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Why ITAM can aid IT-fuelled business recovery

As a sense of normality returns, we look at why IT asset management is the stealth tool for clearing a path towards greater digitisation

Over the course of the past decade, IT asset management (ITAM) has been slowly increasing its influence. Apart from the people in finance, few senior business executives lose sleep over IT assets, but they are, of course, deeply concerned if a critical system fails brings down the business or if there is a major security breach.

IT asset management used to be considered the back-office, operationally focused team that simply “counted computers”. The ITAM Forum claims that ITAM has progressed and has pulled itself out of the basement and up to the more senior levels of the business.

According to research conducted by the ITAM Review, 37% of ITAM practitioners reported to the C-suite in 2018, compared with 45% reporting to the more operationally focused IT service management in 2011.

“Cost savings are typically the main justification for a strong ITAM function,” Martin Thompson, founder of the ITAM Forum, said. “If you consider that roughly a third of software is wasted or unused, regardless of whether it is desktop software, software-as-a-service [SaaS] subscriptions or cloud infrastructure, the cost savings from ITAM alone justify its existence.”

Given that SaaS applications are booming, Thompson said that ITAM enables organisations to look at what they are spending the most on, measure actual usage and discover who is using which SaaS products.

This becomes increasingly important as normal business practices start resuming post Covid-19, according to Thompson, who added that “ITAM has a role to play post-pandemic”.

In terms of cutting costs and licence optimisation, compliance with software agreements is the reason that many ITAM projects are started. In Thompson’s experience, a sound ITAM strategy avoids a costly and disruptive software publisher audit.

At the same time, as organisations look at making the best use of existing licences, software publishers are looking at the post-pandemic opportunities to sell more software. Analyst house Gartner recently discussed how the pandemic has put IT leaders in a string position to progress their IT strategies.

The industry also recognises this, and among the tools at its disposal is to target existing customers with audits to check that they are not under-licensed. “Audits are still there,” Thompson said. “But it is more speculative and, in some parts of the world, the number of audits is growing.”

He said that software license compliance is an obvious benefit of good ITAM, but its value as perceived by management often decreases after two or three years of successful avoidance of bad audit results. 

Thompson said that risk management is another of the major benefits that good ITAM brings, but the categories used are typically different. Risks include financial risk, such as when the organisation faces a fine for running unlicensed or pirated software; operational risk; regulatory compliance risk; and reputational risk. Thompson said that ITAM also feeds into cyber security, and has a role to play in helping organisations to meet their sustainability objectives.

According to Thompson, a significant business benefit for ITAM in the 2020s will be business agility. “The better the visibility of what you have, where it’s located, how it’s configured, and how it’s being used, the faster you can change, and the more quickly a business can transform,” he said.

This is where ITAM fits in with the digital transformation strategy. Budgets are limited and business leaders recognise the importance of streamlining operations. ITAM provides organisations with an understanding of the products they have deployed and whether there are unused licenses or spare lT capacity that can be utilised.

Armed with this knowledge, Thompson said ITAM can help procurement teams buy the right things to empower innovation and business transformation. “Visibility of the adoption of new technology through ITAM-generated usage data ensures that the investment made delivers on its ROI [return on investment] forecast,” he added.

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