Investing in an ITAM Discovery Tool – Convincing Management

By Keith Bennett & Tyson Hiner, FAA

One of the most difficult aspects of being an Information Technology Asset Manager can be convincing management to invest in an Information Technology Asset Management (ITAM) discovery tool. In an organization as large as ours, a discovery tool is an important first step in building an ITAM program. However, it can be difficult to explain how an ITAM discovery tool can save money for an organization. If an organization has an existing IT tool in place for delivering software, describing the differences between it and an ITAM discovery tool to management may prove to be challenging. This process may take weeks, months, or even years; patience is the ally of any asset manager. Our patience was rewarded after more than three years of research and promoting ITAM, and we were finally able to convince management that an ITAM discovery tool is a smart investment. To do that, we focused on three aspects of an ITAM discovery tool: daily operations, decision support and license management.

Daily Operations

Daily operations are the tasks IT technicians perform regularly, such as computer setups and rebuilds. We performed extensive research and testing of different methods of deploying (or rebuilding) computers. This was a daunting task since we support more than 5500 computers. We were already utilizing an imaging process that had reduced deployment time significantly, but customer (end user) down time was still too long. Using an ITAM discovery tool, our IT technicians can gather data about the customer’s current machine (such as software licenses, printer and network drive mapping, and installed software) from the technician’s desk without interrupting the customer’s work. When presenting this to management, we showed that by exploiting this aspect of an ITAM discovery tool, customer down time would be significantly reduced.

Decision Support

Secondly, we focused on requests for information from upper management. These data calls (as we call them) would require us to gather data from numerous sources, then compile, filter and format it to give the manager what he/she needs. This is usually something like; “how many computers do we have in our environment that cannot handle Windows 7?” or “How many computers need to be updated before we deploy software X?” Getting this information has always been a tedious task, often taking three or more technicians many hours to accomplish. When choosing an ITAM discovery tool, we made sure we purchased one that has all the features we needed. This included being able to see details about every computer in our environment such as amount of RAM (including open sockets), hard disk drive size (and how much room is available), date of manufacture (to determine if the warranty is still valid) and even the serial number of the monitor(s). Once our ITAM discovery tool is completely deployed and working, our IT asset manager (one technician) can reply to data calls within minutes. In addition to answering data calls, we can now become more proactive by producing reports for hardware refreshes, prohibited software, or even recalled hardware. When it comes to IT decision support, there is no better tool than an ITAM discovery tool.

License Management

Lastly and possibly most importantly, is software license management. Because we have several organizations that purchase and manage their own specialized software, license management has been spotty at best. As you can imagine, licenses went unused and were often purchased multiple times because management had no idea how many of each license they owned. Not all discovery tools have license management functionality but our discovery tool requirements included being able to capture the license keys to gain improved control over the distributed environment. The cost savings and control to be gained from this functionality were persuasive to management. The first step we are taking is to capture that licensing information from computers as they are replaced. This is expected to reduce, or possibly eliminate, purchasing redundant licenses. Once fully implemented, our ITAM discovery tool will allow us to track all licenses across all organizations. Not only will we be able to capture licenses from replaced computers, we will be able to let management know what licenses they have available (e.g. for a new employee or someone that has taken on other duties). Furthermore, we can track software usage and report to management on software underutilization. For instance, if someone has software on their computer but never uses it, that software can be redistributed to an employee who needs it. There is no need to purchase another copy. This type of software license reporting can be done reactively (i.e. “tell me who has XYZ and who is using it”) or proactively (the system is set up to give periodic reports on software utilization). Software licenses can be very expensive. Proper utilization is a key to curbing this expense and the proper ITAM discovery tool will help you control software utilization.

That is it; the three distinct and very important functions of an ITAM discovery tool we used to convince management. Of course there are countless others and you will need to determine what is most important to your specific environment and focus on that. But this will give you a starting point and a little leverage to get management thinking like you think – like an IT Asset Manager.

About the Author

Keith Bennett is the Computer Specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration.