IT Asset Management
Copyright 2022, Faulkner Information Services. All
Publication Date: 2205
Publication Type: TUTORIAL
IT Asset Management (ITAM) involves the maintenance and management of
information technology (IT) assets – hardware and software principally, but
also digital assets like photos and videos – with digital assets belonging
to an ITAM subdomain called Digital Asset Management (DAM). ITAM has a
long history. In the mainframe era, it was called Configuration
Management and, along with Change Management and Problem Management,
formed the foundation of IT Systems Management. Today, ITAM has assumed an
even more important role as IT infrastructure continues to expand in both
volume and value.
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Enterprise value is measured in assets:
- Tangible assets, like properties, equipment, vehicles, devices,
product inventories, supplies and raw materials, investments, and cash;
- Intangible assets, like trade secrets, patents, copyrights, accounts
receivable, customer information, and reputation.
The effective maintenance and management of enterprise assets is the
province of Enterprise Asset Management (EAM).1 One of
the increasingly important subsets of EAM is IT Asset Management (ITAM).
ITAM involves the management of information technology (IT) assets,
hardware and software principally, but also digital assets like photos and
videos, with digital assets belonging to an ITAM subdomain called Digital
Asset Management (DAM).
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IT Asset Management has a long history. In the mainframe era, it
was called Configuration Management, and along with Change Management and
Problem Management, formed the foundation of IT Systems Management.
Today, ITAM has assumed an even more important role as IT infrastructure
continues to expand in both volume and value. Among the critical ITAM issues are:
- Knowing where information resides, to enable efficient access
and afford proper protection against cyber attacks and other threats.
- Complying with software license agreements, to avoid
unauthorized use fines and other sanctions.
- Maximizing the value of IT assets, from procurement to
renewal to disposal.
- Accommodating new hardware types, like employee-owned
smartphones and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
- Managing virtual assets, like software as a service (SaaS) or
infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
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IT Asset Lifecycle
If performed properly, IT Asset Management is more than counting up the
number of enterprise laptops and recording that figure in an Excel
spreadsheet. ITAM is about managing those laptops – and all other IT
assets – according to an IT Asset Lifecycle model. This approach
mimics the Software Development Lifecycle model by which software systems
and applications are planned, defined, designed, built, tested, and
In the IT Asset Lifecycle, hardware and software systems and services are
planned, procured, operated and maintained, and, eventually, liquidated:
- Planning means making a “business case” for the acquisition of
an IT asset
- Procuring means purchasing or leasing an IT asset, an often
lengthy process involving the identification of suitable providers, the
preparation of a request for proposal (RFP), the evaluation of provider
responses, the selection of a specific IT asset based on accumulated
intelligence, and, for large or complex investments, a pre-procurement
pilot (or test) project to validate IT asset operation.
- Operating and Maintaining means installing or implementing an
IT asset, upgrading the asset as requested, and repairing the asset as
- Liquidating means disposing of an IT asset when it is no longer
needed, is obsolete, or is prohibitively expensive to operate or
Managing Electronic Waste
Liquidating an IT asset often involves managing electronic waste (or
e-waste). E-waste is a category of waste materials consisting of
discarded computer and communication equipment, including servers, PCs,
laptops, tablets, phones, monitors, printers, power supplies, cables, and
all other forms of electronic gear. Often containing hazardous
substances, e-waste poses environmental risks unless properly
processed. As generators of electronic waste, enterprises are
responsible for e-waste management and disposition.
For enterprise officials, the goals of e-waste management are:
- Reduce the total volume of e-waste by prolonging the life of
- Dispose of e-waste in an environmentally-responsible manner.
- Prior to disposal, scrub e-waste of all enterprise data, thus
preserving enterprise data security and privacy.
- Comply with all relevant e-waste laws and regulations, including
Software License Compliance
Traditionally, one of the major – perhaps, the major – factor driving the
adoption of IT Asset Management is software license compliance. As
analyst Phil Bowermaster explains, “software license compliance is a major
issue for organizations that license third-party software. If you
license software for multiple users … from a third-party supplier, you
may be subject to external audits to ensure that you are compliant with
the terms of your service level agreements. The world’s biggest
software providers pull in billions of dollars annually by investigating
subscribers who are suspected of abusing their services.”
To prevent violations, “IT Asset Management software allows organizations
to automatically detect what software has been installed on each computer
that is connected to the company’s network. Automated software
detection can be cross-referenced with service level agreements to ensure
compliance and avoid hefty penalties associated with an unsuccessful
As an added benefit, “Organizations are using IT Asset Management
software to … analyze software usage data, helping to eliminate excess
costs associated with unused software licenses.”3
Shadow IT Assets
Discovering so-called “shadow IT” assets is one of the principal
objectives of IT Asset Management. A relatively recent phenomenon,
Shadow IT refers to employees’ unauthorized use of third-party software
and services, including such popular cloud apps as Dropbox.
Inspired, at least in part, by the success of the “bring your own device”
(BYOD) movement, employees today feel empowered to download their own
applications, bypassing the enterprise IT and security departments in
their pursuit of personal productivity.
Unfortunately, such renegade behavior, which some charitably call the
“democratization” of IT,4 makes it difficult, if not
impossible, for enterprise officials to exercise control over their IT
infrastructure. Emblematic of the dilemma, unsanctioned software can:
- Exist in multiple versions simultaneously, with one shadow IT
practitioner invoking one software release and a second practitioner a
second, different release.
