IT asset management

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IT asset management (ITAM) is the set of business practices that join financial, contractual and inventory functions to support life cycle management and strategic decision making for the IT environment. Assets include all elements of software and hardware that are found in the business environment.

IT asset management (also called IT inventory management) is an important part of an organization's strategy. It usually involves gathering detailed hardware and software inventory information which is then used to make decisions about hardware and software purchases and redistribution. IT inventory management helps organizations manage their systems more effectively and saves time and money by avoiding unnecessary asset purchases and promoting the harvesting of existing resources. Organizations that develop and maintain an effective IT asset management program further minimize the incremental risks and related costs of advancing IT portfolio infrastructure projects based on old, incomplete and/or less accurate information.

Hardware Asset Management[edit]

Hardware asset management entails the management of the physical components of computers and computer networks, from acquisition through disposal. Common business practices include request and approval process, procurement management, life cycle management,[1] redeployment and disposal management. A key component is capturing the financial information about the hardware life cycle which aids the organization in making business decisions based on meaningful and measurable financial objectives.

Software Asset Management is a similar process, focusing on software assets, including licenses, versions and installed endpoints.

Role of IT asset management in an organization[edit]

The IT Asset Management function is the primary point of accountability for the life-cycle management of information technology assets throughout the organization.

Included in this responsibility are development and maintenance of policies, standards, processes, systems and measurements that enable the organization to manage the IT Asset Portfolio with respect to risk, cost, control, IT Governance, compliance and business performance objectives as established by the business.

IT Asset Management uses integrated software solutions that work with all departments that are involved in the procurement, deployment, management and expense reporting of IT assets.

IT Asset Disposition[edit]

When assets need to be removed from the enterprise, they move through various disposition processes. Commonly they are handed over to an IT Asset Disposition vendor to be recycled or destroyed. Assets should be managed properly after going offline to ensure they do not get lost prior to reaching the vendor. The vendor of choice should then have secure procedures for tracking assets during the entire time of their possession. After disposed of properly, the vendor provides a certificate of destruction with all the serial numbers of assets they destroyed and recycled. The company should then verify the serial numbers on their certificate of destruction with the assets they know they handed over to the vendor. Tracking assets that are offline, prior to disposal, should be approached with the same efficiency and security as when those same assets are online. A good method for choosing a destruction vendor is to find a NAID certified company. They have a corporate responsibility to dispose of e-waste properly to ensure a healthy environment.


The International Standards Organization (ISO) has a family of standards for IT Asset Management. The ISO 19770 family consists of 4 major parts,

  • 19770-1 is a process related standard which outlines best practices for IT Asset Management in an organization. The latest revision dates to 2012 and breaks ITAM processes down into 4 tiers in a maturity matrix.
  • 19770-2 is a standard for machine encapsulation (in the form of an XML file known as a SWID tag) of inventory data – allowing users to easily identify what software is deployed on a given device. Initially published in 2009, this standard is currently under redevelopment and is likely to be republished in 2015.
  • 19770-3 is a standard which provides a schema for machine encapsulation of entitlements and rights associated with software licenses. The records (known as ENT’s) will describe all entitlements and rights attendant to a piece of software and the method for measurement of license/entitlement consumption. This standard is due for submission as a Draft International Standard in 2014 with a view to publication in 2015.
  • 19770-4 allows for standardized reporting of utilization of resources. This is crucial when considering complex datacentre license types and for management of cloud based software and hardware (SaaS and IaaS). 19770-4 was proposed in 2012 and should be published in 2015.

These standards help organizations better understand IT Asset Management best practices and collect and manage the data required in IT Asset Management processes.


ITAM business practices are process-driven and matured through iterative and focused improvements. Most successful ITAM programs are invasive to the organization, involving everyone at some level, such as end users (educating on compliance), budget managers (redeployment as a choice), IT service departments (providing information on warranties), and finance (invoice reconciliation, updates for fixed asset inventories).

IT asset management generally uses automation, including the use small "passive" RFID tags designed to fit all types of IT assets and smart software designed to track the RFID-tagged asset locations automatically, to manage the discovery of assets, so inventory can be compared to ownership information. Full business management of IT assets requires a repository of multiple types of information about the asset, as well as integration with other systems such as supply chain, help desk, procurement and HR systems and ITSM.

For small and medium sized businesses, a solution might not have to be so robust as to influence many departments. However, IT assets still need to be tracked for risk management, accurate resource and budget allocation, and accountability of assets' whereabouts. A good solution for small businesses will enable them to search for assets they currently own, manage online and offline assets, and plan accurately for the future. These tasks, however, should be simple, secure and efficient because a small business IT professional's time is very valuable.

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