Most large organisations do not actually know what IT assets they have or who is looking after them.
However, a proper process of inventory, investigation and improvement can provide real gains in value and productivity. This is a theme which regularly emerges at BCS specialist group meetings.
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IT asset management (ITAM) used to mean acquiring hardware and software. However, most large organisations lose count of their assets during their life cycle, as devices are spread across sites and managed by different departments.
According to Gartner, between 40% and 60% of IT operations budgets are spent on maintaining IT assets. This can only be saved if you know exactly where everything is and who owns it so a complete listing is essential management information.
Key inventory information includes exact location data for each device, model number and serial number (always key for external support suppliers) and the software version running. This information is vital in negotiating maintenance contracts and provides a sound basis for calculating future budgets.
To obtain a full inventory, you may need to invest in the tools or ask a specialist ITAM service provider to collect asset data for you. Also, today's complex infrastructures, firewalls and other segmentation technology may prevent you from discovering all your assets.
An analysis of your findings will show assets that are close to or actually beyond their supported life by the suppliers, and those that have caused the most calls to the help desk.
This may reveal unstable software on the network and other areas where you can make savings on support.
The analysis can help you to plan where the next round of investment should be.
Devices that have been troublesome historically are candidates for replacement, or maybe staff have not been trained how to use them properly? With software, it is a good idea to profile your users. Often licence usage can be reduced by between 10% and 20% simply by categorising users and the applications they use regularly.
Finally, look at your support service levels. It is important to marry the business requirements for availability and the time taken to restore a failed service to the architecture of your system.
For example, for single devices in non-critical areas a spares holding or next business day replacement often will suffice. But business critical devices with no resilience need superior maintenance cover.
Fully evaluating your business needs, regarding support, can dramatically change the contract you negotiate with external support suppliers and can save money. Experience shows that organisations can save between 7% and 27% of their maintenance budgets simply by reconciling the asset register with their support contracts.
Support partners will not be lining up to tell you that they think you have too many assets covered on maintenance.
Most of this is industry best practice and is contained within the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).
IT asset management helps and enables ITIL with incident and problem management, change management, release management, IT financial management and capacity management.
Stuart Brown is a services architect with 3net. He is writing on behalf of the British Computer Society.