For a long time, IT asset management was regarded as little more than a useful housekeeping practice. But today, it has become a strategic business issue that resonates in the boardroom, as the need to control large, complex IT estates forms part of the mandatory, sophisticated governance processes necessary.
Given the importance, it is therefore vital that organisations do not just invest in the right IT asset management tools: they must invest in the creation of an IT business culture that will use these tools correctly. This was the issue examined in Information Age’s most recent webinar, sponsored by technology company Hewlett-Packard.
Without a proper IT asset management structure, there can be no measurement or control of the estate – under the intense security of today’s corporate regulators, that is a risk. Furthermore, such imprudent governance of IT has resulted in overspending on software licences; service level agreements (SLA) may have been allowed to slip.
As Mike Davis, a senior analyst at Ovum points out, IT asset management is about being in control and running an organisation in the best possible way. If you are worrying about licences and SLAs, then you are not spending time running your business, he says.
However, managing software is complex because unlike hardware, it is “not visible to the naked eye”, he says. Licences tend to be on paper while the software comes bundled on a CD or downloaded from the Internet. And once deployed, it is easy to lose track of what is on the system.
The importance of knowing what software staff are installing or downloading cannot be underestimated, says Julian Hobbins, senior legal counsel for the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), a body promoting the legal use of software through enforcement, lobbying and education. But today, “IT is an ivory tower. Nobody really knows what’s going on.”
Ensuring that employees co-operate in a corporate government framework comes down to training and creating awareness. Drawing up software policies, and restrictions on installing can also play a role.
However, the cultural elements are particularly important in ensuring that the investment in software management tools provides a return on investment, says Roger Mallett, senior architect of OpenView at Hewlett-Packard.
Many CIOs are trying to do the best they can within a very difficult working environment: They have a range of goals which they want to achieve and what they are looking for are the right tools to do the job effectively and efficiently, he says. This includes tools that provide easy integration with existing software.
The deployment of an active configuration management database (CMDB) is crucial, he says, helping businesses to recognise the assets within the IT estate and reconcile them against the inventory. This helps to establish areas of non-compliance and it can be a first step towards regaining control, he adds.