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What is ITIL and How Does It Relate to IT Asset Management?

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Intent-based Networking
(Image: Pixabay)

Developed in the 1980s by the UK Government, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is an all-encompassing framework that details the most important IT practices. It is designed around the concept of providing value and focuses on the idea that IT systems must be used to offer a tangible benefit to businesses.

ITIL consists of a nested structure that makes it easy to place specific practices within the wider framework, ITAM being one of them.

There are four ITIL systems that contain ITAM:

1. Service Value System (SVS)

The SVS describes how each element in an IT environment participates in the creation of value. At a high level, SVS works like a basic mathematics function made up of three elements:

  • Input

  • Process

  • Result

2. ITIL General Management Practices

Management practices are a set of organizational resources. They are designed for performing work or accomplishing an objective. This provides a framework that permeates the whole IT function. These provide clear roles and responsibilities for workers and teams with business management domains, including Portfolio management, Project management, Relationship management, and Risk management.

3. IT Service Management

IT service management describes steps to deliver high-quality services and includes ways of dealing with issues and improvements. The best way for each of those practices to be implemented is by assigning roles. Within a service management team, you will find: Capacity and performance management, Change control, Incident management, IT asset management, and Problem management.

4. IT Asset Management

A sub-practice of asset management, ITAM is aimed at managing the lifecycle and costs of IT assets. As such, ITAM is key for IT departments to deliver valuable services.

A lot of other practices depend on the information provided by IT asset management, including:

  • Change management

  • Problem and incident management

  • Configuration management

ITAM is responsible for managing software, hardware, networking, cloud services, and client devices. In some cases, it may also include non-IT assets such as buildings and security devices.

Either way, ITAM must include all types of IT assets:

  • Hardware Assets: These need to be labeled and tracked to protect against theft or damage.

  • Software Assets: These revolve around licensing and ensuring contractual compliance. For example, when equipment is decommissioned, licenses may remain unused. Retrieving those back and reassigning them ensures efficient license usage.

  • Cloud-based assets: In addition to usage and licensing, these must be managed so that organizations are flexible to invoke new instances of cloud use when needed.

  • Contractual arrangements: These must be understood and adhered to, in the same way as for software licenses.

  • Client assets: These must be assigned to individuals who take responsibility for their care.

In case of vendor audits, asset management is crucial. Software licensing is a part of normal ITAM activity and is crucial to ensure compliance. In addition, software runs on hardware, so the management of hardware assets must be included. Cloud-based assets are the newest area that ITAM must focus on. The different licensing models and demand-based services require adequate management.

ITAM and the Four Dimensions Model

ITIL defined the ‘Four Dimensions Model’ of ITAM to offer a holistic approach to efficient services. These dimensions are:

1. Organizations and people

ITIL suggests that individuals or groups of practices are managed by dedicated resources. This means having asset managers responsible for:

  • Visibility over the lifecycle of IT assets

  • Updating asset registers

  • Highlighting issues and concerns regarding compliance

  • Optimizing the IT estate from a cost perspective

2. Information and technology

Good ITAM practices heavily rely on technology. As systems are getting more complex with time, manual tracking does not enable optimization. Thankfully, many Software Asset Management and Hardware Asset Management tools are available to offer visibility.

Functionality for ITAM tools include:

  • License optimization

  • Vendor-Specific License Management

  • Automated Reporting

  • Workflow-defined lifecycle processes

3. Partners and suppliers

Most IT assets are going to be provided by suppliers and vendors. Therefore, asset managers are responsible for creating good relationships. Every time an asset is brought in, the suppliers need to provide details for the asset. It is then the asset manager's duty to store those accurately.

Likewise, asset managers can submit requests for new assets. Working with procurement teams, they can contact suppliers to renew licenses and hardware.

4. Value streams and processes

As mentioned, ITAM is a part of Service Management. To ensure that value is provided, all parts of service management must work together, which means that asset managers have an active role in the service management team. They would need to interact with service, deployment, incident, problem, change managers to achieve a common goal.