Why Accurate and Timely Procurement Data is Critical and so Challenging to Capture

Accurate and timely purchase data is critical to ITAM success. Without purchase data, you can only manage what you can find.

Meaningful IT Asset Management (ITAM) is 100% dependent upon accurate and timely asset data. There are two essential data elements required to build a successful ITAM program. First, the organization needs to know what assets should be in the environment. Secondly, the organization needs to know what assets are currently found in the environment.

Knowing what assets should be in the environment is entirely dependent upon knowing what assets have been purchased, leased, or loaned.

Without accurate and timely purchase data, ITAM managers must rely solely on discovery data. The IT industry has many excellent discovery tools capable of identifying and tracking network accessible devices. Discovery data can also include a physical inventory that looks for and documents assets as they are found. Unfortunately, even the most advanced discovery tools along with a comprehensive physical inventory will not be enough to build and sustain a successful ITAM program.

It is not uncommon to hear of asset programs that rely entirely on discovery data to populate and manage assets. I recently met with an asset manager who confidently proclaimed that they were managing over 30,000 assets and had active discovery scans to validate their existence. With one simple question, confidence was turned into uncertainty. I asked, “Are you sure that your company has not purchased more than 30,000 assets?” “What if your company purchased 35,000 assets, where are the remaining 5,000?”

Relying solely on discovery data frequently leads to a lack of accountability in stock management, resulting in asset overspend and operational inefficiencies. In recent years, security demands have further exposed the weakness of discovery data only. Security professionals are now demanding an accurate accounting of all assets that may be in the environment. Organizations like the Center for Internet Security are highlighting the absolute need for an accurate inventory of hardware and software, proclaiming if you don’t know what assets are in the environment, how can you secure them.

Accurate and timely purchase data is critical to ITAM success as it defines the assets that need to be managed. Without purchase data you can only manage what you can find.

Why is Procurement Data so Challenging to Capture?

Most enterprise procurement systems are not designed with asset management in mind. Rather, procurement systems are focused on optimizing the procurement process, getting cost efficient vendor quotes, gathering needed approvals, and working with vendors to make sure that orders are placed, and products are received according to order quantities. Frequently, the data used to process purchase orders does not include the granularity and normalization needed to support the creation of meaningful and accurate asset records. Another limitation of modern-day procurement practices is the omission of capturing line-item serial numbers for all assets received. Without serial numbers, purchase data is of little value to ITAM.

On the surface, the above limitations seem fixable but rarely are. When you combine political barriers, organizational practices “The way it has always been”, and the technical challenges associated with enterprise software modifications, getting accurate and timely asset data from enterprise procurement systems is highly challenging. Frankly, this why so many ITAM programs rely solely on discovery data.

Capture Accurate and Timely Procurement Data from Manufacturers and Resellers.

So, what is to be done when you can’t get usable purchase data from your enterprise procurement systems?

There is a viable alternative. The manufacturers and resellers that provide your IT assts can be an excellent source for timely and accurate asset purchase data.

If your ITAM program is struggling to create accurate asset records from your internal purchasing systems, reach out to your manufacturers and resellers. If you are unsure if your providers offer digital access to your purchase history, reach out to your sales representatives and ask what is possible. Don’t be timid with your request as providers are facing increasing pressure to provide digital access to purchase transactions as way of differentiating themselves from other providers.

Providers use different methods for granting access to purchase transactions, some of the more common methods include:
• Web portal access to view or download data.
• Transaction data sent via automated emails or email attachments.
• API access.
• Manually request a download via a sales or support contact.

You are likely purchasing from more than one provider, so be prepared to consume the data using different methods. Most ITAM tools offer flat-file or API methods to ingest data along with automation capabilities such automated schedulers.

Regardless of the method or source, what matters most is that you are creating asset records based upon purchase activity. When using this method, your asset management team can take action to ensure that all purchased, leased, or loaned assets are accounted for and can be tracked throughout their lifecycles. By using purchase data to populate your repository, discovery data can perform its intended purpose as a validation source confirming that previously identified assets are in the environment and functioning as intended.