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What is wrong with ITAM?

IT asset management should be an important pillar in an organisation's digital transformation journey, but it doesn't seem to be working

The IT asset management (ITAM) industry too often fails to deliver consistent value and protection to businesses that are seeking to optimise their IT investments, and it only has itself to blame.

This is not an easy thing for me to say, since I am part of this industry. But I am also an optimist. I believe that if the industry pulls together, we can make ITAM and software asset management (SAM) a truly powerful value proposition to all businesses.

Industry bias

There is asymmetry of power between the major software providers and their customers, which are generally far smaller businesses. This allows them to drive the agenda.

These monopolistic tendencies result in a failure to adopt cross-industry standards, propagating obscure licensing frameworks, restricting access to critical licensing information and continuing with aggressive audits, which make it very difficult to be a customer.

It is challenging enough for a customer organisation to not fall foul of a supplier’s licensing enforcement, let alone ensure they are on the best deal possible and ensuring IT budgets are fully optimised.

Challenges with SAM

Software asset management programmes are not delivering business value. The creation of a SAM or wider ITAM programme within an organisation is often driven by events. ITAM and SAM projects that are stood up purely to respond to an audit tend not to deliver value that is sustainable.

Our industry is full of effect licence providers (ELP) who don’t go far beyond the number crunching, but often this work is not followed up with meaningful insights into the best course of action for the client. This work should be a part of the means to an end, not the end itself as there is little value in an ELP as an end product.

I am not here to trash SAM tools in any way. There is now a healthy range of tool suppliers on the market. When correctly configured and adequately managed, SAM tools can automate hugely complex and laborious licence management tasks.

But in the same way that no accounting software can make you an instant accountant, no SAM tool will make untrained IT staff into a software asset manager overnight. The result? “Ghost” SAM tools become the very problem they were designed to address because organisations underestimate the amount of work required to use them effectively.

In the past few years, outsourcing the ITAM or SAM operation to a managed service provider has become an increasingly popular choice for larger enterprises. While there are undoubtedly successes in some SAM managed services, both myself and my team are still constantly called in to firefight vendor audit claims caused by poorly designed or delivered managed services.

Lack of skills and accreditations

IT asset management, and in particular the area of software asset management, is still a very young industry and the number of dedicated professionals globally is low. This means that many organisations operate with no dedicated ITAM or SAM professionals. As a whole, the industry does a poor job of attracting new recruits into an ITAM career, with no defined career pathways.

Then there is accreditation. Despite the global ISO19770 standard having existed since 2013, there is currently no formal accreditation to promote and realise the value of these standards. 

So what is wrong with ITAM. To sum up, we have an industry filled with “ghost tools” that have been running with zero or poor data for years, ELPs that no one reads or cares about (despite having taken a lot of time and effort to be created). Then there are the “top tips guides” published by marketing teams and analysts with no frontline experience and “SAM specialists” who claim on their CVs to have two years of relevant experience in all supplier licensing. And, lastly, we have ISO 19770, the global ITAM standard that no one can actually be certified in.

Thankfully, The ITAM Forum, of which FisherITS is a founding member, has the ambition to change this by developing the world’s first organisational accreditation for ISO19770.

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