Q&A with the ITAM Experts

As digital business grows, the shortcomings of traditional ITAM are becoming more apparent – the boundaries between IT technologies and the business blur, new asset classes are appearing, and traditional ITAM taxonomies are no longer fit to fulfill their purposes. Ivanti’s ITAM experts, Patricia Adams, Denny Cannon, Jason Christensen, Todd Labrum, sat down with me to talk about the ways in which traditional ITAM is falling short for Business, how they would advise an organization with an inflexible or failing ITAM process, and where Ivanti can and does help.

What are the shortcomings of traditional ITAM?

(Denny Cannon): “Traditional ITAM has two problems, technical debt and lack of visibility.  Technical debt is the tools, poor data, turn over in personnel, and manual undocumented processes people do to just get the job done.  All that technical debt leads to poor visibility on the state of IT environment, which makes it difficult to be innovative in order to support the business goals.”

(Todd Labrum): Interesting question, as I’ve never thought about “traditional” ITAM before.  To me, traditional ITAM doesn’t exist or at least organizations haven’t done enough with ITAM to get to a point where there is a shift in ITAM methodology.  Maybe that, in of itself, is a shortcoming.  Organizations have yet to understand ITAM and the value that it brings to their environment.  Quite often, I hear companies using spreadsheets to track both their software and hardware assets.  That is a major shortcoming and cripples an organization’s growth.  I believe that once we get past this roadblock, we’ll start to see ITAM evolve more and really see a variation in ITAM thinking.

How and why is traditional ITAM changing?

(Jason Christensen): “Increasing pressure has been placed on IT to be more responsive to complex and unfamiliar demands from new technologies. Complicated data center environments further compound organizational software spend, making assets difficult to track and manage. Limited visibility into those assets could expose valued business-critical applications to significant risk/cost. Data center applications can be challenging to track due to the transitory nature of physical and virtual machines, the complexity of vendors’ licensing agreements, and the frequency of changes to licensing terms and conditions. Traditional ITAM is now challenged to adapt and change with these growing demands.”

How would you advise an organization with an inflexible ITAM process – one that’s not meeting the demands of the digital business?

(Patricia Adams): “Governance is foundational for an effective ITAM program at every level of the attainment model, but I would not say that life cycle management is something that should be ignored. It would be another component of an effective program. We recently saw the effects of not having an effective life cycle management strategy when Wannacry/Wanncrypt infected a massive number of PC’s on a global basis. Lifecycle management would have disclosed that there were risks around unsupported OS’s. One of my favorite sayings about asset management is that it is an insurance program. Without it, the organization is exposed to risks that can impact security, data, privacy, and even government regulations. A lifecycle view will disclose where the risks are so that a conscious decision can be made to address it head on or knowingly accept the risk.”

(Denny Cannon): “I think it’s all about people, process, and then tools — in that order. If companies don’t go back to basics and start with aligning the people to support the business objectives and gather support from the top of the organization down, then ITAM will always be an afterthought. It is only through gaining support at the top of the organization that governance and risk will be reduced through the process and tools used. It will also be due to that same support that new ideas, like unloading the technical debt of maintaining systems and predictive analysis of business needs, will be the goals of the business not the goals of IT.”

(Todd Labrum): “This may seem simple, but if an ITAM process isn’t flexible it’s not ITAM.  ITAM is about managing risk and optimizing spending while still allowing the business to function efficiently. You can’t do that with inflexible processes. In fact, it’s against the “ITAM Bible.” Every process should be evaluated for relevancy and effectiveness on a semi-annual basis. Employees need to have access to the assets they require in a timely manner or they will acquire them elsewhere. Process should never hinder an individual’s work schedule. I would advise organizations to treat ITAM as they would their dog. Keep it well fed, watered, and happy. Organizations are wasting money, and they don’t even realize it. ITAM allows them to identify that waste and help IT be financially efficient.”

Would you agree with Gartner in saying that ITAM should focus more on governance of assets than on hands-on life cycle management? If so, what should that governance look like?

(Jason Christensen): “I definitely agree that businesses should focus their efforts on governance. Without the proper guidance in place, ITAM does not work. You need a governing body to delegate functions for risk and compliance so they don’t fall off radar and expose the business. You need someone to write and enforce policy. For example, users based on their profile and function only have access to hardware and software they are approved for. This policy is enforced to ensure an employee is productive without overspending.”

(Todd Labrum): “I would partially agree with that. I do agree that organizations should focus more on the governance of assets, but I wouldn’t treat hands-on life cycle management any less.  There needs to be a balance between the two. Without governance, you won’t be able to effectively manage the life cycle of your assets, and without hands-on life cycle management, you won’t know how to govern those assets. Plus, organizations still aren’t managing the life cycle of their assets effectively. Many are still using spreadsheets to do that and it just doesn’t cut it. Once organizations have bought in on ITAM and start treating it seriously (aka investing in ITAM), then they’ll be in a position to focus more on the governance of those assets.”

In what ways can Ivanti position themselves to help all the stakeholders in IT Operations?

(Patricia Adams): “Ivanti is uniquely positioned because it offers a complete portfolio of integrated solutions that includes security, ITSM, ITAM and endpoint management. With a solid product offering in each of these categories, Ivanti can offer a technology that can get an organization started, and then, when they are ready for the next step, they can easily add on a complimentary technology to build out a fully integrated, best of breed, one stop shopping from a single vendor. What’s not to like?”

Growth in digital business, advances in technology, and the demand to support new devices is leading to big changes for IT asset management. Do you have what it takes to keep up? Find out here.