ITSM and ITAM – 6 Ways They’re Stronger Together

IT asset management and IT service management are IT management siblings, yet they often don’t play together as much as they could. However, while they might sit within two different IT communities, organizations shouldn’t miss out on opportunities to bring them together for better business outcomes.

Done well, IT asset management (ITAM) and IT service management (ITSM) activities can support each other, remove duplication, and ensure business services are effectively managed, controlled, and protected.

Plus, there’s no need to have the full breadth of potential ITAM and ITSM capabilities. Some people tie themselves up in knots trying to do every single aspect of every single best practice process, but the reality is that they’re missing a trick – ITAM, and with ITSM/ITIL should be about “adopting and adapting” – using the elements that are needed, which will make the biggest difference to your organization.

So, where can ITAM and ITSM work well together in your organization? Here are six opportunities to bring ITAM and ITSM together to deliver better results.

1. Embed the IT Service Desk in ITAM Processes and Vice Versa

Your IT service desk – while an ITSM “property” – should be front and center of both ITAM and ITSM activities. They are the first point of contact for everything from an email service being unresponsive to new-software requests and “How do I?” questions.

ITAM best practices, and the asset knowledge that is built up because of them, should be invaluable to service desk agents in dealing with incidents and requests, plus changes and problems. At a higher, project, level – the asset data should be driving technology refresh decisions and activities.

On the flipside, the service desk should ensure that all hardware and software requests (and increasingly third-party service requests) are requested, authorized, and processed centrally via a defined request fulfilment process. Thus, providing control and consistency to business-as-usual asset-based changes.

The service desk can also help with asset audits – verifying asset details, such as asset tags, ownership, and location. So, add such asset-audit questions to your service desk scripts if you haven’t already.

Careful, here comes a shameless plug that will hopefully keep me in my boss’s good books:

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my favorite ITSM solution, SysAid, has ITAM built-in allowing you to manage your service desk and asset management needs from one screen!

2. Use Self-Service as an Extension of the Service Desk

It’s similar to point 1 above, but with the addition of using self-help and automation.

ITAM policies should educate end users such that they understand that they cannot install software at will; but there needs to be a streamlined provisioning service in place such that there’s no excuses for policy and process circumvention.

Self-service and automation capabilities provide such a robust request-fulfillment process – ensuring a quick turnaround of approved requests and preventing unnecessary delays. Plus it keeps the service desk from becoming overloaded and records all actions taken, providing an accurate record of a subset of the IT asset landscape.

But the self-help ITAM capabilities aren’t just limited to requesting or even downloading assets (via a corporate app store). It can also support the regular self-audit of assets by end users, i.e. “Please tick next to the assets that are currently in your possession,” and the reclamation of unused assets (hardware, software, and subscription services).

3. Asset Databases Working with the CMDB

Both ITAM and ITSM have managed data repositories related to assets. In the case of ITSM, the configuration management database (CMDB), or configuration management system (CMS), plus configuration management activities can support ITAM activities.

And in an ideal world, your asset database should be part of the overall CMS to avoid duplication. But if they are separate databases, then you’ll need to establish a process for sharing information so that you can ensure the relationship between licensed software and the hardware it’s installed on remains correct and up to date.

It’s also worth pointing out that many IT service desks are using CMDBs that are is in essence little more than an asset-focused managed data repository. But it doesn’t matter (perhaps other than to ITIL purists) because it’s just another instance of the adopt-and-adapt mantra being applied. Ultimately, it’s important to make ITSM processes work for you, and not you for the ITSM processes.

4. The ITAM Relationship with Information Security

When creating ITAM policies, it’s important to involve IT security personnel – both to leverage their knowledge and whatever corporate policies are already in place. You can then decide whether you need a specific ITAM policy or if your requirements are covered in existing security or acceptable usage policies.

Your IT security team will be a good source of knowledge and support for your ITAM processes and should be able to provide guidance on how to enforce policy directives, as well as how to deal with deviations and breaches (via the service desk, human resources (HR), or other routes).

5. The ITAM Relationship with Change Management

Many service requests or preapproved changes will relate to software and hardware provision or change. At a higher level, the ITSM/ITIL-espoused change advisory board (CAB) will be affecting assets. Depending on the changes raised at each CAB session, it might be wise for a member of the ITAM team to be in attendance to get a handle on any ITAM implications before a change is approved.

Potential ITAM questions for the CAB could include:

  • Do we have the appropriate licensing in place? Have we checked with procurement to ensure we’re not approaching our limit?
  • Who is the software being deployed to? Will it be deployed to any third-party suppliers or partner organizations?
  • Are there any dependencies or add-ons that may need additional licensing?
  • Are there significant new hardware requirements?

By working closely with change management, ITAM pros can get ahead of the game so that any ITAM issues can be addressed before the change is implemented – rather than scrambling around afterwards trying to confirm licensing information or worse having to retrospectively address a shortfall.

Plus, of course, ITAM information – especially in the absence of robust configuration management information – can be used to support CAB risk analysis and decision making.

6. Combine ITAM with Service Level Management to Drive the Right Behaviors

One of the biggest challenges for IT departments can be making sure the right people are accountable. It’s all too easy to craft ITAM policies that are at arm’s length from BAU operations, and thus get forgotten about or ignored.

Another way to ensure everyone knows their obligations regarding assets is by capturing them within service level agreements (SLAs) and operational level agreements (OLAs). Hopefully ensuring that little is left to chance.

Most service level documents will have standard headings for availability and performance, so I recommend you add in a section for ITAM to include how you’d like audits to be handled and what the criteria for success are (for that particular service). For example, a reduction in audit findings or an increase in accurate asset information.

So, that’s my six ways in which ITAM and ITSM work well together. Of course there are others – how do you use ITAM and ITSM together to deliver better results? Please let me know in the comments!

Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).


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