Getting Along Together: Why ITAM and ITSM Need to Play Nice

Two very different management concepts that are inextricably linked within the same network of information technology, IT Asset Management (ITAM) and IT Service Management (ITSM) govern a very broad aspect of the IT environment. Despite the similar acronyms, ITAM and ITSM don’t so much occupy different pages in the same book as they do different books on the same shelf. The success of any ITSM implementation can be judged on the asset management foundation it’s built upon, which will in turn be improved by good service management.

Combining these two concepts isn’t always an easy process, but it is beneficial to long term cost effectiveness and IT strategy. Understanding how the service desk is impacting individual assets, and receiving relational information on how these assets are impacting service desk time is a critical step in improving the RoI on IT spending.

There is already software available that can help marry these two platforms together, like IT asset management software by Sysaid. Having the right tools is a useful first step, but combining the two takes more than just a software upgrade; it requires a rework of the way these two, often separate, departments work together.

What Asset Management Isn’t 

Asset management is not intended to be a service department. It can’t be used to fix an aging router, or run a software update on an old desktop. It has no set of instructions to handle directly servicing a broken printer. It’s not a financially focused service desk.

What it does do (or should, if properly implemented) is provide a repository for determining contracts and service agreements related to the aging router, the old software running on a desktop, or the busted printer that’s now coughing up ink all over the boss’ pie charts. It has the relevant information needed for an attached service desk to quickly resolve issues related to these assets.

Strictly speaking, asset management is far more involved with the financial impact of technology assets than the continued operation of them. This means that individuals involved with ITAM are going to lean towards the finance side of business. The procurement, finance, and contractual obligations of technology assets currently in use are the asset management wheelhouse, and that’s generally going to be largely segregated from direct service management.

What Service Management Isn’t

 IT service management does not look at asset costs. It generally doesn’t have procedures to track the life cycle of a device, the RoI on individual assets, or the impact a given outage has on a company’s bottom line. It doesn’t track assets or populate an asset list.

Service management does, however, relate to all of these things in a financial sense in that it keeps assets working and functioning. When a new asset is brought in, the service desk is often called in to perform setup, and when an asset breaks service management will outline the procedures used to fix it. It’s a set of processes laid out to govern the handling of incidents and ensure that assets continue to operate smoothly throughout their life cycle.

Service management deals with the front-lines of technology on a day to day basis within a company. It’s responsible for maintaining a consistent, efficient, and effective approach to the assets in use by a business or organization. More specifically, ITSM itself is a set of guidelines to address the complications that IT will inevitably introduce into the infrastructure and tools used by an organization.

The Shelf

Returning to the earlier used shelf analogy, the shelf, that both of these books sit on is the assets themselves. The most common way this is used is through a Configuration Management Data Base (CMDB), a service focused version of an asset registry. The CMDB can be used to take assets, labeled as Configuration Items (CIs), and keep a set of relational information that can be modified to keep asset status up-to-date and readily available to service personnel.

The CMDB is useful for service desk personnel as it can be used to track the current status of a malfunctioning asset and make calls based on that information. It’s also invaluable thanks to its use as a relational database, giving personnel the ability to quickly understand how one asset being modified will affect another. In this way, the CMDB can be used like a set of architectural plans for the service desk to base their work on.

Configuration databases are just the most practical example of the link between ITAM and ITSM. It’s the easiest thing to point to and say “Look at how useful this is!” but it’s far from the only shared aspect these two concepts can benefit from. Asset and service management working together is integral to the continued efficiency of technology in an organization.

Let’s Get Together

Making ITAM and ITSM work effectively together requires more than simply throwing a CMDB towards the service desk and proclaiming a job well done. In order to get the most out of these two systems coordinating with each other, businesses must look at designing their ITSM strategy in tandem with the way they approach asset management. This integration can’t be a secondary consideration; it requires a fundamental understanding of how they can benefit each other. When service management is given the tools to succeed from an asset standpoint, those assets are able to be used to their fullest.

Establishing these concepts together will save time in the end. Being able to generate an asset registry with the foreknowledge that it will eventually be populating a service-oriented CMDB will lead to a better end solution for the service desk to make use of. Likewise, a service desk that’s aware of its role in asset tracking will be able to better provide key information on asset performance and give a more clear picture on how individual assets are effecting the bottom line. This will inevitably lead to better RoI on investments into technology and enable a more cohesive service for the business.

More and more businesses are beginning to see the value in bringing these two concepts together, starting from the ground up, in order to get more out of their technology assets. It will be exciting to see how new and emerging concepts can further integrate asset tracking and service management together to create a seamlessly blended IT picture.

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