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IT Asset Management, or ITAM, is the generic term used for the last 20+ years to describe the management of hardware and software assets by an organization. However, over the last few years the term Software Asset Management (SAM) has gained dominance, and precedence, in the industry. To some extent this is understandable as software costs typically form the largest part of an IT budget, and software is also where the greatest compliance risk lies. But have things become too focused on software, leaving organizations more exposed, spending more and being less efficient than they should be?

Hardware Asset Management (HAM) is the management of physical computer and network components such as desktops, laptops, mobile devices, printers, routers, servers, etc. - from the procurement stage to the retirement and disposal of the asset. But too often companies look at HAM as just 3 simple tasks and feel if they understand these, they are doing HAM well:

  • Asset tagging
  • Break/Fix/Technology Refresh processes
  • Asset disposal

At first glance this makes sense – these are all essential parts of an effective ITAM Program. However, most organizations still cannot answer all of the following:

  • What hardware assets do you have defined in your environment and which ones are being tracked?
  • Do you know where all of your end user and data center assets are, at any given time?
  • What hardware attributes are being collected and how accurate is the information?
  • Are processes in place for managing hardware through the full lifecycle of the asset?
  • What hardware information is essential for the accurate licensing of each of your software products?

Those who ignore HAM because they feel SAM is more important are taking a tremendous risk. We all understand that software cannot be installed and run without hardware, somewhere. So it means that for SAM processes to be truly effective, we also need to know where the hardware is, what the hardware is (specifications) and who is using it. In other words, we need HAM for successful SAM.

A good HAM program is also necessary to maximize the efficiency of IT Service Management processes as well – good quality data is needed for the CMDB and the Service Desk as well. The impact ITAM has on IT security is now clearly recognized - not only vulnerabilities through old hardware and software on the networks, but the risks associated with the loss/theft of hardware such as laptops and mobile devices.

Organizations that understand HAM is an essential component of a good SAM program also realize that managing hardware requires a broader set of resources and skillsets in order to be effective:

  • ITAM process experts to ensure efficiency throughout the asset lifecycle
  • Technical specialists experienced with your asset discovery/SAM repository tools
  • Analysts with expertise in assessing and managing asset data quality
  • Software licensing experts who understand which products and licenses are based on hardware metrics
  • Contract specialists who understand the impact payment schedules, warranty support and leasing can have on your business financials

 There are a number of benefits for managing your hardware effectively:

  • With managed assets your organization can better avoid unexpected costs and administrative burdens associated with lost, stolen or “unknown” assets
  • Actively and correctly managing hardware assets throughout their lifecycle can lead to a reduction in maintenance/warranty costs, hardware budgets, and support/replacement costs
  • Improved hardware data quality will lead to more accurate and complete software asset management, and so additional cost savings and risk avoidance are possible as a result
  • Efficiency gains for the Service Desk as a result of access to timely and accurate asset data when responding to end user issues or larger system outages
  • With more complete and accurate knowledge of the location of hardware assets and their configuration, data loss and the risk of a data breach is reduced
  • More accurate data and a better understanding of the hardware life cycle will help organizations make better business decisions relating to forecasts and budgets, system updates and the refresh of hardware assets

Let us know your own experiences with HAM and the benefits that it can provide. Can anyone in your organization say that HAM isn’t important now? Feel free to respond via the Comments section, below.