Given that few IT departments are in a position to start afresh with brand new technology, they invariably have to deal with a long tail of legacy IT and contracts, some of which may be many years old and out of date.
Often, these systems and the software and hardware contracts underpinning them, were developed to support business needs that no longer exist. For Melody Ayeli, chief product owner, head of IT asset and configuration management, at Toyota North America, getting a grip on these software and hardware assets is the first step in any IT modernisation programme.
Ayeli, who recently took up the position of chair of the ITAM Forum, says IT asset management (ITAM) has a significant role to play in digital transformation, and believes that without proper management of IT assets, organisations can be throwing away significant amounts of their money, while also taking on additional security, compliance and legal risks.
“Throughout my career, I have been passionate about applying new technologies to modernise and bring additional value to the enterprise. This interest led me to gravitate towards ITAM. ITAM programmes can provide significant contributions to any organisation, but most still fall short of leveraging it properly or giving it the executive-level attention it deserves,” she warns.
In Ayeli’s experience, over the past five years executives have primarily been focused on software licence compliance and the fallout from not tracking IT assets properly, which costs companies money and time. But the risk of being under-licensed has become more apparent. “ITAM departments were established as a result of software licensing,” she adds.
Companies typically waste one-third of their entire software budget because they have little oversight of what software is being used or how many software licences and of what type the organisation requires.
“ITAM programmes can provide significant contributions to any organisation, but most still fall short of leveraging it properly or giving it the executive-level attention it deserves”
Melody Ayeli, Toyota North America
“Can you imagine any other part of a business where it would be tolerated to waste one-third of the budget? Part of the problem is that this risk and over-expenditure is not often prioritised by and made visible to the right levels of leadership to proactively support ITAM programmes, until they are forced to address it by internal or external factors,” she says.
The same is true of hardware IT assets. The problem here, according to Ayeli, is that organisations often keep assets for too long and don’t track them properly, introducing the risk of older IT hardware going out of support unnoticed. She says businesses also face challenges when they have to upgrade systems.
The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need to track IT assets, says Ayeli. Executives are beginning to understand more about ITAM programmes, and given that many companies are in cost-cutting mode following the lifting of lockdown measures, there is an opportunity to improve ITAM.
Support for remote workers
Asset tracking was important during the pandemic to enable companies to understand the demand for their IT assets and plan for supply chain disruptions. “With ITAM, you can look at the IT demands of the company and plan for this demand ahead of time,” she says.
With a large proportion of the workforce still working from home, Ayeli says there is an opportunity to make use of ITAM to support remote workers. The working from home phenomenon is not going away anytime soon, she says, with “lots of companies choosing to have employees work remotely permanently”, which means IT departments need to adapt.
When ITAM is combined with new, interdepartmental processes, she says it is possible for an organisation to track and deliver IT assets remotely to individual employees. At Toyota North America, she says her teams have been involved in redesigning these processes.
Given the knowledge of IT systems captured in ITAM, Ayeli believes there is an opportunity to work alongside configuration management. “This isn’t being done as widely, but basically, at a high level, it provides a way to understand the relationship between assets and the data stored in a configuration management database [CMDB],” she says.
In Ayeli’s experience, there are many instances where people from different groups need to understand the relationship between IT hardware and software assets, and how data flows, such as the integration between servers.
“These are all things that the ITAM team has the experience to focus on. When ITAM is separated from the configuration team, each may work on components of the same processes and can end up working in silos,” she points out.
Similarly, Ayeli says there is an overlap between some of the functions ITAM and IT security perform. They both involve processes to discover all the end points in an organisation, and both have an understanding of what software and hardware has been deployed and what versions of software are being used. “Security will do the same discovery function as ITAM, which duplicates effort,” she says.
Overall, Ayeli believes there is an opportunity for ITAM to become an umbrella organisation for other IT functions, to give a holistic approach to IT management. “IT discovery, analysis and understanding risks can all be in one place, which means the IT leadership team has a better understanding of what is going on,” she says.
As chair of the ITAM Forum, Ayeli says she would like to see a space where user organisations can collaborate. “At the moment, this is more ad hoc because there isn’t a place where users can get together to share ideas and talk about practices that are effective,” she says. This is the role she sees for the ITAM Forum.