The ITAM Review

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Hardware Asset Management takes centre stage

This article “Hardware Asset Management takes centre stage” is co-authored by AJ Witt of The ITAM Review and Kieron Dean, Principal Solution Consultant at ServiceNow


As IT Asset Management teams, it is all too easy to focus on managing software – ensuring that contracts are optimised and minimising license compliance risk. Indeed, we see ITAM job descriptions that are almost solely focused on SAM, and many ITAM toolsets give greater focus to their SAM capabilities. This article explores this disconnect and highlights the required new focus on Hardware Asset Management (HAM) in the world of remote work.

Why the focus on software?

There are several reasons why ITAM teams focus first on software. First up is that the risks are potentially greater and more immediate – we are all aware of multi-million-dollar license audit outcomes. There are also many more things to manage. A user may have one laptop, but that laptop will be running multiple software applications. With limited resources it is necessary to prioritise tasks, and software risk will often take precedence.

A further reason is that software is potentially somewhat easier to centrally manage. With the right deployment tools and automations to hand it is possible to seamlessly deploy and harvest licenses in minutes. In contrast, HAM exists in the physical world, requires more human involvement, and more stakeholders. It is potentially harder to implement a HAM programme than a SAM programme. However, you can’t do one without the other. Without good HAM tools and processes it’s impossible to fully understand your software estate because software runs on hardware, even in the case of virtual machines and VDI. But what does a good HAM programme look like? It’s useful to explore this in the context of the IT Asset Lifecycle.

The Asset Lifecycle

HAM processes touch every stage of the asset lifecycle, engaging a variety of stakeholders and delivering outcomes at each stage.

Hardware Asset Lifecycle

 

Specify

The specify stage is concerned with defining the hardware specification required to meet desired business outcomes. Key stakeholders for this stage are IT Operations & Architecture. The output is a target hardware specification to be passed to the acquisition phase. HAM programmes enrich the Specify lifecycle phase by providing insights into hardware usage and serviceability. These may include asset service history (for example, how reliable have similar asset classes been, what is the TCO for a particular asset, how serviceable is it). HAM stock management processes enable current stock availability to be fed into specification decisions, ensuring that the request sent to the acquisition phase is right-sized.

Acquire

Acquire is concerned with ensuring that the specified hardware is acquired and added to the asset register. The key stakeholder for this phase is Procurement. HAM teams should work with Procurement to verify the accuracy of the Bill of Materials and ensure that ordered assets are tracked at the start of their lifecycle. This is a critical phase – ensuring that the assets ordered are the correct specification and that what has been delivered matches the bill of materials. Hardware Asset Managers will also provide insight for Procurement into the most appropriate sourcing strategy – be that capital expenditure on new kit, leasing options (particularly for datacenter equipment), sourcing from the secondary market, or even exploring the emerging and increasingly relevant .

Deploy

Several processes are performed at the Deploy stage. These include ensuring that the hardware is discoverable by discovery toolsets, acquiring metadata about the hardware, and managing the logistics involved in getting the hardware to its user or deployment location. Key stakeholders for deploy are IT Operations, End User Computing, and Service Desk.

Service

The Service phase is concerned with maintaining the asset once it has been deployed. Key processes here include break/fix, stock management, patching, and inventory. Stakeholders are the same as the Deploy phase. This is the phase where assets will spend most of their service lives and as such it benefits from automation, trending, and inventory. An asset may well have multiple users over its service life and be operated in multiple locations – key control areas for a HAM programme. Metrics such as number of faults and warranty status become important in this phase. In the remote working world reverse logistics are also key – particularly integrating HAM processes with the Joiners/Movers/Leavers (JML) and Moves/Adds/Changes (MAC) operational processes.

Retire

Retire is concerned with the end-of-life of the asset. HAM Lifecycle processes include removal from service, asset recovery, stock management, and IT Asset Disposition (ITAD). Hardware Asset Management teams work with the same stakeholders from the Deploy & Manage lifecycle stages, usually with the addition of an ITAD partner. Procurement & IT strategists also need to be engaged because whilst an asset may have been retired there is still likely to be a need for a replacement for that asset – for example as part of a hardware refresh programme.

Starting a HAM programme

With an understanding of the lifecycle and the benefits that HAM can provide, where should you start your HAM programme? As with any new programme it’s important to start with the business value you’re seeking to deliver, or the goal that you’re intending to meet. These goals should be driven by business requirements, not a desire to do HAM for HAM’s sake.

A good user example is BAE Systems, who had a manual process for tracking asset ownership/usage. This was error prone, dependent upon the Asset Management team chasing users, running reports, and investigating lost assets. Their global ServiceNow application solution has saved them both time and money by creating a simplified process & enabling users to manage their assets themselves. It has automated 95% of the asset tracking process and resulted in effective management of over £3 million of IT assets. That sounds like a good business outcome!

For 2021 and beyond, IT’s operational focus will be on getting to grips with the shift to remote working whilst simultaneously controlling costs. For most organisations there will be a considerable desire to bring order to the chaos created by the rapid shift to remote working in spring 2020. As such, a HAM programme dedicated to improving the Deployment and Service lifecycle phases will deliver rapid benefits.

Why Deploy & Service? Well, the Deployment phase is where you can put improved processes in place to ensure that mistakes aren’t repeated, and the right controls are applied to your hardware management processes. At the simplest level, ensuring that your HAM toolset discovers every piece of hardware being deployed is a great starting point. That means that you start doing things right. Improvements to the request process will also deliver operational benefits.

As noted above, the engine of HAM is the Service phase. Tracking an asset throughout its lifecycle ensures that costs are controlled, and appropriate decisions are made about when it should be retired. Costs are controlled because assets don’t go missing or end up being left in a cupboard when they could have been redeployed to meet a request elsewhere. Retirement decisions can be informed by tracking incidents, warranty repairs, and faults via integration with Service Desk processes and data. Secondary market values can be tracked with an ITAD provider and used to inform asset retirement decisions.

Summary

As we can see from the lifecycle summaries above, HAM touches many IT management processes. Multiple stakeholders are involved and your HAM team needs to be capable of both owning processes and integrating with those owned by other stakeholders. Whilst Cloud & SaaS may be taking centre-stage in IT Management strategy, hardware is still required to deliver the goals of the IT department. For HAM teams just starting out, focusing on Deployment and Service processes will deliver immediate benefits for IT Asset Management & IT as a whole. With the shift to remote working becoming business-as-usual for many organisations HAM is essential in ensuring that it’s governed and managed correctly.

For more on Hardware Asset Management including practical tips on handling the shift to remote work, please see our recent ITAM Review on-demand webinar.

ServiceNow have introduced HAM capabilities in the latest release of ServiceNow IT Asset Management – to specifically learn more on the features and benefits, check out their recent webinar.

About AJ Witt

A former IT Asset Manager, AJ is Industry Analyst for The ITAM Review. He's interested in hearing from end users of ITAM tools and also vendors. He enjoys writing about the SaaS Management market, practical aspects of ITAM operations, and the strategy of major software publishers. You can connect via email (aj.witt@itassetmanagement.net) or LinkedIn. AJ is based in the New Forest where he enjoys cycling, walking, spending time with his family, and keeping chickens

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