Some time ago, I watched as a house was completely built and then completely dismantled because of a mistake made in the foundation.

IT discovery is an important foundation for IT asset management (ITAM) solutions, much like the foundation of a house is crucial before you can add the walls, roof, windows, electrical, and plumbing.

If your discovery information is inaccurate, you will be unable to rely on the reports that are produced.

In an article published by Computer Weekly, almost 66 percent of IT managers admit to not having a completely accurate record of their IT assets.

To ensure accuracy for your ITAM solution, avoid the following mistakes that are often made when implementing IT asset discovery.

1. Don’t confuse an audit with discovery

Gartner defines discovery as follows:

IT asset management (ITAM) entails collecting inventory, financial and contractual data to manage the IT asset throughout its life cycle. ITAM depends on robust processes, with tools to automate manual processes. Capturing and integrating autodiscovery/inventory, financial and contractual data in a central repository for all IT assets enables the functions to effectively manage vendors and a software and hardware asset portfolio from requisition through retirement, thus monitoring the asset’s performance throughout its life cycle.

IT asset discovery is an ongoing process that should be automated, whereas an audit is a one-time event.

For example, if you send a tech to document all PCs in the organization, you will have an inventory database that has a very short life before it becomes out-of-date and unreliable. Unless this process is repeated on a regular basis, it is simply an audit.

When ITAM discovery tools are deployed onto the network, your asset inventory will stay current. Discovery tools not only take inventory of devices connected to the network, but they also account for devices not connected to the network.

ITAM discovery tools can alert IT asset managers to changes in a timely manner.

Furthermore, IT assets that do not report into the ITAM solution can be flagged as missing, which is an important requirement from a security perspective.

2. Avoid discovering assets that are not relevant to your objectives

Avoid complicating the ITAM solution by attempting to do too much up front.

An asset management solution needs to mature. Asset processes will probably be altered and perfected over time. If the ITAM solution is too complicated, chances are it will fail.

Make sure the organization know the answers to the following questions:

  • Why do we need ITAM?
  • What IT assets need to be tracked?
  • How often do IT assets need to report back to the ITAM solution before they are flagged?
  • What information will be required in the ITAM reports and dashboards?

Without a clear understanding of your ITAM objectives, it will be difficult to define what should be discovered and monitored.

For example, if the organization’s objective is to track software licenses, then it makes sense to discover software and the hardware that is hosting the software.

It would not make sense to include switches, printers, and routers in the discovery process at this stage of your project. Be sure to allow your ITAM solution to be perfected and to mature before expanding the ITAM solution to include additional IT assets such as switches, routers, and printers.

If you keep the solution simple in the beginning, you will increase the chances for success.

A simple, successful ITAM solution can be matured and expanded into a larger and more reliable ITAM solution than a larger,  unreliable ITAM solution that requires constant troubleshooting and changes.

3. Don’t architect discovery until you know what type of reports are required

Reports and dashboards that are created from an ITAM solution are critical for success.

ITAM evangelist Patricia Adams wrote: “…by having an understanding of the benefits that a complete end-to-end solution can provide, CIOs, CFOs and chief security officers (CSOs) will be better able to address the issues they are facing (many unknowingly) within their particular organization.”

When you have a clear understanding of the type of reports needed for the ITAM solution, you will be much more focused when defining what IT asset information needs to be discovered.

Additionally, with accurate and relevant report data, you will be able to implement Business Value Dashboards (BVD).

BVDs enable the IT department to display technical information from the ITAM reports in a format that even non-IT managers can understand.

If you successfully show BVDs to non-IT management and executives, the value of the IT department—along with the ITAM project—will show executives a value versus a cost to the organization. BVDs make it easy for executives to make informed decisions regarding IT acquisitions, which ultimately save the organization money.


IT asset discovery is a foundation to an ITAM solution. Without clear ITAM objectives, it will be difficult to define what is needed for reports and dashboards. As a result, discovery tools will probably discover too much or too little.

Without a good discovery solution, the ITAM data will be unreliable, thereby costing the organization money to either fix it or start over.

Be sure to avoid these common mistakes by defining ITAM objectives and by keeping the ITAM solution simple while allowing it to mature. Otherwise, you could burden your IT employees with unnecessary tasks or overwhelm them with too much information that is not relevant to your ITAM objectives.

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