As new technologies are introduced and businesses continue to work in new ways, new skills will be required to ensure ITAM continues to be, or perhaps becomes, a strategic part of your business.
Ahead of our Wisdom North America online conference (September 31st – October 1st), we’ve asked our conference sponsors to give us their thoughts on what skills existing – or new – ITAM mangers will need to be successful over the next 5 years. Spoiler alert – there is loads of great advice below so grab a drink, settle in, and start planning!
Focus on the problems of 2020, not of 2010
Like double denim, there is nothing cool about a retro ITAM program. As the boundaries of ITAM grow, you need to move away from archaic thinking, and align with your organization’s needs.
Ensure your ITAM program isn’t a replica of the last decade but rather reflects the current profile of your organization. Datacenter infrastructure can now be owned or leased, spread across multiple cloud providers, and/or lurking in the shadows. Client software/hardware isn’t ‘where are my laptops’ but whether the devices are virtual, if mobile devices are in use, and what SaaS is consumed.
Be seen AND heard
As a child, when I ate dinner at the ‘big people table’, I was to be seen but not heard. When I first entered ITAM, my position in an organization had much the same challenge.
The ITAM team is front and center during an unfavorable audit, or when software spend has double digit increases. But otherwise, you might struggle to get investments in technology and tooling that are critical to successful ITAM. I have worked with teams that can’t get access to license purchase data from their procurement groups.
Evaluate your current standing. Look at the decisions you have made that could positively impact another department, or how many times you requested data from other stakeholders that would have bolstered your capabilities. Then you can assess what skills and alliances are necessary to grow the position of ITAM within your organization.
Know the only constant is rapid change
It’s easy to think that all ways of consuming IT are already known, and an ITAM professional can adapt to current conditions while anticipating a stagnant industry. However, the only constant in the ITAM industry is been rapid change and adoption.
A typical organization will continue to move their workloads to the cloud, consume emerging technology, and grow the boundaries of ITAM responsibility. As an ITAM manager, you can ensure ITAM is considered more than a ‘nice to have’ in your organization by aligning with the trends of today.
Looking at the different skills that have become common over the past ten years, the ITAM role has developed and SAM Managers need to adapt to a more strategic role, rather than being solely analytical. To succeed through, and beyond, the next 5 years, leadership skills will need to be developed to ensure they are driving the SAM program forward and ensuring that the entire organization is backing their SAM strategy.
SAM Managers will need to analyse the technology utilized within an organization to better understand what resources are needed and what will assist in driving the organization forward and remain competitive. Using data analytics to assess processes and determine requirements will ensure you are bridging the gap between IT and other departments and deliver data-driven recommendations and reports to executives and stakeholders.
Understanding exactly what is currently installed across your IT organization is key to effective software asset management, but a visionary role takes on the task of understanding the organizations overall technology roadmap and identifying future digital transformation requirements, whilst maintaining vendor relationships which align and broker commercial arrangements that ensure that the business maintains its competitive advantage and operational excellence.
This role entails leading any IT changes throughout the organization, ensuring all digital transformation projects are efficiently managed and comply with the overall business goals and objectives whilst safeguarding effective delivery of business productivity and quality services to all customers.
Being the overall ITAM advocate is essential to getting the rest of the organization behind planned IT changes and ensuring a positive attitude is flowing through the company when infrastructure changes take place.
While none of us can truly predict what the global business environment will be in five years, we can still prepare for future success by responding to what’s happening right now—and what we’re experiencing now is accelerated digital transformation. The world was asked to quickly transition into a work-from-home (or work-from-anywhere) environment meaning assets and employees are now more dispersed, the need for SaaS is increasing, and current systems, tools, and processes for managing assets across hybrid environments and physical locations are being challenged.
Inefficiencies in manual processes have been exposed. The old way of managing assets no longer works for today’s digital business. For IT asset managers, leading the organization further into digital transformation is going to play a vital role in a successful future. ServiceNow CFO Gina Mastantuono explains perfectly why digital transformation needs to be a high priority for every business:
“Why? Because digitizing manual processes can drive exponential increases in employee engagement, fierce customer loyalty, better scale, and of course, higher profitability.”
Digital transformation may look different for every business and the time it takes to implement new processes may vary, making it important to find the right tool to help along the way. A forward-thinking solution is going to be able to bring together your entire IT estate including software, hardware, and cloud resources into one platform. A digitally transformative solution will enable critical asset data to workflow to other areas of the business, simplifying and automating processes like asset on-boarding, IT service delivery, and procurement.
As the business environment continues to evolve, organizational leaders are going to keep looking to their IT teams (and the asset estate) to discover where costs can be reduced and where inefficiencies can be improved. By embracing new technology and digital, automated processes, ITAM managers can position their organizations to not only survive in any economy but also be a driving force in innovation and business growth.
