For the rapid pace of change in the world of IT Asset Management, it is imperative that organizations select a strategic tool that yields expected results. Many companies are faced with scenarios where they purchase and implement an Information Technology Asset Management (ITAM) tool, yet the returns are unsatisfactory. In an attempt to enhance the existing method, we must rethink the way organizations approach the tool selection process.
In today’s market place when it comes to selecting technologies that will be used to drive businesses, many organizations are faced with the daunting task of figuring out which tools will fit their needs and provide them with a substantial return on investment. Vendors or service providers offering “silver bullet” solutions add to the difficulty for the IT Asset Manager making the decision.
The publications of the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM) suggest an approach to tool selection research that is includes need analysis, cost-benefit analysis and estimating long-term value. I agree that these are all important factors to consider. However, the missing link is the process focus.
Selecting a tool that will be used to fulfill a business requirement or support a business function is a very important investment. Organizations want to create some sort of value proposition to give them a competitive advantage over adversaries. Acquiring the right tools require understanding the entire scope and needs of an organization.
Every organization has four major driving factors that ensure success which are the people, the technology, the infrastructure, and the processes. The questions that should be addressed by IT Asset Managers during the ITAM tool selection process are not only who, what, where, but more importantly, the how. All of the factors are equally important, but the adhesive that binds them together is the process behind them.
The Binding Process
A process is a collection of related, structured activities or tasks that produce a specific result. In the attempt to include the process factor in the selection of an ITAM tool, we must follow these high-level steps:
- Understand existing landscape
- Hardware & Software
- User Features
- Integration capabilities
- Understand the existing needs for the organization
- Understand the existing gaps/opportunities areas
- Perform ITAM Tool Requirements Development
- Enhance Informed Decision Making for ITAM Tool Selection
1: The Existing Landscape
By examining an organization’s current state for an ITAM tool, you will be able to understand the strengths of the technology currently in place. This will enable the organizations to answer questions like:
Hardware & Software:
- What are the existing platforms and operating systems?
- What are the capabilities of the existing database repository?
- Is there an external link to other tools using existing infrastructure?
- What are the deployment methods?
- What is the usage metering/application control functionality?
- What are the license model recognition features?
- What is the suite/component recognition?
- Does the tool offer usage monitoring?
- Is the tool easy to use?
- Is there a common data dictionary?
- What are the reporting capabilities?
- Do you have access to the right actionable data?
- Is the existing tool functionality flexible or rigid?
- What is the integration of views?
- Do you have the ability to shift between different views?
- Does the business process and physical IT systems link?
2: The Needs of the Organization
Identifying the existing needs will enable the organization to circumvent falling into the same trap. Once an organization is able to fully understand the current environment and its existing strengths, it will be able to identify weaknesses or areas of improvement. ITAM tools considered ineffective resist evolution because their strategic value and ability to adapt has diminished through factors not exclusively related to its functionality. Other factors come from the application’s inability to be understood, lack of interoperability or a dependence on undesired technologies or architectures. Also, the cost to maintain this ineffective tool adds to the organization’s frustrations.
In addition to the standard checklist, the following criteria need to be considered when selecting an ITAM tool:
- Software improvements
- Modification & interoperability capabilities
- Service oriented architecture deployment
3: Existing Gaps/Opportunities
In the midst of rapid change, when assessing opportunities, it best to adopt a business perspective. IT Asset Managers need to ask and think about the following questions:
- Are they conflicting / confusing designs?
- Is the existing process laborious and manual intensive?
- Is the application/tool flexible with:
- Merger & Acquisitions
- New Product Development
- Changing Market Requirements (Cloud, Mobile Apps, Virtualization, etc.)
- Governmental Regulations
- What are the automation capabilities?
- Where are the anomalies in existing applications?
4: Tool Requirements Development
An organization’s need and capabilities provide specifications that will assist IT Asset Managers with the rationale for investing in an ITAM tool. The business requirements form the foundation for selecting the solution and translate the needs, addressing the question: “What do we want?”
The types of requirements that should be gathered when selecting an ITAM tool encompasses, but is not limited to, the following:
- Tool should be able to represent software assets at different levels of abstraction
- Tool should represent target architecture
- Tool should represent transformations to ensure continuous improvements
- Knowledge discovery at language syntax, design, architecture, and functionality (business logic, scenarios use cases)
5: Making an Informed Decision
A process approach will help make informed and educated decisions based on existing framework and expected outcome. The decision process is summarized as:
- Identifying an organization’s goals and objectives
- Define existing problems
- Prioritize the problems in order of importance
- List available options based on concise requirements
- Weigh and compare options
- Create plan of action
- Evaluate the decision
- Reach informed decision based on options
Despite the sales pitch where vendors and service providers claim that their product is a one- size-fits-all solution, the fact remains that no environment is the same and that this logic will ultimately lead to a misguided investment choice. A rational approach starts with understanding organizations existing landscape, then the existing needs, followed by gaps and opportunity areas. After these three elements have been gathered, the IT Asset Managers will be able to create clear requirements that outline key components of expected needs and wants. Therefore, a process perspective in the selecting of a tool will enable IT Asset Managers to be ahead of the curve when engaging vendors and make decisions that will have a long-term, positive impact on the organization.