IT Assets are the building blocks of any infrastructure
Whether an IT service is provided via a cloud, hybrid or on-premise solution the humble asset, be it hardware or software, is the building block that provides structure.
There are various frameworks utilised to help manage various aspects of IT Infrastructure. Two key frameworks are ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and ITAM (IT Asset Management). Much has been written about the differences between the two. I’m not going to replicate that here. Rather I will try to show how these differences work together to create benefit for the IT Channel overall.
I speak to business leaders from IT Channel Providers and they feel its important to differentiate between the ITIL and ITAM views so they can truly get the best business value and customer satisfaction from IT assets that provide customer IT services.
Let’s define both ITIL and ITAM
ITIL is a set of detailed practices for IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of the business. ITAM is the set of business practices that join financial, contractual and inventory functions to support lifecycle management and strategic decision-making for the IT environment.
ITIL views an IT asset as a CI (Configuration Item) and is mainly concerned with the relationship a CI has to other CI’s that make up the IT service. In fact the IT service is a CI too! ITIL uses the Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM) process to ensure accurate information about CI’s so that other ITIL processes can depend on these details to maintain and exceed service levels.
ITAM’s objectives to asset management are slightly different to SACM. The prime difference is that ITAM is specifically concerned with the asset itself. This mainly revolves around financial control. For example, is the asset past end of life and require replacement? Is it under service contract? Is the overall spend on the asset exceeding expectations? ITIL handles these objectives differently in that it answers these questions from an IT service perspective.
Here is a table that shows the values of both ITAM and ITIL/SACM. This table uses information from a Pink Elephant webinar. As you can see there are some similarities and differences.
Better forecasting and planning of changes
Increased insight into the Total Cost of Ownership of the IT function
Planning for optimal IT asset performance improves the overall IT Service Performance and optimises the costs and risks caused by poorly managed IT assets
Provides focus on asset detail from vendor’s perspective, eg: service contracts and end of life.
Provides sales opportunity analytics for a channel provider
Manage spares inventory
Better forecasting and planning of changes
Changes and Releases to be assessed, planned and delivered successfully
Incidents and Problems to be resolved within the service level targets
Service levels and warranties to be delivered
The ability to identify the costs for a service
This is where perspectives are important. An enterprise that manages their IT service, be it cloud-based or on-premise, will most likely adopt ITIL as its framework for IT service management. This works very well.
The challenge comes in when an IT Channel Provider is providing a managed service for its enterprise customer. The provider will, in many cases, be managing aspects of the customer’s IT service such as network, servers, phones, etc. but not the entire service. Therefore it is more difficult for a Channel Provider to utilise ITIL/SACM as a framework for optimum IT asset management. The IT Channel Provider can’t manage the assets in the context of the service since this involves SLA management that it is not responsible for.
Therefore, the IT Channel Provider has a choice to implement ITAM or do nothing. If it does nothing, then it is not truly delivering a “managed” service. Instead it is handling crisis situations as they occur and not helping a customer on its path to seamless and non-disruptive digital transformation.
If it does embrace ITAM then it will become a trusted advisor of the customer. It will have the ability to develop maintenance and migration plans that are palatable to the customer. It will also help the IT Channel Provider create greater revenue streams as it finds ways to upsell into the customer based on utilising accurate and transparent asset data.
The beauty of this is that an IT Channel Provider can adopt ITAM while the customer continues to use its ITIL framework. For example, the customer may be using an ITSM (IT Service Management) system such as ServiceNow, which is one of the more popular systems these days.
Real Life Application
The IT Channel Provider, if it is using RAY ALLEN’s RACS system for IT Asset Management can then interact with ServiceNow through an API connection and hence share IT asset data. Therefore, the IT Channel Provider can now perform ITAM functionality with the same IT Asset data that the customer has. Even better, RACS will have access to vendor asset databases such as Cisco Systems therefore an even truer view can be obtained about the customer’s assets. RACS has the capability to up/download asset information such as service contract data from vendor systems. Therefore, if there is a discrepancy with the customer view of an IT asset then this can be identified and reconciled.
Integration of ITAM methodology improves the alignment between operational and financial processes. Because ITAM focuses on vendor information such as end of life and service contracts, a channel provider can then develop sales campaigns to identify opportunities that would previously never were understood.
For example, there may be a particular Cisco Systems switch that is six months from being past its Last Day of Support (LDoS) date and it may be in common use across many of a channel provider’s customers. Perhaps this type of switch is not compatible with Cisco’s smart licenses, which allow flexible and simplified network management and this where the customer wants to head with its network vision. The Channel Provider is now in a position to help the customer achieve their business goals in a fairly easy way. This makes the channel provider a trusted business partner, which obviously helps with the bottom line. A sample dashboard of RAY ALLEN’s Last Date of Support Analytics is shown below.
Another example might be a channel provider who is performing a managed service for its customers and they need to manage their spares inventory. The channel provider operations function needs to know that there are adequate numbers of spares in depots. A good way to manage spares inventory is to connect the RMA process with spares inventory so that if an RMA is performed and a spare is utilised then inventory levels are adjusted to suit.
These two examples are not core competence areas for ITIL but right in the sweet spot for ITAM. Hence if processes are created to work across ITIL and ITAM systems then the channel provider can profit greatly and move up the value chain with its customers.
I hope this is useful and opens up a new line of thought for the channel on working with customers to obtain the benefit of IT asset management.
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