ITAM Basics: 5 Tips for Getting Started with IT Asset Management

IT asset management is a necessary and important capability for any IT organization. It helps to manage costs, mitigate risks, and improve IT services. But how much ITAM are you doing? And how well are you doing it? If you need to start, or to do more, then this blog is for you.

So, you now have responsibility for IT asset management (ITAM) and are up for the challenge, but you’re not quite sure where to start? If you’re an ITAM newbie, or even if you aren’t, there’s a lot of things to consider – from “What the heck is ITAM,” through “What does it cover?” to “How do I know I’ve done well?” Plus, of course, there’s the perennial: “Where do I start?”

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by ITAM. Your organization has more hardware than you can physically count, and then there’s the software side of the ITAM house too. Plus, let’s not forget cloud-based services, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscriptions, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices – which are both modern “assets” that need to be managed, accounted for, and supported.

So, where’s the best place to start?

The short answer is “Understand what you can and cannot achieve (at least in the short term) and progress accordingly.” To assist, I’ve assembled five tips that should hopefully help you on your way.

1. Set the Right Scope

With ITAM it’s easy to attempt to “boil the ocean” when starting. So, it’s important to set, and limit, your initial scope. And unless you have an army of colleagues helping you, and a bottomless budget for ITAM, you’ll struggle if you try to do everything possible (ITAM-wise) from day one.

The key is to be pragmatic, and to pick your ITAM battles carefully. Understanding what will make the biggest impact to your organization (based on its priorities). Do you quickly need to ensure software license compliance or to mitigate other risks? Or is the biggest driver to reduce costs? Plus, in the modern business environment, it might be a case of your ITAM activities needing to justify themselves before further investment (time and money) is provided.

So, set the right ITAM scope – what will make the biggest impact and difference over the next 1-2 quarters? And remember, sowing the seeds across a number of ITAM initiatives that don’t quickly “pay back” is probably not going to win you many advocates, or justify additional budget either this or next year.

2. Focus on Immediate Business Pain Points

With a little investigation on your part, you’ll probably find that, in terms of ITAM and particularly software asset management (SAM) needs, there will be a number of immediate and high-profile issues that need to be solved. The fact that the issues are “painful” to the organization will help to market your successes – they matter! But, as with the first tip, understanding your immediate limitations (in terms of what can and cannot be realistically achieved) is also key.

Then there’s the question of mapping immediate capabilities to immediate needs. To help, please consider this healthcare analogy:

Sometimes healthcare professionals don’t have time to provide an immediate cure (to the patient in hand) and might instead only be able to take temporary action. Perhaps to stop the bleeding, say, with this temporary action “buying time” for the situation to be better assessed, the options to be considered, the right resources to be assembled, and the cure to be applied at a later date.

The same is true for ITAM and the focus on immediate business pain points – sometimes the right (or only feasible) action will be to stop the bleeding, with a more permanent fix delivered over time.

Be careful though, applying band-aids is fine as long as you remember to return to the patient. Don’t confuse the initial quick-fix treatment with the need for improving the patient’s health over time – and have both short-term and longer-term plans to improve in particular ITAM areas.

3. Use the Pareto Principle

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) states that, for many activities, roughly 80% of the results come from just 20% of the actions. It echoes the sentiments outlined in the first two bullets – that early ITAM investments (again in terms of time and money) should be made in the areas that deliver a disproportionately high level of the available benefits.

Many organizations find that it applies on two levels with ITAM. Firstly, that a focus on software and SAM can quickly deliver significant results in reducing IT-asset costs (as well as mitigating compliance risks). And secondly, that 80% of costs and compliance risk might lie with just 20% of your software estate.

Thus, when first starting out with SAM, it’s important to have the aforementioned focus. To rise above the sea of software vendors and their offerings to concentrate on:

  • The top 10 or top 20 software vendors by spend
  • The most strategically important vendors and software titles (to your organization)
  • The riskiest software titles and vendors (based on a mix internal knowledge (of historical licensing issues), licensing complexity, and the vendor’s tendency for auditing customers)

However, having just focused on software, don’t overlook the benefits of removing unused, or underused, hardware from your IT estate. Why? Because each asset pulled back into stock (or disposed of) will also free up a number of software licenses that can be reused elsewhere. It’s a two-sided win.

4. Understand That ITAM is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

While the required investment in ITAM might shrink over time, as IT assets are collectively better managed and controlled, ITAM is not something that – like a project – will be finished at a certain point in the future.

Why? Consider the environment you work in. Business needs will change. Technologies will change (in terms of what’s used). Individual software products will change (in terms of versions and licensing models). Hardware will be refreshed. And people will change roles or leave the organization altogether. Thus, the need for ITAM activities – and the people that undertake them – will never disappear.

5. Aim to Be Proactive

Be proactive and hands-on – not only in hunting down the biggest immediate opportunities to reduce costs and risks, but also in understanding the key future opportunities.

Such opportunities might involve investing further in the right people, processes, and ITAM-enabling technology (insert shameless plug for SysAid, my favorite ITSM solution with ITAM built-in allowing you to manage your service desk and asset management needs from one screen!) – all of which should be justified by demonstrating how the anticipated benefits will outweigh the additional costs to the organization.

This might also involve planning way ahead of time for large maintenance contracts that are up for renewal, with the aim of getting the best possible result from the associated negotiations. Or consolidating software titles that offer similar capabilities to achieve better economies of scale (and making management easier).

Or it could be just keeping things simple. For instance, using an existing network discovery capability to identify IT assets that haven’t been scanned for three months and checking if they’re still needed (which will be the hardware and software of course). Or linking in with the corporate (employee) leaver process to ensure that IT assets are collected, or suitably redeployed, as people leave their roles.

So, that’s my five tips for getting started with ITAM. What would you add? 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!).

2 thoughts on “ITAM Basics: 5 Tips for Getting Started with IT Asset Management”

  1. Avatar Rory Canavan

    Other top tip: DO NOT wait for the production of an ELP (Effective Licence Position) to remove unused software – you are only playing into the software vendors hands if you do that. You can start a recycling exercise from day one…


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