As an ITAM manager, sometimes you’re a strategist, sometimes an accountant, sometimes a project manager, and sometimes a process manager. You need to be able to play some or all these parts at any given time, depending on the business scenario.
Even in 2025, it’s still my feeling that, to be successful, ITAM managers will need to exhibit the same 5 core skills that made for success in the past. Technology platforms will change, asset management services will evolve, but the core skills will remain constant. They are:
Be a strategic partner to procurement, finance, and IT
A successful ITAM manager contributes to both the development and implementation of a company’s IT strategy – being laser focused on ways to generate value and ensuring risk protection. They must understand the complexity of software and hardware licensing and ensure that a company’s strategy takes advantage of contractual benefits and avoids creating license compliance risk. For example, as cloud emerges as the core of many corporate IT strategies, the astute ITAM manager will be thinking about the licensing implications of cloud and its possible unplanned expense or compliance exposure.
Be an influencer & communicator
How do you generate support for a mature asset management program and convince key stakeholders to do their part in the overall process? By influencing decisions and communicating the value of ITAM in a language best understood by each of them. Also, an ITAM manager has a unique view on how procurement, finance and IT intersect and should leverage this view to drive improvements into the IT value stream.
Be able to solve business challenges
An ITAM manager needs to deliver value and solve business challenges that contribute to the success of the broader business. However, to my earlier point about flexibility, how they deliver and provide this value will shift. For instance, as technology changes, the approach to ITAM needs to evolve with it. A good ITAM manager will not only be able to pivot quickly, but also act as a proactive predictor of changes to come.
Be the project manager AND the team’s leader
ITAM managers need to be able to deliver results across the business. They need to be willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done. They also need to be able to delegate. To ensure that issues get remediated and audits are run effectively, ITAM managers need to play the dual role of project manager and team leader.
Be a subject matter expert
Last, but not least, ITAM managers MUST possess an understanding of emerging technology trends, both by way of tools and platforms, but also of all the new licensing schemes that are par for the course given today’s complex landscape and multiple purchasing options (on-prem, cloud, subscription, etc.).
Case in point: Oracle is going to charge large fees to anyone not on version 19c of their database. A good ITAM manager knows this is coming and proactively prepares to act and protect the company from a large, unplanned expense.
Knowledge helps protect a company. The more the better.
The ability to provide a data-driven answer to the question “Do you know where our IT assets are?” is the #1 skill ITAM managers will need to be successful in the next 5 years.
COVID-19 has been the most powerful business accelerator of digital transformation in modern times. Government lockdowns and work from home orders forced organizations – even those that were hesitant about cloud, remote work, or SaaS – into an adapt-or-die scenario. As organizations shifted workers remotely to the keep their businesses running, they brought about a technology “free for all” where IT organizations around the globe distributed software and services to employees without regard for entitlements or bloated budgets. While the rapid provisioning of technology was the right decision for business continuity, it is a problem that ITAM professionals will spend years recovering from.
Fortunately, as the saying goes where there is chaos there is also opportunity. And for ITAM managers the next few years – and in particular the next two – present a chance to elevate their profile within the organization and truly show the value of the asset data they have stored in their SAM tool of choice.
To seize this opportunity, the following hard skills are ones I recommend that ITAM managers hone:
Analytical and Data Processing
ITAM professionals with strong data and analytical skills will stand out in a crowd since it will be much easier for them to slice and dice asset data to answer executive questions and generate strong business results.
SAM Tool Certifications
Most ITAM professionals use one or more SAM tools to run their operations and being well versed in a provider is not only a sought-after transferrable skill but deep knowledge in your SAM tool will allow you to extract the most value from the tool you’ve chosen.
From a soft skill perspective, I would recommend ITAM managers work on:
Share Rather than Hoard Knowledge
Mature ITAM organizations share asset data across the business to help Finance better understand costs, Security manage risk, and IT improve operations. And this sharing of information becomes even more relevant with cloud (especially when cloud is an entirely different group in your company) due to increasing spend in this area and lack of mature knowledge on license management in the cloud.
Know Where IT is Heading
Is your organization cloud-first? Never cloud? Or hybrid? It’s important to know where the organization is going and what’s important to the broader IT team in order to build the strongest ITAM program possible and to stay ahead of what the organization may need next.
ITAM Managers will need to adjust and expand their skills to align with the growth of the Cloud, especially Software as a Service (SaaS), which continues to outpace on-premises software growth.
Many ITAM requirements apply equally to on-premise assets and cloud. Cost control, inventory control, license compliance, asset provisioning, and governance are key to all IT assets, including SaaS. However, how these problems are solved for SaaS are unique, especially as the majority of SaaS is not managed by IT.
