A mature asset management function is another important component of an organization’s ability to effectively control IT costs. In addition to helping the organization better leverage idle or under-utilized assets, the existence of strong asset management can significantly reduce technical support and administrative costs.
IT assets commonly segment into two major categories; hardware and software. These assets serve vastly different purposes and to a large extent, exist as wholly distinct concepts; one physical and the other largely virtual. Based on the unique purposes and nature of each, organizations typically realize increased efficiency by managing each using different approaches and even systems.
Organizations frequently maintain some level of hardware asset management capability. However, this capability can vary widely, with some organizations simply using manually maintained spreadsheets or occasional outputs from network discovery or management tools. In some cases, even within very large organizations, a centralized inventory of physical technical assets simply does not exist.
Even when asset inventories do exist, they are frequently not inclusive of all hardware assets and in many cases, do not track many valuable details such as asset responsibility, location information, or purpose information. Another common issue is that no individual or role is often specifically tasked with the responsibility of maintaining a complete and accurate asset inventory, making the repository a virtual ‘tragedy of the commons’ in terms of data quality and accuracy.
The implementation of an enterprise hardware asset management system and associated support function frequently lowers the total cost of ownership of hardware assets while improving their alignment with the organization’s strategic objectives. Spending reductions are frequently realized through a variety of savings levers including cost avoidance, improved asset utilization, reduced theft, and lower support costs. The full benefits of IT asset management are typically realized by addressing the function as a core component of the complete asset lifecycle. Critical steps for effective hardware asset management include:
- Allocating appropriate resources and responsibilities to asset management functions.
- Determining which assets will be tracked, such as the required value level, so the organization does not waste significant money and energy tracking mice or other low value assets.
- Implementing asset planning activities including requirements forecasting for larger ticket hardware purchases.
- Integrating asset management with acquisition and infrastructure change activities in order to maintain the accuracy of asset information.
- Implementing a repository with full reporting capabilities to facilitate a wide-variety of planning and support functions.
As with any inventory-oriented system, addressing the automatic capture of incoming assets and documenting changes is often of greater initial importance than documenting currently deployed assets. Without appropriate receiving and change controls, the asset inventory will represent only a snapshot of the current environment which then becomes out-of-date quickly as additional assets are acquired and existing assets are changed.
Many organizations do not adequately manage software or use software license management (SLM) solutions to track software licensing. Even those that do use SLM solutions, have traditionally focused on compliance over cost savings. The implementation of an SLM system typically reduces software licensing fees in a number of ways, including:
- The recapture of unused licenses installed on systems and their redeployment to other systems in lieu of new license spending.
- The cancellation of software maintenance, assurance, and technical support on unused and unneeded licenses.
- Improved pricing through consolidation of demand for new products and version upgrades.
- Lowered risk of penalties and fines from unlicensed use of software as well as less costly compliance reporting.
In addition to reduced software related costs, the improved visibility into an organization’s software inventory enables further standardization opportunities that could increase volume discounts, while also lowering support costs associated with maintaining a more diverse software product base. However, it is not atypical for SLM system implementations to be measured in degrees of failure. The most common reasons for a lack of success are:
- A failure to formally assign software asset management to an individual, instead treating it as a technology rather than a function.
- A lack of effort to adequately configure the software or its network agent(s) to recognize the full suite of products installed in the environment.
- A lack of effort to collect entitlements (purchased license information) and enter them into the system and/or a failure to keep entitlement information up to date.
- A lack of effort to reconcile the entitlements against the identified installations.
To avoid or mitigate the factors that inhibit successful software asset management, organizations typically use an approach that combines the technical implementation with formal organizational assignment of responsibility over software asset management. To take full advantage of this opportunity, organizations often undertake a number of steps including:
- Development of organization-wide requirements for license management.
- Evaluation of any existing internal software license management tools as well as an assessment of the SLM vendor landscape.
- Conducting a pilot of a small number of products in a test environment to validate solution feasibility and value.
- The broader implementation of a license management solution enterprise-wide.
- Integration of the receiving processes and user delivery confirmation with the SLM solution.
- The reconciliation of existing entitlements and software installs.
- The removal of software installed but not used.
- The cancellation of software maintenance and technical support on unneeded licenses.
The implementation of an SLM function that tracks licensing availability and use, automates deployment and installation, and integrates with other IT service management systems and capabilities represents one of the most straightforward ways organizations can reduce IT spending while increasing user productivity and satisfaction.