Imagine you’re in an office. Look around – how many computers do you see? How many smartphones, tablets, printers, and screens? Then try to picture all the digital resources you can’t see: software, apps, Wi-Fi routers, servers. Finally, factor in the devices and software used by employees working remotely across different locations worldwide. Now you have an idea of the breadth and complexity of a modern enterprise’s IT ecosystem. To ensure this ecosystem stays efficient and secure, each component needs to be identified and managed by an IT team, a process known as IT asset management. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve compiled insights into the challenges, benefits, stages, and best practices of IT asset management to give you a better understanding of the process.
What is IT asset management?
IT asset management, or ITAM, is the process of monitoring and optimizing the use of IT assets throughout their lifecycle within an organization. IT assets include any kind of hardware, software, network devices, and systems that are of value. As the digital landscape becomes more complex, with more users operating multiple devices, and employees working from home, it gets harder for IT and procurement teams to keep track of all deployed IT assets. IT asset management solutions can help them identify, monitor, and manage assets effectively.
Why does IT asset management matter?
Regardless of the industry, nearly every SMB and enterprise operates in a complex digital environment that is constantly changing. To keep up with the pace of digital transformation without getting lost in the weeds, IT teams need to have clear visibility of their entire digital ecosystem. At the same time, managers need up-to-date data to make informed decisions about adopting new technologies or setting IT budgets. Establishing a reliable and comprehensive asset management system enables businesses to keep pace with technology trends while at the same time optimizing costs and productivity.
What types of IT asset management are there?
IT asset management can encompass many different types of assets: software assets, cloud-based assets, hardware assets, mobile assets, servers, networks – the list goes on. Here are three main types of IT asset management:
Software asset management
Software assets are digital tools and programs that create value within an organization. They can include operating systems (OS), business applications, productivity and collaboration software, and development tools.
Hardware asset management
Hardware assets are physical devices and equipment that are used for business purposes. Common hardware assets include desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, servers, printers, and the likes.
Hardware asset management is the process of discovering, tracking, and managing these assets, performing maintenance, and ensuring they comply with internal security and usage policies. It also includes the management of hardware upgrades and warranty extensions.
Network asset management
Network assets are components of your organization’s digital network that enable or regulate the information flow between devices. Network assets can be physical assets such as routers and switches, or digital assets like firewalls and virtual private networks (VPNs).
Network asset management involves the discovery, tracking, and management of network assets to ensure efficient and secure data transfer within your network. This can include managing configurations, monitoring network traffic, and identifying network assets that require maintenance or troubleshooting.
What are challenges in IT asset management and how can they be overcome?
Managing a vast variety of IT assets across an enterprise can seem like a daunting task. Indeed, IT technicians face several challenges when it comes to asset management but if you know how to tackle these challenges, they don’t necessarily pose a problem.
Managing change and complexity
In IT management, as in life, change is the only constant. People, devices, software, and regulations in your company are always evolving, so maintaining oversight of your IT infrastructure can be difficult. Asset management software that lets you automate tasks like deploying software updates and changing user permissions can help you keep up with your IT landscape.
Managing a hybrid workforce
Asset management was demanding enough when IT assets were confined to company premises. But since the proliferation of remote work and bring your own device (BYOD) policies, IT asset management has become even more complex. Choose an asset management solution with remote access and management capabilities to have all your assets accessible from one place.
Managing shadow IT
Despite your IT team’s best efforts to provide employees with the IT assets they need, employees still use hardware or software that wasn’t authorized by IT – also known as shadow IT. This poses security risks because the IT team remains unaware of these assets and therefore can’t address software vulnerabilities or verify that they comply with data protection policies. As a result, shadow IT is particularly vulnerable to exploitation by cyber criminals. You can eliminate shadow IT by running an automated asset discovery with the help of your asset management solution. This enables you to identify any IT resources being used without your knowledge and take appropriate action.
What are the benefits of using an IT asset management solution?
With the right tools, you can streamline your asset management processes and ultimately improve efficiency throughout your entire organization. Discover the benefits of using an automated asset management solution.
An IT asset management solution not only identifies the assets in your ecosystem and collects asset data but also provides you with a central place where all this data is stored. In addition to that, many asset management solutions can filter out important information and visualize data such as the number of deployed mobile devices or missing software patches. This saves time for your IT team and enables managers to make informed, data-based decisions.
