The 3 Top Problems of ITAM Administration

IT asset management (ITAM) is a tactical foundation corporate executives need to make sound strategic decisions. ITAM needs more than just an administrator to manage it.

by Barbara Rembiesa

IT asset management (ITAM) is a word bandied about for the last couple of years as an important functional area necessity for IT to make strategic and managerial decisions. Although the industry has decided to take up this battle cry, the reality is lagging far behind. The role of ITAM has been delegated to highly functional IT administrators or middle management, who immediately place it into the hands of an IT administrator. Few C-level or executive decisions makers pay attention to ITAM programs until they are asked to cut costs -- which has been the trend for the last two years. The recession has put a spotlight on ITAM, but hurdles governing the program execution remain.

Problem # 1: Lack of Support or Understanding from C-level or Upper Management

One of the largest issues IT asset managers face is truly a perception and communication issue. It’s likely one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. C-level executives and other decision makers perceive that ITAM is an administrative function that does not significantly contribute to the overall IT organization’s profit or operations. In fact, the perception is that ITAM is nothing more than keeping inventory in an Excel spreadsheet. The veracity of this statement is seen when ITAM programs are assigned to IT administrators. People who head the ITAM initiatives often have to fight the perception that it is a one-size-fits-all program, interchangeable in its administrative function and form.

Contributing even further to the lack of support and understanding from the C-suite is the fact that ITAM managers do not speak the language of management.

There is also a communication gap between how ITAM benefits are communicated and perceived:

  • For the CEO, CFO, and CIO: Lack of knowledge about their ITAM environment obstructs long-term planning for the enterprise -- whether about M&As, divestitures, group realignment, or change management. For this executive level, the emphasis would be on cost analysis, cost cutting, and operational efficiencies. If the company is publicly traded, there are issues of accounting, corporate governance, and compliance as well as possible SOX issues.
  • For the procurement officer: What will ITAM cost and how will it affect budget. Will it look like I’m saving the company money?
  • For the VP of IT or upper IT manager: The overwhelming majority will care about three areas: cost, having the right solutions in place, and a smooth rollout.
  • For the IS director/implementation team: Performing migrations or implementations can cause many disruptions either at a group or enterprise-wide level. Their main concern is having access to the central repository of information in order to gauge what assets and versions are available, and how many licenses the enterprise has

To close the communication gap, staff must be made aware of priorities for the various job functions -- whether administrative, legal, or executive -- and the ability to speak using their terminology and understand what their main pain points and objectives are.

Problem # 2: The Silo-ed Organization

The second greatest obstacle ITAM faces is the organizational barrier. The larger the organization, the more groups there are. The more groups, the more fragmented ITAM becomes and the greater the challenge in syncing the individual silos within the enterprise -- many with similar needs, objectives, and IT strategies but using various similar (but not identical) tools and technologies to try to resolve their issues.

Each silo within an organization -- whether it’s a single group, a division or a larger pool of groups -- has a vested interest in an ITAM initiative. For example, the help desk may want to integrate software that will increase productivity and efficiency, but the office of the CFO will want tighter control and transparency into the financial data and how it relates to vendor contracts -- from building leases to software maintenance contracts.

ITAM typically fails or fails to live up to its potential because of the decentralization of a common goal. Executives need to conduct an in-depth assessment of what the needs and goals are of each part of the organization, determine the commonality of need, and create consensus. To create support and sponsorship enterprise-wide, the team must be educated to understand how working together with other groups will benefit the whole organization including lowering the total cost of ownership (TCO), decreasing the investment contribution from each group, and creating a smoother and faster implementation and rollout.

Problem # 3: Fighting Against the Mindset that ITAM is a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

The disparity between what ITAM actually is and what it does exists in every organization. With the numerous ITAM and software asset management (SAM) tools currently on the market, there has been a shift in perception that these tools will resolve the time-consuming ITAM/SAM function, but it’s only part of the solution.

If the available ITAM tools don’t offer a complete solution, why even bother? There are several rationales for investing in these tools:

  • Efficiency: By automating all or part of the discovery process, you save hundreds of man-hours.
  • Cost savings: Due to the speed of discovery, there is often a very quick turnaround for uncovering cost savings from licensing.
  • Central repository: Once the discovery process is complete, many ITAM tools have a central repository that can be easily updated.

What do you need to understand about ITAM tools?

Expense: Many of the more sophisticated solutions are costly. In fact, some use the annual maintenance and support models of enterprise software companies, which is surprising as this is one of the major sore points among IT organizations.

Implementation: Although many of the tools currently available can be installed remotely, organizations must be aware that the tools need to be installed. In some cases, there are implementation issues or a complex installation that involves onsite consultants. After all, you’re still dealing with software.

Measurement: Although these tools have a general discovery function and a few of them are specific about which enterprise software they work with, you still need to review exactly what the tool works with. For example, some tools claim to be an Oracle ITAM tool, but you need to dig deeper and ask, “Is it for Oracle Database? Is it just for software or does it also do hardware?”

Acquisition: With the explosion of tools for ITAM and SAM, it is no surprise to see the beginning of acquisitions among these companies. Mergers and acquisitions always effect how tools perform -- sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

ITAM is a tactical foundation corporate executives need to make sound strategic decisions. ITAM needs more than just an administrator to manage it. In fact, the planning, implementation, and maintenance of a solid ITAM program call for specialization and cooperation from a variety of areas within the organization.

ITAM is not just a process and cannot be resolved with just a tool. ITAM is a program and as such is much more complex. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. ITAM is a set of business practices that creates accountability and value for the lifecycle management of IT assets -- including software and hardware -- throughout an organization that entails a series of processes and tools that enable the management of the IT asset portfolio (including risk, cost, control, IT governance, compliance, and business performance optimization).

Barbara Rembiesa is president of the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM) and brings over 20 years of industry knowledge and experience to the management of IAITAM. She provides key guidance to its members. Before founding IAITAM, Barbara was the CEO of Astria Software Services, a company dedicated to ITAM education and consulting. You can contact the author at info@iaitam.org.