Cost control is top of mind for most organizations today and becoming increasingly urgent. Zylo data shows that on average 38% of SaaS licenses go unused. ITAM Managers need a way to determine which software (and what type of license) is being used by whom and find a way to rightsize SaaS licenses. This means developing processes and understanding technologies that can aid in this discovery and analysis is key for ITAM Managers. The same skills can protect against end-of-contract “true-ups,” when the number of users exceeds license terms and a large payment is due.
To be effective in managing SaaS, ITAM Managers need to understand how SaaS is purchased and used throughout the organization. This may require developing some detective skills! Zylo data shows that only 46% of SaaS spend is managed by IT and only 25% of SaaS applications are managed by IT. Departments and individuals purchase SaaS without involving or informing IT. This “Shadow IT” continues to grow, and 2020 was a banner year for these hidden assets, as many companies moved quickly to empower a newly expanded remote workforce.
Organizations also find redundant applications- one customer found they had 48 project management applications! – which adds unnecessary costs. And financial data often uncovers that many individuals are purchasing the same software, without the benefit of consolidating licenses to reduce per user costs.
To manage SaaS inventory and control SaaS costs, ITAM Managers need skills beyond the desktop agents and CMDBs they may be using to manage on-premise assets or even the web plug-ins, CASBs and spreadsheets they use to help manage SaaS applications. On average companies add 10 SaaS applications per month – whether they know it or not. Inventory management and cost control requires automated technology for the continual discovery of SaaS applications in order to ensure compliance and security. ITAM Managers wanting to manage SaaS will need to learn new skills and technologies to enable continual discovery.
ITAM Managers have long provided solutions for provisioning hardware, on-premise software, and increasingly mobile applications. The same requirement exists for SaaS, but the technology requirements are different. ITAM Managers will need to develop the skills to bring a SaaS Application Catalog of vetted and approved apps to their organization to stop the growth of Shadow IT and its related costs and risks.
As ITAM Managers look at the next five years, they will need to develop the skills needed to control SaaS costs, ensure compliance and security, manage risk, and empower distributed workforces.
Dynamic Lifecycle Innovations
The traditional “IT asset” is rapidly becoming something of a dinosaur. IT asset managers have long struggled to acquire, manage, and track physical devices and licenses employed by their firms’ operations. Today, there are various excellent, integrated tool sets available for tracking and management. However, they can be cumbersome to implement in a manner that feeds all information related to existing assets, while managing the flow of both incoming and outgoing assets that are retired or replaced.
In addition, IT asset managers currently must take into consideration the sunk costs, depreciated and amortized values, and the security and ongoing support costs associated with their owned and managed assets. This is a daunting task for even the best and most qualified individuals filling these roles today.
The future looks vastly different. More and more IT consumption is moving to alternative cloud-based models, such as software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), desktop as a service (DaaS), and managed print services (MPS). The future of “IT assets” will be less physical, and instead, more and more about the assets of a company’s data and intellectual property (IP). The IP will be the people defining tool sets and the way their organizations utilize virtual technology. The data firms produce and its value in predicting and analyzing trends and production (a component of operational technology Big Data) will be the true technology “assets” moving forward.
Yes, the future’s hybrid landscape will include some physical assets, but they will no longer be managed by applications that exist today. Instead of tools designed for traditional licenses, infrastructure, output, and client devices, organizations will seek out solutions that integrate with tomorrow’s public platform consumption models. Welcome to the 21st century.
It’s clear from these insights that the answer to “What skills will ITAM managers need in 2025?” is – “quite a few”! There have been a range of skills mentioned which can help ITAM managers progress and develop and some clear common themes. I’d say some of the top skills to focus on in the next 5 years include:
- Ability to look ahead and predict trends
- Aligning ITAM to overall business goals
- Understanding technologies and their roadmaps
- Change management
- Cloud management
- Data analysis
- Working with stakeholders
- Strong communication
- Presenting to management
Some of these you can learn on the job while others – such as data analysis, change management, and vendor licensing – can also be acquired through courses. Some of the “soft” skills, such as communication and presenting, may also require a move outside your comfort zone. It’s certainly worth spending some time thinking about your preferred career path, which of these skills you do/don’t already have, and how you might best build a plan to add those missing to your skill set.
While the great advice here gives a solid blueprint for the important skills from 2020 onwards, it also shows that things are constantly changing – and so being adaptable is key. As well as obtaining and building the skills discussed above, being aware of – and open to – change will continue to be hugely important.
About Rich Gibbons
A Northerner renowned for his shirts, Rich is a big Hip-Hop head, and loves travel, football in general (specifically MUFC), baseball, Marvel, and reading as many books as possible. Finding ways to combine all of these with ITAM & software licensing is always fun!
Connect with Rich on Twitter or LinkedIn.