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What’s Preventing Greater ITAM Adoption?

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Stephen Mann on ITAM Adoption

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 But I think that this is an outdated (and pre the 2008 financial crisis) viewpoint – in my experience, most IT organizations are under pressure to spend less these days.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.