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Why Asset Discovery is the Starting Point for ITAM

IT asset discovery vs IT asset management
Understanding the technology infrastructure you have is one thing, but what exactly does it mean? The terms discovery and asset management get thrown around a lot in the IT world. It’s important to understand what they mean and how they can work together. As technology infrastructures change, new operating systems are updated, new laptops are issued, and so on, but keeping track of everything that’s going on in a hectic environment is really what matters. Let’s break down and define what exactly these two terms mean, how they are related to each other, and explain how IT assets fit into the larger picture of your IT service management strategy.

What is IT Asset Discovery?

The term ‘discovery’ is really an overarching concept that can be applied in several different contexts in the software world, but in this post we’ll stick to how this concept is used in relation to IT asset management and service management. Think of IT asset discovery as the means to collect an inventory of technology assets in the organization. This includes computers, mobile devices, network-connected devices, hardware, software, etc. This is really the starting point that allows organizations to create and benefit from a complete IT asset management strategy.
We found 400 computers that we didn’t know we had. We were in the middle of a massive equipment refresh, so it’s great to know what we have and where it is.” –Andrew Newman, Director of Information Management and Technology, Rogers Behavioral Health Read the case study
This concept of asset discovery is not to just discover once, but rather have this be a continuous process that produces an up-to-date picture of your IT assets as things change.

How Technology Assets Are Discovered

There are three important ways the discovery process can collect data in this context that are helpful to understand.  The first is an installable agent for hardware devices with an operating system that can report back a multitude of important data points. These agents are typically lightweight and easy to mass deploy to cover all of your applicable devices. Another alternative recently made available in SolarWinds® Service Desk is a network discovery scanner. This agentless method of discovering hardware assets works by scanning your network to  collect data points for any device on your network. Finally, integrations also play a role in the discovery process. Systems like Microsoft SCCM, ChromeOS Admin Center, and VMware vCenter are rich sources of asset data, but are often siloed out from ITAM and ITSM processes. Integrations allow you to leverage the data from these other sources and use it within the service desk.

So, which method is best?

It really depends on the level of detail organizations are looking for. A network scanner is lightweight, requires minimal upkeep, and is a great way to collect basic data points from all connected devices – even those without an operating system. At the same time, an agent can be ideal for devices owned by remote employees that may not always have access to your network. For many organizations, it’s some combination of the three. The idea is to discover every IT asset that supports your ITAM and ITSM strategies. Check out our post 5 Benefits of IT Asset Discovery and Tracking for more examples of how your organization could benefit.

The Concept of IT Asset Management

Now that you have a consolidated repository of IT assets, it’s time to build an ITAM strategy. One of the biggest advantages of implementing IT asset management is its ability to be used in making informed spending decisions. According to Gartner, worldwide IT spending will be close to four trillion dollars in 2019! This makes it imperative for the modern organization to know where that money is going, what their employees are using, and where they can trim unnecessary costs.  The data you collect through ITAM provides invaluable insight for lifecycle management, helping IT maximize technology investments and spend efficiently. It can also detect risks such as Greynet, pirated, or unauthorized software titles, to ensure your organization stays in license compliance, properly managing these software resources to avoid costly overages and true-ups. It’s not simply discovering and populating a database with what technology assets are available or in use, it’s how you can use this data to make smarter decisions.

The Connection to IT Service Management

Here’s the kicker: all that asset data can be valuable to IT even beyond traditional asset management. If it’s baked into your service desk platform, you can use that data to build a configuration management database (CMDB), tying configuration items to users, incidents, problems, and changes. This will provide a clear picture of how technology impacts the day-to-day lives of the employees that IT serves. When it comes to making changes, responding to incidents that are submitted, or identifying problems, you really can’t overlook the importance of consolidating all of your IT assets. Think about an outage to a tool that impacts a number of employees, like a communication platform. In most cases, the first sign will be related tickets about that tool. Now, you can tie those tickets to impacted assets, create a problem that identifies the application and all impacted users, and streamline communication about any solutions or changes that ensue.  The idea is to identify the full scope of impact, and understand the relationships between your IT assets and how the support the services your provide to your organization. ITIL-driven service management depends on having this information on-hand and up-to-date. 

Maximizing the Value of IT Asset Data

The starting point for actually being able to use all of this data to move the business forward is to begin by discovering exactly you have – a process that may turn up few IT assets that you currently may not even know existed. After the discovery, the real benefit of having this data available is to begin outlining an asset management strategy that works for your organization. Making the most of your technology budget is one of the best ways to maximize ROI from the start, as well as being able to detect risks with much more visibility. These benefits are really the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how valuable IT asset data is in maximizing your organization’s service delivery strategy...ITAM overlaps with so many ITIL best practices worth discussing in your next meeting.  Sound like something your team could benefit from? Download our white paper Making the Business Case for IT Asset Management to see how you can show leadership ITAM is worth the investment.
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Liz Beavers
Like many IT professionals, Liz’s entry into the tech industry was unconventional. With plans to pursue a career in public relations, Liz’s career quickly took…
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