Allan Andersen, vice president for Unicenter IT resource management at software provider Computer Associates, seconds that latter point. "Just because you can manage it, doesn't mean you have to or should," he notes. "You have to look at the business benefit." Some assets, such as high-end servers running mission critical applications, may truly need to be tracked at every phase of their lifecycles. For others, such as keyboards or mice, just tracking the purchase for accounting purposes would probably suffice.
Gartner recommends that companies roll out an ITAM project in stages. "It is such a huge project, and there is a lot of process-design work that needs to be done," says Adams. That means spending as much as six to 12 months reviewing, documenting, testing and implementing their processes before putting new tools in place.
Adams adds that the "generic" best practices that apply to any IT implementation also have their place in ITAM projects: creating metrics to document return on investment (ROI), getting senior-level management support for the program and the required process changes, educating end users to ensure adoption, and marketing the program on an ongoing basis to demonstrate the program's ROI.
ITAM project costs will vary, analyst say, depending on how comprehensive the proposed system is to be and how intensively a company plans to manage its assets. Giga's Friedlander suggests that, realistically, a company implementing a "fairly comprehensive" IT asset management program can expect to spend anywhere from $10 to $25 per asset or per seat for the necessary software alone, with perhaps twice that amount for planning and implementation costs. On the other hand, analysts point to a fairly straightforward correlation between the level of investment in ITAM, the intensity of asset management at a company and the ROI that the company is likely to see from better management of its IT assets.
Sidebar: Top Five ITAM Mistakes
iSource Business asked two experts in IT asset management — Patricia Adams, senior analyst for technology consultancy Gartner, and David Friedlander, an industry analyst with consultancy Giga Information Group — to cite the top pitfalls they see in ITAM implementations. The top mistakes they see include the following:
1) Forgetting the process: Just buying some software and thinking that constitutes IT asset management won't get you there, says Friedlander. "The problem with IT asset management is that so much process re-engineering needs to be done," says the analyst, advising companies to focus on the process changes first before introducing new technology.
2) Too far, too fast: IT asset management touches so many processes and so many functions within an enterprise that a slow, staged approach typically works best. "The reason [ITAM projects] tend to fail is because companies try to take it on all at once," Friedlander cautions. "You need to take small bites, evaluate all the processes, how you will use it, who will use it and who will own it."
3) Copycatting: With strategic business objectives, political and cultural issues, and IT budgets varying from one organization to another, Adams says that patterning your own ITAM project on one underway at a competitor or at a similarly sized enterprise doesn't necessarily make sense. "I'm always very fond of saying that it's not 'one size fits all,'" she says.
4) Lost in the shuffle: IT asset management is a complex, long-term project, which leaves it vulnerable to being moved to the bottom of the organization's "to-do" list as other corporate projects come up. "Companies going through reorganizations tend to lose their focus [on IT asset management] and their senior management buy-in to the project," says Adams. "That tends to stall the [ITAM] program."
5) Too big a hammer: As costly as a full-fledged ITAM project is, Friedlander asserts, if, at the end of the day, all a company is getting out of asset management is just knowing what is on its network and what software licenses it owns, it would have done better to use an asset tracking tool, a smaller — and less costly — step to take.
Sidebar: How do you know you're ready for ITAM?
"I'll make a gross generalization," offers David Friedlander of Giga Information Group. "It's probably time to have some sort of auto-discovery or inventory capability if, as the person responsible for IT management, you can't walk out your office door, walk down the hall and see everything you're responsible for."