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A guide for contemporary IT teams to manage their IT inventory

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IT management today is a convergence of employee productivity, uninterrupted business services, employee and customer communication platform, cyber defence and making businesses future ready. Over the last decade, the role of enterprise IT has changed from a business support function to ensuring your business is cyber safe and runs efficiently.  Hence it is not surprising that on average 4.1% of a company’s budget is allocated to IT. This represents an average of £9800 spend on IT per employee.

The day-to-day IT no longer just involves windows upgrade and network uptime, it has changed to instance management, cybersecurity, IT inventory management and addressing real-time workforce changes.

This article is written for contemporary IT teams looking to leverage their enterprise IT inventory to drive holistic business outcomes.

#1: IT asset management is about workforce productivity and customer experience

As Google’s CIO Ben Fried says, IT is an agent of change. Quite often when IT teams are configuring software tools or setting-up CMDB (configuration management database), it is easy to forget that IT applications are for employees to be more productive, so that they can delight your customers.

In a growing number of cases, your information infrastructure is directly used by your customers. For example – cash machine or ATM networks, online banking, eCommerce websites, healthcare appointments and many more. Your organisation achieves its business goals via your IT Infrastructure. From employee onboarding to product or service delivery, every aspect of your business is run and delivered from your IT Infrastructure.

Leading IT teams take a workforce and customer-centric view to IT management rather than a technical or set-up oriented view. Enhancing workforce and customer experience which improves overall productivity is a recommended goal for modern IT teams.

#2: Network management for uninterrupted IT

Creating and maintaining an accurate and real-time IT asset register is the first step in planning for uninterrupted IT. Spreadsheets are good to manage static assets, but if your assets are connected to dynamic elements like people or location, then use of an IT asset management tool is recommended.

Mapping your hardware and software inventory across your network is vital. CMDB options as well as agent and agentless discovery techniques help you to discover your IT Inventory. While serial numbers and firmware details of your hardware inventory are important for network mapping, license details of software assets are important to manage entitlements. Mapping IT inventory with users using active directory management helps to understand IT infrastructure usage and limitations. For cloud based assets, while usage is easy to monitor – it is recommended to set-up instance usage to optimise hosting costs.

#3: Software asset management is critical for cybersecurity

Unpatched software assets are known to be infiltration point for cyber-attacks. Ensure all your software assets are optimally patched. Being the first to patch can sometimes be risky as you can be the first to identify bugs which may impact your workforce’s productivity.

The trick is to quickly glance release notes of every patch. Ensure any patch that is released for improving security is executed swiftly.  Examining workforce endpoint usage data can help to identify cyber-risk users. The by-product of monitoring endpoint usage is you can use it as a basis to plan, and budget for your IT spend. Basic updates on anti-virus and anti-malware remain essential to ring-fence cyber weak devices.

Being proactive about identifying and closing vulnerabilities in your software and hardware inventory are critical. This will ensure that your IT inventory is not picked up as vulnerable when cyber attackers scan IT networks to plan attacks. (Technically this is known as mitigating survey stage of the cyber attacks).

#4: Endpoint management can avoid painful software audit

Unlicensed software can be tracked by monitoring endpoints through your software management tools. Software vendors have competent teams and network identification techniques to map unlicensed software downloads. They request software audits based on digital footprints of unlicensed software usage. One of the most effective ways to avoid unlicensed software installs is by monitoring endpoints tightly.

Unauthorised installations can happen on your network but not on your devices. For example, they can happen on BYOD (bring your own device). Whitelisting and execution control prevent self-installations and autoruns.

Workforce education, application control and user permissions assist in avoiding unintentional and unauthorised software downloads on your network.

While most IT teams run cyber awareness training when they onboard new employees, running a refresher training once every three months keeps your workforce cyber aware. Phishing and water holing cyber-attacks are proven to be best avoided by consistent and impactful cyber aware training.

#5: Keep your hardware and software tools future-ready

Your hardware and software assets form the ecosystem on which your workforce communicates with your customers. If your business delivers any of its services online, then your IT inventory is indirectly used by your customers. The commerce of your organisation is delivered by your IT infrastructure; so as the levers of commerce change within your business, your IT inventory needs to adapt and in many cases be the agent of the change. Accordingly, being proactive about how your business is changing helps you to plan your IT management.

Chatbots, machine learning and augmented reality are likely to change your organisation’s workflows. As you make decisions on your IT Infrastructure try and evaluate what type of licensing addresses your short and long-term IT goals. In some cases, having a mix of open source and proprietary tools is more suitable.

While a considerable number of businesses have a mix of on-premise and cloud applications, the trend is moving towards managing IT assets in public, private or hybrid clouds. Planning for IT asset management every six to 12 months will offer you the flexibility to be aligned with your changing business needs.