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A new industry body, the IT asset management (Itam) Forum, has been established to promote and showcase best practices.
Martin Thompson, founder of the Itam Forum, said: “It is my view (and personal goal) that IT asset management deserves to become a de facto business practice within every organisation, in the same vein as other common disciplines, such as marketing, HR and accounting. Itam is an essential prerequisite for a modern, digitally enabled business.”
With the global economy frozen during the coronavirus lockdown, business recovery will inevitably lead to organisations looking at ways to cut costs, just as they did in the financial crisis of 2008. Thompson said he expects an increase in demand for software asset management as businesses look at how to reduce ongoing software licensing and maintenance costs. This also applies to cloud subscriptions.
Thompson said that in his experience, software as a service (SaaS) tends to be purchased by line-of-business managers rather than central IT. This leads to uncontrolled costs and, in some cases, potential data privacy issues.
Thompson said he recognises the need for Itam to work alongside enterprise architects and IT procurement to ensure line-of-business managers can get the best volume discounts from the software they plan to buy, or are able to utilise a SaaS subscription to save money.
Cost savings are the main justification for a strong Itam function, he said. “If you consider that roughly a third of software is wasted or unused, regardless of whether it is desktop software, SaaS subscriptions or cloud infrastructure, the cost savings from Itam alone justify its existence,” he said.
The general consensus among industry watchers is that the slowdown in the global economy is leading to cuts in IT spending, and Thompson warned: “There is also a perceived threat of more audits.”
According to Thompson, this is what happened during the banking crisis of 2008, which led to greater interest in software asset management in IT departments to reduce the risk of running unlicensed applications.
He said non-compliance with software agreements is the reason many Itam projects are started, because of a costly and disruptive software audit. Software licence compliance is therefore an obvious benefit of good Itam, although its value as perceived by management often decreases after two or three years of successful operation.
Thompson suggested that organisations with strong Itam practices are probably less likely to be audited by a software provider. “Audit practices in software companies are run like a business,” he said. “They look at data across industry and at signals.”
For instance, a company that is growing is likely to consume more software, he said, adding: “Auditing is expensive. It is not cheap to hire one of the big four auditors.”
According to Thompson, having strong Itam practices sends a strong message to software providers that the organisation’s software asset management housekeeping is in order. He suggested they are then more likely to look elsewhere for software licensing discrepancies, rather than pursue a costly audit at a company whose software is more likely to be fully licensed.
Enhanced security is another benefit of having a strong Itam, said Thompson. He predicted close links forming between Itam and information security professionals as one of the most important areas for Itam development in the 2020s. Itam can help bring visibility and control, which can help IT security lock down vulnerable systems and patch appropriately, he said.