The upfront investment in asset management software is quickly offset by the cost savings made possible through the optimization of asset usage. The asset management software helps you track the usage of each deployed piece of hardware and software, so you can reallocate underused assets to ensure you are getting the most out of each resource. Usage monitoring also lets you avoid overprovisioning and identify unauthorized assets (shadow IT) that weren’t budgeted for.
A central, automated asset management solution improves productivity across your entire organization. Your IT department saves time by automating administrative tasks and managing every asset from one dashboard. At the same time, optimized asset provisioning and faster identification and resolution of issues minimize end user downtime and keep everyone working productively.
Ensure security and compliance
With an asset management solution that can detect and monitor all IT assets in your infrastructure and generate automated reports, you can mitigate the risks associated with shadow IT. We recommend you set up monitoring checks and device policies to certify every device and software package complies with your security standards. You can eliminate software vulnerabilities by detecting and deploying software patches automatically.
How are IT assets managed along their lifecycle?
A good asset management system continuously monitors IT assets throughout each stage of their lifecycle. The lifecycle may be defined differently by every organization, but a common approach is to divide it into six stages: planning, procurement, deployment, operation, monitoring and maintenance, and retirement and disposal.
Stage 1: Planning
In the planning stage, a need is identified by the relevant users and decision makers. After that, important factors such as the required asset type and the quantity are defined.
Example: Employees voice a need for handheld tablets. The IT and procurement teams recognize this need, assess which tablet features are required, and decide how many employees will receive a tablet.
Stage 2: Procurement
In this stage, it’s decided whether the new asset will be built in-house, purchased, leased, or licensed. Decision makers compare their different options and select a partner or vendor.
Example: The IT and procurement teams work together to compare tablet vendors, request several quotes, and finally purchase 300 new Android tablets from a well-known mobile device manufacturer.
Stage 3: Deployment
In the deployment phase, the IT team installs the new asset in the IT infrastructure by configuring the asset and distributing it to the right users. Asset management software can facilitate configuration tasks by enabling IT technicians to perform them remotely.
Example: The IT team sets up the new tablets, configuring the permissions and security settings according to company policies, and installs relevant apps.
Stage 4: Operation
This should be the longest stage in the asset lifecycle. As users operate the asset, the asset management system automatically analyzes usage patterns and identifies opportunities for usage optimization.
Example: The asset management system analyzes tablet usage which helps the IT team decide which employees require additional apps, permissions, or a device upgrade. It also lets them identify users who aren’t using their tablet according to company policies.
Stage 5: Monitoring and maintenance
The monitoring and maintenance stage may be in parallel with the operation stage. Asset management software can identify which assets are in need of preventative maintenance and generate alerts when emergency maintenance is required. Some asset management tools can also be used to remotely deploy updates or software patches.
Example: The IT team uses the asset management tool to monitor device health aspects such as battery and storage and receives an alert when a tablet requires immediate attention. The team uses the same tool to remotely provision operating system (OS) updates, app updates, and new apps.
Step 6: Retirement and disposal
At some point, each asset reaches the end of its working life. The decision to retire an asset is supported by the data accumulated in the asset management system. Once the decision has been made, a plan is needed to transition users to an alternative solution and to dispose of the old asset. The IT and procurement teams may need to terminate a license or subscription at this point.
Example: The IT team observes a significant drop in battery health within the first year of use for several of the devices. The team decides to transition to a different tablet vendor. The asset lifecycle begins for the new tablet while the old devices are collected, wiped of all company data, and donated to a local school.
What are best practices for IT asset management?
- Start with a detailed inventory: Survey and document every IT asset in your organization. Make sure you choose an asset management solution that can automatically discover the assets on your network.
- Take a lifecycle-based approach: Track your IT assets throughout their lifecycle. This allows you to maximize their value at each lifecycle stage and gather data to support future decisions.
- Centralize asset data and management: Choose an asset management tool that gives you easy access to asset details, provides the capabilities you need to remotely monitor and manage each asset, and facilitates collaboration within your team.
- Enforce security: When monitoring the assets on your network, ensure they comply with your security requirements. Centrally manage software updates and patch deployments to mitigate the risk of software vulnerabilities.
- Audit your assets regularly: Conduct regular assessments of your asset inventory to verify its accuracy, ensure compliance with license agreements, and to optimize asset usage across your organization.
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