There’s a saying that goes back for centuries about contract law: A contract is a contract is a contract.

But if you have been an IT Asset Manager long enough, you know those black and white words quickly become gray when dealing with software license agreements. In 2020, The International Association of IT Asset Managers, Inc. (IAITAM) predicts that IT Asset Managers will be required to become more well versed in managing contracts. These contracts govern the do’s and don’ts that an organization must follow pertaining to software licenses and their usage. Sometimes, it’s hard to know exactly what you are agreeing to.

IAITAM predicts this shift will foster the addition of a new skill set to IT Asset Management (ITAM): the role of contract managers. It’s one of a few of the association’s annual predictions of how ITAM practitioners will need to adjust their duties and team relationships as technology and business evolve in the New Year.

With that, IAITAM, the association with its pulse on the ITAM industry, releases a few of its ideas of what is to come this year.

  1. Legal Links
    It’s become common practice. Instead of sitting down with a vendor and crafting a long-term, value-added agreement with a win-win for both sides, vendors have somewhat changed their ways. Hidden behind a hyperlink that is editable and can greatly affect an organization are the contract terms for software licenses. Although the vendors often advise end-users that these terms are equivalent to the end-user agreeing that the individual has read and accepts the Ts & Cs, the reality is that the click stating “I Agree” happens most frequently without reading the contract. Often, there is little choice in doing so: Either accept to the terms, or don’t use the product.These hyperlinked agreements can be a dangerous venture in any IT environment. Ts & Cs in those documents may not be in the best interest of the organization. Furthermore, when no one reads the text, IT Asset Managers no longer know what the organization has agreed to and been responsible for.  To compound the issue, the vendor can change what’s embedded in the contract simply by updating the language on the URL, and often without the knowledge of the person who accepted the original agreement.IT Asset Managers can mitigate the risk of potential damage from these types of contracts, but it will take some work. Setting policies to prevent end-users from agreeing to contract URLs without the knowledge of the ITAM team and working with an organization’s Legal and Human Resources departments is a good place to start. But practitioners also should be prepared to understand the basics of contract management and reading through those boilerplate documents themselves.IAITAM predicted this for 2019 and it came to pass. However, the size and scope at which the industry has adopted this model was significantly faster than anticipated. As such, IT Asset Managers will need to manage the contracts as much as the software themselves. Frequently changing contracts means an IT Asset Management Program must be more robust and timely, performing invoice and contract reconciliations more often. Interacting with existing contract practices and contract management systems in your company will be a key indicator of robust practices.
  2. A-la Carte Buying
    Acquisition is a Key Process Area because it is necessary to set standards on what can and cannot be accepted into the IT environment. In a mature ITAM program, all IT acquisitions go through the Acquisition Manager or Acquisition Personnel and are often based on purchases using trusted vendors and from a standard catalog. This permits acquisition to act as a gatekeeper for IT assets entering the environment and for IT Asset Managers to manage by exception.But when the power of buying is placed in the hands of anyone in the organization, it decentralizes the acquisition process. In 2020, IAITAM believes this could become a real concern and game changer for ITAM. In fact, some vendors already have begun testing the idea. In the fall of 2019, Microsoft announced that it would allow end-users to buy specific add-ons to some of its software programs. It also made it impossible for an organization to turn off that feature for its users. In doing so, the Redmond-based software giant took the power out of the hands of IT Asset Managers to effectively govern their IT environment. The issue raised other concerns beyond just permitting untested and unverified software into the environment. It also disrupted reconciliation in the repository with the Finance Department, and impacted IT security with unfettered IT environment complexity and little recourse to mitigate the risk.After an outcry from IT Asset Managers and an article from IAITAM about the problems the vendor’s action could cause, Microsoft relented. It gave IT administrators the ability to turn off the feature within their own environments as they see necessary. It was a victory for the power of ITAM centralization – for now. But IAITAM believes business-based buying is a sign of things to come as other vendors start offering end-users a way to acquire auditable software into the environment and circumvent the IT Standardization and Acquisition processes.
  3. How About We Just Serve Up Everything?
    Terms such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) are well known. In 2020, your organization probably is using at least one of those, if not more than one, even if it is in a hybrid or private environment with local support from the existing IT environment. But what about XaaS – or Everything as a Service?IaaS, SaaS and PaaS already are XaaS services. But there are more. Malware as a Service (MaaS) helps protect organizations from cybersecurity attacks. Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) helps business continuity/disaster recovery after an incident. Database as a Service (DBaaS) is available on some public cloud networks. But then there are some lesser-known examples, too. For example, Communication as a Service (CaaS) and Network as a Service (NaaS) are real and active. IAITAM predicts there will be more to come. The association also predicts many organizations will start to adopt more of these models.There are pros and cons to moving to an XaaS environment. Among the benefits for the bottom-line are a shift from capital expenses (CapEx) to operating expenses (OpEx) for IT assets. The reason is the way they are purchased and managed. Outsourcing XaaS takes long-term capital investments in equipment, software and personnel and converts them to simply the cost of operations. And, it removes expensive equipment from the IT environment that takes up other CapEx expenses, too. Return on Investment (ROI) can be higher, and processes such as Disposal become more streamlined and efficient.But, there is a downside to outsourcing everything. XaaS – anything in XaaS – relies on a cloud-based environment. Organizations concerned about securing data in the cloud might shy away from XaaS. That is true especially with organizations such as medical services in the United States, which would be required to be compliant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Any organization that does business in the European Union is also subject, where the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has strict privacy requirements and levies heavy fines for violating them. Financial institutions in the US aren’t safe either, where the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) requires retention of financial records and availability of those records on demand.Service providers are aware of these concerns and have been implementing more security and protection into their cloud accounts. Still, there is risk involved. An organization will have to examine carefully if it is better to move its data and resources off-site or keep those services in house for a higher-level of management control.

Not Everything Is Bad

As the year unfolds, IT Asset Managers likely will face more changes as the industry continues to evolve. Not all these changes are going to be negative. There are great strides happening in tools and functionality. Organizations have a wider selection of robust automation suites and discovery software that help alleviate some of the “block and tackle” functions of the profession.

The business industry is also becoming more aware as ITAM best practices are increasing in corporate adoption. At the highest levels of corporations, IT Asset Management is now part of the conversation more frequently. By cementing our place within the business world and providing actionable data and ROI on the ITAM Program, there are no signs of this slowing down.

The vision is clear, and the future is positive. May this be a year that sees ITAM finally coming to the forefront organizational recognition and value add!