IT Asset Management (ITAM) and IT Service Management (ITSM) are both process-based sets of best practices that are providing direction to IT departments across the globe. They are interconnected, working together to achieve goals. Each also has functionality that the other does not and this complexity can be confusing. To an extent, each shares the same processes with common objectives but label it differently (e.g. Vendor Management and Supplier Management, Finance Management, IT Finance Management, and so on). The IAITAM Best Practice Library™ (IBPL) describes Program and Project Management however; the Information Technology Infrastructure Library® (ITIL) for Service Management only introduces Program and Project Management best practices such as PMBOK or Prince II. In any case, they share the common objectives so the processes should be considered the same.
Beyond the simple example above, the similarities and differences between the best practices require further explanation. Best practices are used as a reference model and do not exist as a silo management system. They should co-exist and be unified to achieve holistically-designed, common IT strategic goals. It is best to understand the big picture and know how each model and best practice fits together and interacts so that they can work in harmony towards common goals.
They should not be implemented separately or without understanding big picture, otherwise implementation could be a silo that leads to partial optimization. Creating a roadmap that articulates the relationship of the different reference models and best practices is a critical success factor for holistic optimization, especially for global organizations. The best practices described in the IAITAM Best Practice Library (IBPL) for ITAM and the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) for Service Management are used as the basis for this comparison.
Goals and Objectives
Basic IT Asset Management usually has goals related to financial aspects as well as the mitigation of risks associated with IT assets. They are often presented as:
- Return value to the organization
- Provide visibility into the portfolio of IT assets
- Mitigate risks associated with the assets used (whether owned, free or leased)
- IT Service Management goals are similar to ITAM but are focused on the service to be offered to the customer:
- Return value to the organization
- Provide the expected service outcome for the customer (internal or external)
- Transfer the customer’s risk from owning/using the assets to the service provider
To achieve these goals, the IBPL for IT Asset Management identifies twelve Key Process Areas (KPAs) that must be managed:
- Program Management
- Policy Management
- Communication and Education Management
- Project Management
- Documentation Management
- Financial Management
- Compliance Management
- Legislation Management
- Vendor Management
- Acquisition Management
- Asset Identification Management
- Disposal Management
The ITIL model for ITSM groups processes around the IT service lifecycle with four major categories:
- Service Portfolio Management
- Financial Management
- Demand Management
- Service Level Management
- Service Catalog Management
- Availability Management
- Capacity Management
- Continuity Management
- Security Management
- Supplier Management
- Transition Planning & Support
- Change Management
- Service Asset & Configuration
- Release & Deployment
- Service Validation & Testing
- Knowledge Management
- Incident Management
- Event Management
- Request Fulfillment
- Problem Management
- Access Management
- Service Desk
- Technical Management
- Operations Management
- Application Management
The IBPL explains the actual management processes for tangible assets and how to set up an ITAM program that includes the entire lifecycle of the asset, from request through disposal. ITIL focuses on the user perspective and how IT can operationally satisfy the customer’s request. ITIL does involve the assets, explaining a SACM (Service Asset and Configuration Management) process. While it describes the architecture of a CMS (Configuration Management System) and a CMDB (Configuration Management Database), it does not get into actual management processes of tangible assets.
However, it is obvious that many of the CIs (Configuration Items) that ITIL targets and collects should have their information, such as attributes and relationships, provided by ITAM since ITAM is responsible for asset acquisition, financial information and contractual information.
The ITSM point of view is the user perspective, describing each service product as consisting of the CIs it takes to deliver the service. The mapping is provided by the CMS/CMDB in detail, and it is depicted for the user as the Service Catalogue. Without the CMS/CMDB mapping of what CIs constitute a specific service, it is impossible to document and deliver the service. It is equally impossible to calculate the accumulated cost for appropriate chargeback to the user.
Change Management also relies on understanding the CIs that constitute a specific service. Otherwise, how can you manage a change to that service? Who is providing all of the information about CIs? Many of the details of tangible assets are managed by ITAM and, if not, should be. As a result of successful ITAM implementation, you should have reliable, consistent asset information that can be fed or used by the CMS.
Therefore, it can be said that ITAM is the foundation of the realization of ITSM. Without an effective ITAM implementation, CMS would not be able to maintain CIs of tangible assets. In that case, the Service Catalogue becomes irrelevant and Request Fulfillment does not work, nor Change Management. It is easily shown that ITAM is a critical success factor to ITSM.
The Complementary Relationship
Many large organizations are striving to achieve the service model as the service model makes IT independent and at the same time agile and adaptive. It also changes the IT department from a cost center to a profit center. Technology-oriented IT is now expected to become the “maker” of IT service products, not just be a technical staff who understands Information Technology. IT Service Management means that IT cares about the quality and success of the end product, which matches the perspective of the end users.
In that sense, ITAM is the “BOM” as used in manufacturing. BOM (Bill of Materials) is a critical success factor in determining product quality. That connection is common sense to any maker of products. If you do not have a strong grip on the components and parts that make up your product, you cannot have quality control over your products. It is the exact same situation with the IT Service model where ITSM relies on a successful ITAM implementation. ITAM is BOM. Without BOM, there is no control of IT service products’ quality and no exact understanding of the cost and risk.
The complementary functioning of these best practices is illustrated best with an example. In ITIL, the Release/Deploy Management processes require a test scenario and criteria for what can be released and deployed in the environment. In the IBPL, the KPAs of Compliance Management and Legislation Management provide the details necessary to determine the release/deploy criteria for the environment including specifics about software license compliance.
Capturing the Difference
The difference in viewpoint from asset-centric to user and service-centric leads to different definitions for what constitutes an asset. In IT Asset Management, an asset is the hardware, software and mobile technology used throughout the organization. For IT Service Management, the asset includes:
- Resources such as infrastructure, applications, capital and information
- Capabilities such as management, organization, processes and knowledge
The scope of the IT asset and service asset overlap but are not same:
Figure 1: Service Asset and IT Asset Scope Comparison
For those familiar with IT Service Management, figure 2 includes IT Asset Management in the structure for ITIL:
Figure 2: Role of ITAM in ITIL
IT Asset Management Foundational to ITSM
The relationship between ITIL’s management processes and the IBPL’s management processes is complementary, with ITAM providing the foundation of control and information necessary for Service Management. It is fair to say that IT operations in the ITSM model would not be successful without the discipline of IT Asset Management.
Figure 3: ITAM Working with ITSM
In order to successfully implement ITAM with ITSM, create a holistic strategy and roadmap that identifies the common processes with the additions introduced by ITAM and also highlights the interfaces between the two different sets of processes. These processes can be united and work together seamlessly to achieve common goals. Note that ITSM may not articulate the necessity of BPR (Business Process Re-engineering) across different departments, but ITAM requires BPR across different departments as well as different organizations when necessary. One example is Software Asset Optimization. If your organization is part of a large group of organizations, with multiple entities domestically and globally, then chances are good that Vendor Management (Supplier Management), Contract Management and Finance Management will need cross-organizational unification of the software asset management processes and agreements in the roadmap before the holistic optimization can bring the costs to the most optimized level.
IT technology paved the way towards holistic optimization by acting on “consolidation,” “virtualization,” “resource pooling” and “hybrid cloud” goals. However, in order to optimize the technological advancements, IT needs to become a maker of services products and a 1st tier service provider. It takes more than technological advancement, requiring streamlining of the technology and making monetary sense for appropriate chargeback instead of depending on a hunch. It can be done if the big picture and roadmap are shared, and if the roadmap is consistent despite referencing more than one set of best practices. Rome was not built in a day and the effort can feel more like evolution. It is worth the investment supporting IT as it matures into a group committed to end user results.