IT asset management (or ITAM for short) is a term that refers to a wide variety of standards and practices. A company’s IT department will always require a certain amount of IT-related equipment. Because this stuff is so expensive, there is definitely a need to keep track of it all. A simple inventory list would probably be the simplest kind of ITAM, but most companies require a little more than that. With that in mind, let’s talk more about this subject and try to determine if your company needs to be concerned.
What Would Be Considered “IT Assets?”
If you don’t understand the term, you probably should. An IT asset would include any computer hardware or software that the company owns, whether it is in use or not. Being in storage does not change its basic nature, so it’s still considered an “asset.” After all, there would be no point in storing something that didn’t at least have some potential worth.
Here are a few examples of IT assets that might be found at your company:
- Company-owned desktops, laptops, and mobile devices
- Network inspection devices
- External hard drives
- Proprietary software
- IT-related licenses and copyrights
- Valuable data of any kind
Most of these things are self-explanatory, but we should explain that part about software. When it is bought from another company, software doesn’t usually qualify as an “IT asset.” This is because the company doesn’t really own that program, although they may find it to be useful. Thus, only proprietary software would qualify.
We should also stress that IT assets do not have to be physical. Digital data of any kind might be described as an “asset,” as long as it has some sort of real value. Of course, it also has to be owned wholly by the company as well. There are plenty of other items that might make this list, but we think you get the idea.
Creating An ITAM Database
With all this talk about the general concepts, we don’t want to forget the specifics. When it comes down to the nuts and bolts, a database is probably the best tool for managing your IT assets. It is a well-proven solution that has proven effective for the management of many other things, so there’s no reason it wouldn’t work here.
An ITAM database can be created in the same way as any other, but there is one big difference: It needs to be separated into these twelve sections:
- 1. Acquisition Management
- 2. Asset Identification
- 3. Communication And Education
- 4. Compliance Management
- 5. Disposal Management
- 6. Documentation Management
- 7. Financial Management
- 8. Legislation Management
- 9. Policy Management
- 10. Program Management
- 11. Project Management
- 12. Vendor Management
The 12 Aspects In Greater Detail
If you’re wondering where these ideas come from, they originate with a group called The International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM). This is a professional association for those who are involved in asset management of any kind, so they are definitely a qualified authority. Let’s look at their twelve key process areas in a little more detail.
1. Acquisition Management
In a general sense, acquisition management is just the practice of keeping track of anything new your company acquires. However, it also includes the seeking of new acquisitions, with an eye toward getting only those things that are most important.
When it comes to IT, this term will often refer to the acquisition of custom software. The company will need to work with the technicians and make sure that the product fits their needs, and that requires specific protocols.
2. Asset Identification
We have already discussed this subject a little bit, as the identification of assets is key to their inclusion in your database. You need to have a firm set of guidelines as to what constitutes an asset and what does not. Good tagging and tracking procedures would also fall under the heading of asset identification.
This might include GPS devices, RFID devices, tracking/serial numbers, and anything else that is used to identify all your stored IT assets. One of the most difficult aspects of this job will be in relation to data assets. These are generally a lot more expansive, making it harder to sort the valuable from the mundane.
3. Communication And Education
No matter what policies and rules you implement, they won’t do any good without proper communication. Not only do people need to be told, but they also need to be educated. In this way, they can be made to understand the reasons behind your policies instead of being blind followers.
In the end, it’s all about fostering a good learning environment where it’s easy for people to find the guidance they need. Apart from that, you cannot have good teamwork without proper communication. That doesn’t just mean communication within the various departments of your company, but overall.
4. Compliance Management
In order to protect your assets, you have to make sure that you are complying with all relevant laws and regulations. When it comes to hardware, this is not a huge concern, mostly because there aren’t that many regulations as to the kinds of computer hardware you can own or sell. However, there are a whole host of data privacy laws, and those can definitely become a problem for companies that handle a lot of personal data. All it takes is one breach to cost you millions in lawsuits. And, of course, government fines are pretty expensive, too!
5. Disposal Management
IT assets are notoriously temporary, mainly because they become outdated so quickly. If a company has been in business for a decade or more, it is possible to accumulate a huge pile of obsolete monitors, CPU towers, routers, etc. Of course, most of this stuff is completely useless and should be thrown away. A disposal management system is meant to help you decide when and how to do that.
The only complicated part comes from the need for data security. For instance, when disposing of any device that contains sensitive data, precautions must be taken so that the data is unreadable. If that data needs to be retained, a backup protocol should also be part of this process area.
6. Documentation Management
This is one of the simpler aspects of any ITAM system. All IT assets will have some kind of documentation associated with them, and you will need to designate a section of your database for the storage of those documents. This might include receipts and other proofs of purchase, as well as warranties and certificates of authenticity. Service records should also be retained so as to identify problematic devices.
7. Financial Management
Assets are basically the same thing as money, so it makes sense to designate a part of your database for financial matters as well. Of course, you will also need policies to govern these issues. This will mostly include matters of budgeting and invoice management. A given company will always have a certain IT budget, and this is partly determined by the assets already held by the company. If nothing else, you need to prevent waste by preventing redundancy.
8. Legislation Management
This one is closely tied with compliance management, and consists of a database of relevant laws. No one wants to search through the entire legal code looking for those relatively few laws that relate to IT matters. As such, it helps a lot to have them all in one place. This part of the database might also look at proposed laws that might have the potential to influence your industry.
9. Policy Management
This is just a database section that keeps track of your company’s policies. This should include existing policies, and should also have a subsection for old policies that are no longer in use. All companies need to have a set of IT policies, and they need to give employees an easy way to find them. This database should serve both purposes soundly.
A good policy management plan should also include means and methods of enforcement, without which your policies don’t mean anything. Obviously, this one is closely tied to the “Education And Communication” section as well. If you don’t know where to begin, this handy IT policy template might be a good starting point.
10. Program Management
This section will contain the files and documents that relate to the management of the ITAM system itself. In this case, the term “program” refers to your entire program of IT asset management. This is where you can evaluate all aspects of your current system and determine where changes should be made. Obviously, you will need some kind of metrics with which you can objectively judge the effectiveness of your current program.
11. Project Management
Whenever a change needs to be made, you have a project. Whenever something new is implemented, you have a project. And so, whenever you have a project, it will need to be planned and organized. This will include the deployment of specific IT assets for those projects, the hiring of qualified personnel to use them, and the organization of materials and labor.
12. Vendor Management
Finally, we come to vendor management. Your company is probably dealing with third-party vendors of one kind or another, and they can cause some problems. Since they are not technically a part of your organization, they have a lot less motivation to follow your policies.
Your ability to hold them accountable is limited, and so you need to pay special attention to vendor compliance issues. A database can be used to track your interactions with the vendor over time, allowing you to identify the problem cases and cease doing business with them.
Does My Company Need IT Asset Management?
It might be hard for some companies to determine if there is any real need for IT asset management. In the end, it is a judgment call, but it should be based on the scope and scale of your IT assets. If you simply don’t have a whole lot of assets, there is much less need to manage them. You will obviously still need to keep track of them, but you won’t need a dedicated system for that.
By the same yardstick, companies with lots of IT assets cannot afford to be without some kind of IT asset management system. So, we would judge it like this: If your IT assets are too large to fit in a single room, you definitely need an ITAM system.
We hope that we have given you a good understanding of this subject, and we hope that it wasn’t too generalized. Unfortunately, every company has unique IT challenges, so there is no way to address this issue without using a broad brush. Still, if you are looking for IT Asset Management, please feel free to fill out the contact form.