfaces. Others prefer all information on one page with minimal clicks. Some prefer long interfaces and others prefer short A4-page-type interfaces. The only way to understand this attribute is to take a look at the product images and product videos on a vendor’s product. This also links back to the industry adoption point, as users in the same industry tend to have a similar user interface and product experience preferences.
7. Look Out for Free Trials and Demos of IT Management Products
When searching for the best IT Asset Management Software product, it can be tempting to start with a free trial. In fact, we see a lot of buyers jump at free trials of ITAM products even before they are clear about their requirements. Free trials at the start of your consideration cycle should be used to gauge user experience and product experience.
After you have shortlisted the best ITAM tools, free trials should be carried out using your data. This helps you to get a better perspective of the tool and minimizes the risk of choosing the wrong one.
We also recommend that you ask your colleagues and users to take free trials of the product, too. So that you can gauge how well the system can be adopted throughout the organisation.
8. Implementing and Adopting Your Chosen IT Management Software
66% cost overrun, 33% schedule overrun, and 13% shortfall on benefits. These are the average stats for a typical IT implementation, as per a study administered by McKinsey and Oxford.
Most IT asset management tools deliver about 10 to 15% in cost and efficiency savings. If the average shortfall is 17%, then there’s a real risk that your chosen ITAM solution can actually do more harm than good.
The implementation and adoption of IT Asset Management Software needs a clear roadmap before you buy the tool. Your implementation and adoption roadmap should be clear. It should have buy-in from your peers and senior management, as well as your chosen software vendor. Lack of clarity and focus remains the number one reason for project failures. So, we highly recommend that you drive clarity on your implementation and adoption process.
9. Making Decisions Based on Emotions, Logic, and Competency
Whilst a decision to buy a tool will be based on emotion, as it is largely based on the people who represent the vendors, we suggest scoring the logic used to make your decision and the competency of your product in a quantitative way. Take a look at the table below as an example:
|Product A||Product B||Product C|
|Product Experience With Your Data||6/10||5/10||6/10|
|Industry Fit||20 customers||27 customers||16 customers|
|Total Cost||£100 per user||£120 per user||£180 per user|