- Contaminate enterprise devices and networks via viruses and other
- Conflict with enterprise-approved software creating interoperability
- Result in the loss of enterprise data due to inadequate systems
management functionality, such as no data encryption or no backup and
- Violate relevant security and privacy regulations, such as HIPAA which
helps guarantee the confidentiality of patients’ medical data.
A big part of IT Asset Management administration is sniffing out shadow
IT software and/or persuading employees to “come clean” with respect to
their shadow IT usage.
Digital Asset Management
One prominent subset of IT Asset Management is Digital Asset Management
(DAM).5 Analyst Jonathan Gourlay defines DAM as “a business
process for organizing, storing and retrieving ‘rich media’ and managing
digital rights and permissions. Rich media assets include photos,
music, videos, animations, podcasts and other multimedia content.”6 An evolving IT asset category, rich media now encompasses “non-fungible
A current crypto craze, NFTs are digital assets that represent real world
items like art, fashion, and real estate; virtual world entities like
virtual land and structures; and intellectual property like licenses,
certifications, and patents. Being non-fungible, each has a unique
value and digital signature. NFTs reside on a “blockchain”, a distributed
public ledger that not only records transactions but certifies their
authenticity. Figure 1 illustrates the lifecycle for NFTs and other
Figure 1. Digital Asset Lifecycle
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Best Practice BluePrint
Ideally, enterprise ITAM programs should adhere to the International
Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM) Best
Practice BluePrint (BP2),7 which “provides an informational
guide for the [enterprise] seeking to implement an IT Asset Management
Priced at $195 (with various membership discounts available), “The BP2
provides [the] ITAM team with a process framework and a wide range of
deliverables, templates, examples and techniques that can be used as the
basis for ITAM project planning, program management, process development,
policy deployment, communication planning, technology selection and more.”
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To help facilitate the management of IT assets, a number of firms, both
large and small, offer a range of ITAM software solutions. These
- BMC Software
- HP Enterprise
A recent market report from Technavio reveals that the global IT Asset
Management software market is expected to grow by $4.23 billion from 2021
to 2026, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.77 percent. The biggest growth factor is the availability of cloud-based asset
management software services, which seems appropriate given that the
enterprise IT asset space is expanding from on-premises deployment to the
Cloud, to mobile devices, to home offices, and, most recently, to “the
One of the leading ITAM software solutions, and one broadly
representative of ITAM solutions in general, is AssetExplorer from
ManageEngine. A cloud-based solution, AssetExplorer can:
- Conduct IT asset inventories – Periodically scanning for
hardware, software, and related ownership information. Useful for
shadow IT detection.
- Manage software licenses – Curbing illegal software use and the
problems associated with it.
- Monitor software assets – Discovering the contents of
individual workstations, identifying under-licensed and, just as
importantly, over-licensed software.
- Streamline purchase order processing – Helping reduce spending,
providing PO transparency, and expediting PO operations.
- Enable asset lifecycle management – “[Making] it easier to
handle the complete lifecycle of an asset, i.e., all stages from
procurement to disposal. [AssetExplorer] helps to manage all the
assets that are to be purchased through purchase order management and
later tracks the complete hardware and software inventory of these
When selecting IT Asset Management software, analyst Sethu
Meenakshisundaram recommends solutions that:
- Are easy to implement and maintain.
- Manage IT assets according to a prescribed IT Asset Lifecyle.
- Fit the enterprise budget.
- Provide an experienced and dedicated support community.
- Observe common security and privacy protocols, like those dictated by
the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).8
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According to a recent Deloitte survey, the future of IT Asset Management
will be shaped by two factors:
- First, changing client priorities; and
- Second, the ever-increasing complexity and diversity of today’s and
tomorrow’s computing environments.
With respect to changing client priorities, two years ago, near
two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents utilized ITAM to perform “a largely
reporting-based role which involved analyzing organizational data related
to the procurement, deployment, and usage of IT assets.” Two years
from now, these same poll participants predict that this reporting role
will be reduced to 7 percent. with nearly three-quarters (73 percent)
“[aspiring] to transform the primary role of ITAM in their organizations
to a broader decision-making role with regard to controlling and
automating procurement, usage, and deployment of IT assets.”9
In terms of complexity and diversity, IT Asset Management software
developers will likely struggle to ensure sufficient “visibility” into:
- Ever more popular cloud-based infrastructure, like software as a
service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and platform as a
- Licensing complications surroundings cores and processors.
- Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).
- Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
- Shadow IT assets (reflecting the continuing popularity of “Bring Your
Own Device,” and easy access to office-ready consumer web services).
- Edge computing, or the positioning of compute, storage, and networking
resources proximate to the end users they serve.
- AI-infused self-repairing and self-upgrading systems.
In this writer’s view, IT Asset Managers may have to settle for
“sampling” their information infrastructures, rather than determining the
exact number and disposition of all IT assets.
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About the Author
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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity analyst
and business writer with more than 40 years’ IT experience. A member of
“Who’s Who in Finance and Industry,” Mr. Barr has designed, developed, and
deployed business continuity plans for a number of Fortune 500 firms. He
is the author of several books, including How to Succeed in Business
BY Really Trying, a member of Faulkner’s Advisory Panel, and a
senior editor for Faulkner’s Security Management Practices.
Mr. Barr can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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