A narrow product focus has isolated IT asset management from business goals and other company assets for too long. Find out how the industry is redefining the asset management value proposition.
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True to Microsoft's word, the long-awaited Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 closed up numerous loopholes and tightened security throughout the operating system. For this reason alone, it was a compelling upgrade. But as the August debut of SP2 loomed closer, IT administrators around the globe began balking as they realized just what a massive effort it would be to upgrade hundreds or thousands of individual PCs with a patch that weighed in at nearly 100MB.
Pushing such a large upgrade to large numbers of systems at once threatened to logjam corporate networks, potentially bringing e-mail, transaction systems and other applications to a grinding halt. As a result, IT administrators found themselves working with Microsoft to hold off the upgrade to SP2--ironically delaying a resolution to the same security problems about which they'd been vehemently complaining about for years.
The complexity of the SP2 rollout was a textbook case for the justification of IT asset management (ITAM) software, a category of application that allows IT administrators to keep up with the hardware configuration and software loaded on desktop PCs and servers that might be located across the building or across the country. It's been around for years, winning gradual corporate acceptance by many but still being ignored by a surprising number of organizations.
Gartner research into asset management penetration has found that only 60 percent of its clients' hardware assets were tracked using automated tools--but that 90 percent of the sites it had checked had "marginal" practices for hardware asset management.
Even those companies that are using asset tracking tools are not managing them well on an ongoing basis. This has serious implications for governance and asset cost-effectiveness.
"The total cost of an asset over its life has a dramatic impact on the organization," says William Baker, CEO of asset management consultancy Resonance Group, who warns that most companies doing ITAM rely too much on technology without building policies that tie it in with overall business objectives.
"The ultimate challenge is a level of integration between people, processes and technology," he adds. "The IT asset management process should be governed by rules and regularly applied during the decision making process, but it's pointless to try using technology if they haven't got the processes in place.
"Most organizations set business rules that are often not captured centrally, and are typically contained in paper-based manuals and as 'someone said'. Automation of business rules will ensure that transactions are consistently managed and implemented across the enterprise."
Less than one-quarter of enterprises, Gartner estimates, have a full lifecycle IT asset management program that tracks IT assets from the point of procurement through to the point of disposal. This puts them at a disadvantage to fixed assets such as plant and equipment (P&E) investments, whose lifecycle is typically well known through depreciation and maintenance schedules derived years in advance.
These asset registers are, however, typically managed by a completely different part of the business using different methods and systems than those used to track IT assets. The two environments have little to do with each other, perpetuating a problematic rift in asset management strategies.