IT service management (ITSM) and IT asset management (ITAM) were finally brought together in the ITIL 4 body of service management best practices. ITAM is one of the 34 ITIL 4 management practices. However, while there has usually been some overlap between the two disciplines, ITSM and ITAM have traditionally been treated separately. It’s understandable, as ITSM and ITAM are different IT management disciplines. But they have similar IT and business goals, with benefits available from their working together.
This blog explains how. But first, it’s worth looking at the key differences between ITSM and ITAM.
The Key Differences Between ITSM and ITAM
IT assets are different to services – for example, a PC is not the same as a managed desktop service. And the respective bodies of best practice guidance for each discipline have, until recently, been created by different organisations (that is, until ITIL 4 provided ITAM best practice guidance).
Organisations have also commonly kept ITSM and ITAM as separate teams that operate their processes using different tools – one focused on asset management and one focused on service management. However, there are usually points where the two disciplines overlap – for example, in providing new software to end users.
There’s rarely tension between the two disciplines, given that they complement, rather than compete against, each other. However, some might argue that far more is spent on the corporate ITSM capabilities than ITAM despite the latter offering significant cost-saving opportunities.
How ITSM and ITAM Complement Each Other
Corporate ITAM capabilities have traditionally had a “counting and control” focus. With greater ITAM maturity, this progresses to optimising IT asset use and costs. For example, ensuring that software assets are used in a way that creates optimal value for the organisation (as well as meeting licensing compliance needs). While ITAM is about governance, so is ITSM – with both IT management disciplines focused on ensuring corporate investments in technology best meet business needs.
Below this strategic commonality, each discipline has many opportunities to help the other, whether providing IT asset information to other ITSM practices or ITSM information to facilitate ITAM effectiveness. Or the use of ITAM capabilities to deliver against ITSM needs or the reverse. For example, ITAM activities benefit from the IT service desk having optimised processes for IT asset provision and removal. In fact, the IT service desk is a great focus area for better understanding how ITSM and ITAM should work together.
The Benefits of the IT Service Desk and ITAM Working Together
The following examples demonstrate how ITAM can be used to improve your IT service desk’s operations and outcomes:
- Quicker incident resolution for issues related to hardware or software. ITAM data can be used to understand more about devices or applications, enabling a service desk agent to understand the root causes quickly. For example, the known conflicts between certain applications.
- Better-informed service request handling, using ITAM data to understand the assets an end user already has before making further provisioning decisions. This insight prevents overprovisioning, overspending, and incompatibility where new software won’t work with an OS or other applications.
- Enhanced self-service capabilities that include self-provisioning based on agreed role-based allocation and the knowledge of existing IT assets. Or the self-service portal’s use in IT asset audits.
- There are fewer change-related incidents when ITAM data is used to better understand the scope, potential risks, and impact of proposed changes.
- Fewer repeat incidents because ITAM data allows problem management staff to quickly understand the impact of and address an issue – for example, the number of devices, the roles, and the services affected.
- More efficient technology refresh projects, with ITAM data used to better understand and plan for the need for IT asset refreshment and the impact on the installed applications.
While these practical service desk examples indicate how ITAM data can help ITSM, ITAM practices and data can benefit other ITSM capabilities and ITSM practices and data used to improve ITAM capabilities.
The Drivers of the Broader Benefits of ITSM and ITAM Working Together
When looking to benefit from ITSM and ITAM working together, it’s worth appreciating that the opportunity is about better collaboration between, not the merging of, teams. The key to success is understanding the similar team goals before identifying how each party can assist the other. This is the first of the broader-benefit drivers, where operational silos are broken down through collaboration and education.
The second driver is sharing data across systems to improve the quality of everyone’s data. It might be unintentional that the data sets in the corporate ITSM and ITAM tools have traditionally been isolated. However, bringing these datasets together offers each part greater value. At a minimum, each data set can be used to improve the quality of the other. For example, the ownership and use cases of IT assets missed by network scanning tools can be verified using service desk data.
The third driver is integrating ITSM and ITAM processes, and sometimes other business function processes, to improve efficiency and effectiveness and help ensure that IT assets are protected and ITAM data is accurate. For example, if ITSM’s incident management, service request management, or change enablement activities add, remove, or change IT assets, the ITAM tool should reflect this. Network monitoring tools help to catch issues, but not all assets are scanned on the network. For instance, when employees leave the organisation, but their IT assets aren’t returned to IT.
What This all Means
It’s hard to list all the opportunities for ITSM and ITAM to work together to improve IT operations and outcomes. However, the above examples can be grouped into several common benefits that can be realised via a closer working relationship between ITSM and ITAM teams. These benefits include:
- Improved service delivery – where a better understanding of the relationships between IT assets and services, and operational efficiencies, lead to better services.
- Increased efficiency and productivity – for instance, with the earlier incident management example.
- Better decision-making – for instance, with the earlier change enablement example.
- Reduced costs – for example, harvesting unused software licences and underutilised hardware for redistribution rather than needing to buy new IT assets.
- Risk mitigation – for example, the use of ITAM data to identify security risks or non-compliance issues.
- Higher business value is derived from the improved corporate ITSM and ITAM capabilities.
Ultimately, corporate ITSM and ITAM capabilities miss something when operated separately. It might be that tasks are harder, decisions are less informed, or IT asset use or service delivery is suboptimal.
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