Property Managers in ITAM – Working without the IT Safety Net

By Jenny Schuchert

IT Asset Managers have joined the profession from all types of backgrounds and training. Some chose to take on the ITAM challenge and others had the duties added onto their existing set of responsibilities. In the case of Property Managers, the extent of IT asset tasks in their duties seems to have grown significantly over the last five years. A Property Manager focuses on managing the physical assets of the organization. These assets are broadly defined, but have not routinely included IT assets. Similarities with ITAM include processes such as inventory processes and goals such as cost reduction and risk mitigation. Property Managers typically report into the financial hierarchy of the organization with the CFO as the executive responsible for property management. Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel to discuss bridging the gap between property management and IT Asset Management at the NPMA (National Property Managers Association) Capitol Region Fall Conference. IAITAM-certified people were at the session and individuals with hardware AND software responsibilities were easy to find.

Six years ago, I presented at the NPMA national conference on the basics of IT Asset Management processes to give Property Managers information about the unique natures of IT assets compared to other asset types. Despite the six year time difference, the titles and employers were similar between the events, with a concentration of government professionals in both audiences. The Property Manager title is pervasive in the U.S. government and is reflected in the membership of NPMA.

The audience six years ago was not sure how the IT asset processes I was describing fit into their work beyond inventory and ensuring purchases were according to regulations. The attendees were interested but did not have a high degree of involvement with IT assets. In contrast, the panel discussion last month dealt with topics similar to those at the IAITAM ACE conference, including a deep interest in hardware and software management and all of the frustrations associated with managing these expensive, portable or invisible assets. Topics included asset tagging, discovery tool functionality and software inventory requirements. The change in the audience’s interests was dramatic and illuminating.

Communication Issues a Major Roadblock

It quickly became apparent that Property Managers often have software and hardware management roles and yet lack the communication advantages derived from a technical background. Their expertise in complex regulations for procurement, asset reporting and governance has not provided the technical vocabulary to gain the cooperation of IT professionals.

IT Asset Managers frequently have technology backgrounds and sometimes a long history with their employer. The technology background builds a bridge to others in IT so that the business management of IT assets is explained from the IT perspective. Adding to the advantage of the technology background is the common management hierarchy because most IT Asset Management departments, Software Asset Managers and Hardware Asset Managers are part of the IT department, reporting into the CIO as their executive. Everything I have said or heard about the difficulties of performing business processes from within the IT organization pales beside those experienced by our fellow professionals from property management.

The perspective of the Property Manager is that someone else makes the strategic operational decisions and the Property Manager makes those decisions cost effective. Coordinating plans, processes and data collection are important contact points for the Property Manager managing software or hardware. Communication with IT resources is essential in these areas and some of the examples provided at the recent event concerned me as the Property Manager has little ammunition to dispute “it can’t be done” from a technologist. Certainly, the adoption of service management may help as providing service is a responsibility for both IT operations and Property Managers.

Mutual Value

The Property Manager’s familiarity with procurement and security processes delivers value regardless of the lack of IT cooperation. The same processes and sometimes the same resources secure other physical assets as well as IT hardware assets. The use of discovery tools is not new and many Property Managers are using discovery tools to gather data and manage the inventory of hardware from procurement through securing the life of the asset.

While the adoption of discovery technology for hardware is fairly straight-forward (except for that not-reporting stuff in the closet), the move to software management is quite daunting without specific training in software management. The complexities of software licensing are inextricably linked to compliance and managing software requires much more than managing an inventory. For Property Managers with software responsibilities, the danger comes from that complexity and undervaluing the differences between managing software and any other asset type. Since Property Management and IT Asset Management use many of the same terms but with potentially different definitions, I believe more discussions such as I was part of at the conference are needed to close the information gap.

The bottom line seems to be that Property Managers and IT Asset Managers are sometimes the same person. Each background brings experience and understanding to the job of managing assets. The road blocks for Property Managers stem from a different reporting structure with a focus on the financial aspects rather than the technology elements. IT Asset Managers may not have the same financial depth of understanding or contacts outside of IT. Individuals with either title have more to learn as the roles for managing software and hardware become more widely valued.

About the Author

Jenny Schuchert is the Content Director for IAITAM