In this article Bob argues that the consumerization of IT challenges the traditional device-centric approach to asset management and highlights a trend towards services and users over fixed assets.
Over the past few years, IT has gone through a major change. Instead of technology being split between work and home environments, users are increasingly looking to take their personal devices into their work and use them, rather than, or in addition to, a work-provided PC.
The trend started with laptops, and then covered smart phones and other new devices like tablets. How does this consumerization of IT affect asset management professionals and the role that they play within businesses?
There are a number of important questions that have to be answered:
- When someone is using their own device, to what extent should the IT team support them?
- If they require an application, should it be installed onto their own device or should they be forced to use a corporate desktop — physical or virtual?
- What is the best way to manage users working across multiple devices?
- What happens when the user either changes job roles, or leaves the company?
These issues can be difficult enough to manage when the organisation owns a single PC or laptop per user. When it belongs to an individual, this adds considerable complications for the IT team responsible for managing resources.
Users are also asking more searching questions of their IT teams, driven by their experience of tablets and smartphones at home. Why does it take IT so long to make a change to my desktop, when I can select and install an app in three minutes on my phone? Why can’t I work the way I want to, instead of how I am forced to work by IT? Why can’t I have a similar experience across all the devices I want to use for work? Dealing with these questions without being seen as a road-block will be a real challenge.
So how should the IT asset management function address these issues? As “Bring your own device” programmes become more popular, and requests by users for devices outside what the company provides start to increase, the fundamental impact on IT asset management will be to make processes different. IT will have to look at ways in which IT asset management can be automated, or risk missing out on potential benefits and suffering a decrease in user satisfaction and productivity.
A User-Centric View of Assets
Part of this will be moving away from the current device-centric approach to managing IT assets. Instead of fixed devices, users may want greater choice on what they use to carry out work. They may even change devices depending on their work requirements: using a laptop during the day, and then relying on a tablet or smartphone for application access outside of the office. Coping with this influx of different device types will be one of the biggest challenges for the asset management team if they are looked at on an individual basis.
Secondly, software licensing is also going through significant changes that have an impact on the use of consumer devices within the workplace. Instead of looking at licenses assigned to a specific piece of hardware, greater flexibility will be required in future. Already, software licenses can cover far more than just the named user: concurrent licenses, per seat buying and pay-as-you-use approaches are being taken up by customers in order to reflect their real usage patterns. IT asset management has to mirror this change in licensing and application delivery as well.
This evolution in how IT assets are managed also links into how applications and services are provided to users in the first place. The number of ways that an application can be delivered to employees has expanded tremendously, from centrally-hosted software such as remote desktop services or streaming applications through to new approaches such as software-as-a-service, cloud-based applications and desktop virtualisation.
All of these different methods for delivering access aim to provide the best possible user experience at the most cost-effective rate. However, they are not all suitable for each use case: mobile workers will not be able to work well with centrally hosted, uniform virtual desktops, while supporting task workers may be best suited to server-based computing deployments that can host larger numbers of individual workers. Making the right decision on which model for delivering assets and resources out to the user requires an understanding of what technologies suit them best. In most cases , this may be a combination of delivery types, creating “hybrid” environments which will make management even more complex.
The ‘IT as a Service’ Model
This change in how applications and services are delivered will require a more general shift over to an “IT as a Service” model. This is where users can request the applications and services from IT that they need, and have them provisioned automatically in a workspace that is managed independently from the underlying device, OS and delivery platforms. Adopting this approach does mean going beyond IT and into some of the business processes that are associated with providing new assets. For example, linking into human resources around the provisioning of applications and signing off on responsibilities requires a level of management beyond the individual parts of the organisation.
For the IT asset management professional, supporting this requires an understanding of the changes that we have seen around application delivery, and then applying this to a new service model. Moving over to ITaaS means an end to looking at assets as fixed, and instead requires an understanding of how IT services are used and how they evolve over time.
It also means stopping the use of the device as the point of management: instead, companies will have to look at what the user requires, what device or devices they can use at any point, and where and when access is required. While this sounds more complicated than managing at the desktop level, the truth is that many organisations still do not have an effective approach in place for this initial level of IT asset management.
What ITaaS will provide to the organisation is greater flexibility for the end-user. Instead of having to go through IT for asset requests, users can use self-service models to get the tools that they want, a process they are very familiar with at the consumer level. At the same time, IT can track and monitor how IT assets are being used as part of the wider business to ensure that the organisation remains in compliance, and that costs are kept as low as possible.
The Corporate App Store
The model here is the yearned for ‘corporate app store’, where users can request applications that they qualify for based on their job role and context, while widely-used apps are part of the base service given to everyone. In an environment where a user’s workspace is not tied to a specific device or operating system, they are able to access these applications, with the same user experience, across both corporate and personal devices. This masks the complexity of IT and where applications are being delivered from to the end-user, while also taking into account what the device the user is on and the context around their access. The end result is to make it simpler for users to interact and use IT resources, while supporting employees in being more flexible and productive. This self-servicing model will allow for a user’s application availability to automatically adapt as they change roles within an organization or leave.
The wider picture is that the consumerization of IT will force organisations to consider their approach to managing IT, both from an asset perspective and for users. For the future, moving over to ITaaS will be a required element to deal with these challenges, and ultimately will provide users with greater flexibility around how they work while IT can focus on innovation and efficiency. For asset management professionals, this future vision of IT focuses less on static assets and more on the delivery of services that provide business value. Ultimately, moving organizations from a device-centric approach to a user and service-centric methodology will reduce costs and improve user productivity and satisfaction.
About Martin Thompson
Martin is also author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management.
On a voluntary basis Martin a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.
Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.