Recently, a number of ITSM vendors have introduced IT Asset Management capabilities.
It’s an interesting shift since ITAM used to be seen as something separate and different from IT Service Management. I even found an old presentation I gave many years ago entitled “ITSM or ITAM–Which Is Right?” which reminded me that these used to be seen as two separate disciplines.
Now, most of the premier ITSM toolset vendors offer an asset variant or add-on pack, and a few of the specialist ITAM vendors are starting to add ITSM capabilities. The whole subject of ITxM– the blending of these two best practice models into one single combined framework–is well-described on our other blogs, so I won’t dig too deep into that in this post.
What I will do is look at why ITSM tools themselves are good for ITAM, and also highlight what to look for in a combined ITAM and ITSM solution.
Why use ITSM tools for ITAM purposes?
One reason is that ITSM tools are already built to guide people through the processes of managing data, objects, and activities. ITAM involves the management of both data and assets–and all the activities surrounding those. It’s almost a perfect fit.
Another reason to use ITSM tools for ITAM purposes is because duplication these days is (mostly) crazy.
I visited one organisation recently that was publishing their new Asset Management software request site to the business. It was an App Store experience to get to the software that people use to do their jobs. And, elsewhere, unconnected, there was also a self-service request catalog where end-users could request software and services from IT.
The customer was having a deep analysis and debate as to why and how they could force their SAM request App Store into their ITSM self-service, and how the two systems could be integrated. It was going to be long and expensive.
Yet, stepping back, it’s clear that there should always be one place to visit to get help and to get the things you need. A request for software is no different from a request for a desk-cleaning service. The only difference is the method of fulfillment, ideally automated for software, and providing that App Store experience.
All things are assets, too
This one seems a little confusing. It’s not–bear with me.
Assets are defined objects of business value. They may or may not be recognized as Service Assets or Configuration Items. An IT service is made up of Configuration Items and other Service Assets. Some Service Assets may not be ITAM managed assets. Those ITAM assets may or may not be used in delivering an IT Service.
Am I making your head spin? All I’m saying is that the things we manage (and some we don’t) need to be identified and recorded. They also need to be made available with the relevant data to the right people based on their roles. That’s exactly what ITSM tools are very good at. Role-based visibility of objects and data.
In the flow
Here are some very similar things: Requests. Changes. Asset lifecycles. Contract management processes. HR on- and off-boarding workflow. Incidents. Knowledge articles.
These are all variants of one concept: the process. A defined and repeatable sequence of steps that guide people and technology through the correct actions in the right way at the right time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s ITAM, ITSM, or whatever other four-letter acronym you want to put in there. Some of these–request, change, HR–are also denied and used as shared processes equally across ITAM and ITSM.
So, for good ITAM with good asset lifecycles and good asset management processes, you need a tool that lets you design and follow processes. And there is nothing better than ITSM tools for that.
Those are just some of the most obvious examples.
What to look for in an ITAM solution that also provides ITSM capability:
1. Code-free design
ITAM tool users tend to be less technical and less inclined to invest time and effort designing their solution to match their business. There is a higher expectation of prebuilt or easily modifiable capability. So if an ITSM tool requires you to write code to perform basic behavior changes, then it’s going to be too heavy for ITAM modification. If an ITSM tool needs a full-time software developer, it’s no good.
So if an ITSM tool requires you to write code to perform basic behavior changes, then it’s going to be too heavy for ITAM modification. If an ITSM tool needs a full-time software developer, it’s no good.
2. State engine
One of the core concepts in ITAM is the asset lifecycle. You can’t really manage the life of IT assets without one or multiple lifecycles defining those lives. And–as with any good process tool–you should only be able to get to a certain STATE by passing through the previous STATE, by performing the relevant actions to move things on. It should be impossible to move
It should be impossible to move asset to AVAILABLE without if first having at some stage being RECEIVED into the business. You can’t just move a DISPOSED asset into PROVISIONING (since, after all, it isn’t there anymore). That’s the concept of a state engine. If your ITAM/ITSM tool lets you just drop-down a list of random statuses and pick a different status with no lifecycle state transition, it’s not good.
3. Process to process
As described, if using a process-workflow tool, you really don’t want to have to move each asset to a new status by picking the new status. Equally, you don’t want to do the movement through the lifecycle on a ‘by hand’. A good ITAM and ITSM tool moves assets from one State to another as a byproduct of people and technology performing other processes.
For example, when a user requests a new laptop, fulfilling that request should move the asset to ALLOCATED. If you have to go into the detail of the asset and move it to ALLOCATED, that’s not good.
ITAM needs self-service. ITAM solutions without self-service force asset requests through other systems and break ITAM. If your asset solution can’t show end users a view of My Assets and allow them to request new assets or services, then it’s not good.
5. Lights, camera, ACTION
This one is very important. ITAM tools now need good automation, which includes–as an obvious example–automatic delivery and recovery of software assets across multiple user environments. It also includes reclamation of unused licenses. If your ITAM tool cannot deliver and recover, it’s not good.
6. Full strength discovery, inventory, and normalization–tightly integrated
Here an ITSM tool typically starts to struggle to match up to needs. Yet IT asset management needs to see and know what it out there in the managed estate. So there is a challenge – if you are introducing ITAM on the same platform as your ITSM tool, it is unlikely to come with prebuilt, pre-integration, and ready to roll discovery, inventory, and normalization. But it should.
In summary, why are ITSM tools increasingly being seen as new platforms to deliver ITAM solutions? Because ITSM tools already have many concepts and capabilities now recognized as vital for ITAM.
What should you be looking for in an ITAM tool if you are also considering the overlap with ITSM usage either now or in the future? Well, I’d start with the six points above. If your ITAM solution can do those six points, then you can be sure that you are on a safe path.
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