Tracking your hardware, software, and virtual IT assets can be challenging without a proper system. Manually handling IT assets is time-consuming, costly, and prone to errors.
To make things easier, you can use an IT asset management (ITAM) tool to do the job for you. ITAM tools give you more accurate results, save time, and help you manage your IT assets more efficiently.
In this article, we’ll cover all you need to know about IT asset management, including:
- What is IT asset management (ITAM)?
- Why is IT asset management important?
- How does IT asset management work?
- How to use IT asset management tools.
What is IT asset management (ITAM)?
IT asset management (ITAM) is a broad term covering the lifecycle management of all IT assets of a company, including the tactical and strategic decision-making related to managing those assets.
But what are IT assets, and what do they include?
An IT asset is any company-owned hardware, software, network, or information used to complete day-to-day business processes and activities.
- Infrastructure hardware: All network devices, servers, and data centers that your company owns and uses.
- In-house developed software: The software that your employees develop and use daily.
- Software licenses: Software developed by a third party for which your company purchases a license for a certain period.
- Company-owned devices: These are all of your company-purchased and -owned devices, including laptops, computers, tablets, phones, monitors, and printers.
- Lease agreements for facilities and infrastructure: If your company has lease agreements to use a facility or infrastructure owned by a third party, that’s also considered an asset.
- Digital data: These data are photos, videos, and other business-related information stored on company-owned devices.
What is an ITAM database?
An ITAM database is a data repository you collect to help answer questions about your IT assets. In addition to tracking your IT assets, this database also stores and tracks detailed information about each asset, like contractual, financial, and physical data.
The information stored in the database assists with:
- Insurance and warranties
You might use a dedicated ITAM database, but it can also overlap with a configuration management database (CMDB) or content management system (CMS) tools.
3 types of IT asset management
IT asset management can be broken down into three specific categories:
IT asset management
IT asset management (ITAM) is a subset of the IT Service Management (ITSM) System and includes the proper management of all financial, contractual, and inventory functions of the IT assets—hardware and software—and regulates the overall IT environment factors.
Digital asset management
This category manages all intellectual property stored on company-owned devices in electronic media form and other business-related information produced by the company.
Software asset management and license management
Software asset management (SAM) is a type of ITAM concerned with the management, control, and cybersecurity of company-produced software and the purchased licenses for third-party software.
This way, the company ensures no compliance conflicts and violations, and all license payments are processed correctly and on time.
Today, it’s more common to use SaaS management software to manage your software licenses rather than an ITAM tool.
Why is IT asset management important?
If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find that manual asset tracking using spreadsheets is still the industry standard today. But using Excel spreadsheets can lead to many inaccuracies, unreliability, and lost information. According to Forbes, 90% of spreadsheets contain errors.
Managing all your IT assets like hardware, software, and company networks can quickly become overwhelming. Without a proper ITAM system in place, it’s tough to track your on-premises and cloud IT inventory if you manage a huge enterprise with many departments, networks, and big IT inventories in different locations.
Companies that use ITAM save about 30% of their IT budget through optimization.
Let’s see what other benefits a fully-functioning ITAM system can bring you.
1. Informed purchasing decisions
With an IT asset management solution, you align hardware and software to better understand what assets are purchased and how many of them are used effectively. This alignment, in turn, helps you make better purchasing decisions in the future.
You can also track the quality of the product/service you’re using, the post-sale support, and other essential factors.
2. Business continuity
Natural disasters and other unforeseen events can crash your systems and cause data loss. Hence, IT asset management is essential for an IT infrastructure library’s (ITIL) processes.
With a proper ITAM, you can identify the potential problems such events might cause and be better prepared to recover and restore your services faster.
3. Enhanced IT security
ITAM software shows you which of your employees have access to what information.
You can use the software to manage employees’ access, put different restrictions where needed, and improve the security of all your IT assets.
4. Subscription and license compliance
As the average company uses 100–300+ software solutions, it becomes tough to track which tools are used efficiently and which ones are forgotten.
With an IT asset management system, you can track business-related apps usage all from one place, avoiding unjustified IT costs, compliance risks, and other liabilities.
ITAM makes it easier to standardize all your IT processes.
One process you can standardize is device issuing. For example, suppose an employee needs a work phone. Then, all they have to do is use a self-service request form through the ITAM portal.
At the same time, the IT team can track the work phone and other company devices and to whom they’re currently assigned. So if an employee quits, it’s easier for the company to get the hardware back.
6. Total cost of ownership accuracy
The total cost of ownership (TCO) shows you all expenses related to an IT asset instead of only the purchase price. TCO includes operation, support, and maintenance costs that occur during the IT asset lifecycle.
When you have a comprehensive ITAM system helping you track the total cost of ownership with accuracy, you can eliminate duplicate and useless assets.
How does IT asset management work?
IT asset management is about what you do in each stage of the asset’s lifecycle and why the process itself is systematic and continuous.
The five stages of the asset lifecycle are:
The first step in the IT asset management process is to plan your strategy.
You have to make strategic decisions on what assets the company needs, how you’re going to procure them, and how you’ll maintain and use them.
This stage often includes a total cost of ownership or cost/benefit analysis to help you make the right choice.
The next step is procurement. Here, you acquire the IT assets either through building, leasing, buying, or licensing them.
At this stage, you introduce the new assets into the company’s IT ecosystem.
This introduction usually requires installation, integration with other components, establishing support processes, and giving users access.
Each asset needs maintenance, repair, and upgrades after it’s been used for some time. This way, you maximize the value you get from it, mitigate risk, and extend the asset’s life.
The last stage is when the asset reaches the end of its useful life. That’s when you have to dispose of it, terminate license renewals, and cancel support agreements.
You also have to think about a replacement asset to which you can transition all users.
How to choose the right IT asset management tools for business optimization
With the help of ITAM tool process automation, you can quickly capture, process, manage, and analyze all your IT asset data.
Not sure which ITAM tool to pick? Here are some must-have features you should be on the lookout for:
1. Discovery feature and automated inventory
When you install a new asset in the company’s IT system, the tool will recognize it and include it in the inventory.
2. License management
The tool can detect if you’re under-licensed and at risk of compliance liabilities or over-licensed and paying for unnecessary software. Some tools can also track changes in the Terms and Conditions of each software and license expiration date.
3. Patch and version management
The tool automatically updates software and makes sure that all devices meet the security and efficiency standards.
4. Request management
Employees can place requests for new IT assets like software and devices by filling out a standardized form directly in the system. The tool can also identify different license requirements and monitor the procurement and deployment process.
5. Product or service catalog
You can access a catalog with all assets and resources used within the organization. The catalog also contains information about the asset’s name, edition, version, license agreement, and other vital information.
6. Configuration management database (CMDB)
A CMDB is usually a part of the IT service management system and supports asset management control. You can see the IT asset configuration, warranty, contracts, and other tracking information through a CMDB.
7. Fixed asset system
The fixed repository system is part of the financial management system and reports asset data needed in some financial processes.
8. Digital asset management
The digital asset management feature allows you to organize, store, and retrieve media assets and manage their copyright permissions. Such assets include photos, videos, animations, and other multimedia.
Read more: “7 IT Asset Management (ITAM) Best Practices”
Make the switch to IT asset management
Manually handling IT assets is time-consuming, costly, and the chance of making a mistake is much higher than using an ITAM platform.
And instead of wasting a month—give or take—of human labor on assembling IT asset audits, put all the information in an IT asset management tool that can do the job for you.
This way, you get more accurate results, save time, and manage your IT assets more efficiently.