IT Asset Management Is Much More than Counting Boxes

Barbara Rembiesa
Barbara Rembiesa

Just a few years ago hardly anyone had heard of IT Asset Management. Can you explain briefly what it is and why it has come into prominence?

Rembiesa: IT Asset Management, or ITAM, is a functional discipline much like the other functional disciplines within an organization such as human resources, accounting, marketing or sales. Only this one is focused on the IT assets of an organization not fixed assets like manufacturing. Its rise to prominence is due to several factors. One, IT is no longer below the radar screen. IT has costs, at times very high, that need to be justified to management. Its efficient operation is integral to the success of every other functional area and the overall success of the entity. With compliance issues ranging from Sarbanes Oxley Act to more stringent auditing regulations, an entity’s IT infrastructure must be able to respond quickly and accurately.

What led you to forming the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers?

Rembiesa: When I was a consultant to businesses trying to not to fall foul of the Business Software Association and its fight against PC software piracy, I found myself spending more and more time educating consumers in managing their IT departments. Most companies had no idea what they had, where it was, what they needed, or how to prove they owned it. I searched for information that my customers could use and there was very little information available on compliance and none on overall IT Asset Management. IAITAM was formed to fulfill a need for real world education in IT Asset Management.

How has IAITAM grown in its three years of existence? How has the membership grown and what types of companies are joining?

Rembiesa: IAITAM continues to increase its membership base exponentially and grow in the number of services it offers members and non-members alike. We are now in 18 countries and count over 2,000 members. Our member base covers a broad-spectrum over size and industry. We are proud to count small companies, government agencies and Fortune 500 companies among our members.

What do you think are the reasons for its success? What unique services do you offer?

Rembiesa: Our success is due in large part to IAITAM’s ability to exceed its member’s expectations in their thirst for knowledge and genuine desire to increase the professionalism of the IT asset manager. We are a vendor neutral organization dedicated to the IT professional. We offer real world education, certifications for hardware asset managers, software asset managers and IT asset managers. Additionally, we publish a magazine, ITAK, dedicated to the issues facing IT professionals and encourage all of our members to contribute to it. Lastly, we have developed a library of IT Best Practices to guide IT professionals in their quest to implement the processes they need to ensure the efficiency of their operations. In 2006 we will also provide knowledge transfer services to organizations on developing and implementing the processes IT departments need to be fully functional and beneficial to the overall organization.

What exactly do you teach to those certified software asset managers?

Rembiesa: Our courses teach how to manage the business of IT, it’s not just counting noses, licenses or pc’s. It’s how to develop the processes to reduce costs, maximize ROI and measure TCO. It’s setting tool selection criteria to assure integration so the metrics needed to manage our IT assets no matter if it’s hardware, software, vendors, contract negotiations, contactors, outsourcing or our own internal service delivery can be measured to make the organization as effective and efficient as possible. Another point is to take into account what an organization has in the way of software versus what it needs and why. And how does that compare to the organization’s overall growth strategies. Does the level of software buying tie to it or is it off-base?

On your website there are case studies demonstrating the enormous savings customers can make implementing an asset management approach, can you briefly share the details of a couple of examples?

Rembiesa: We had an executive from VeriSign attend our Certified Software Asset Manager (CSAM) Class. She immediately went back to work and applied one of the tools we taught, reconciling monthly invoices against the actual maintenance agreement, and noticed an inordinate amount of discrepancies. The result? She saved VeriSign three million US-Dollars.Second, Sallie Mae reported savings of $5 million on software contracts, 12 percent on their software maintenance and licensing fees and over a $1 million displacing over 40 products that were duplication of services.

We often hear that companies that introduce an ITAM strategy generally save 30 percent on their licensing fees. Is that number based on some quantifiable research?

Rembiesa: I would not narrow the focus to license fees. Research done by Gartner stated that companies who implement overall IT Asset Management can save between five and 35 percent. I believe that companies can exceed the 35 percent margin depending on their base line. If a company has not managed their IT in the past the percentage could be higher

Why do you think businesses lost track of the licensing in such a way that costs spiralled out of control?

Rembiesa: A lack of processes for acquiring, deploying, modifying/changing and retiring software assets, coupled with the inability to track the software and no bona fide IT asset repository, many companies find themselves over-purchasing, under-purchasing, paying increasing costs to fight compliance audits, additional or unnecessary maintenance and support cost, the list goes on. A company can not operate without an IT department but unfortunately a large number of companies do not manage their IT departments like a business. Process and accountability are the keys.

Many vendors, including SAP, now offer products to help their customers with IT Asset Management. Do you get the sense that in a few years businesses – both big and small – will have got a grip on their licensing liabilities?

Rembiesa: I would hope so, however, there will always be loopholes in the processes without executive buy-in to those processes. On top of that, there is always the renegade employee who thinks they do not have to comply with the rules. Sarbanes Oxley and OMB A-123 will have impact on publicly traded businesses and Government agencies. I think businesses that do not fall under current legislation will be slower to implement overall IT Asset Management, however IAITAM strives to educate all sizes of companies to gain the best value out of their IT Asset Management programs and has a great deal of impact in the industry.

You are developing asset management best practices so what is the number one rule businesses should implement to ensure they are not paying too much?

Rembiesa: The number one rule is accessing the true needs of the organization based on it’s strategic direction and having a method of measurement to ascertain if the decisions being made truly do provide the value expected. That’s one of IT’s greatest failings. After implementation or installation of a piece of hardware or software once the item is functional we have a tendency to wipe our hands of it other than maintain it. We need to assess if it is giving us the expected value we anticipated to determine if it should stay in our environment or be replaced by something different and what impact that might make. So the real key isn’t how much or how little you’re paying, it’s all about attaining the most value for the organization.

More Information on IAITAM