Running IT Like the Business It Is: Next-Gen Asset Management

By Dennis Drogseth

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When it comes to asset management, financial planning and service planning, IT departments are stumbling with fragmented tools, confused directives, and in some cases just a lot of bad advice from consultants. But, this just means that many IT organizations are ripe for new technologies and new ways of working to bring the traditional realm of asset management into a more proactive, service-driven model.


EMA recently completed research in assessing organizational and technology change in this area. We had 290 respondents, mostly in North America but some worldwide, and heavy managerial and executive presence (80% were managers and above). To a large degree we were seeking to test out EMA’s vision of Next Generation Asset Management (NGAM), in which financial planning for new and existing IT services and asset management are combined. Ultimately, EMA’s view is that if IT is to run itself as a business, then its “products” are services. If this is the case, then IT should plan and assess its costs based on the needs and values of its services from a business impact perspective, much like telecommunications service providers have done for years.


The quantitative data was clearly encouraging with 34% of our respondents claiming that at least to some degree they are doing financial planning for services in conjunction with asset management, 29% said they plan to in the future, and 37% said asset management and service planning are handled separately. And so, a clear majority of our respondents are at least looking to bring asset management and service planning together. One U.K.–based consultancy said: “Among our clients, I would say that about 50% have begun to combine service and asset management and 50% have not. But all of them ultimately will want to get there.”


Interestingly enough, in virtually all of our nine focal interviews everyone saw the value in combining asset management and service planning, but no one was all that far along, and one very large U.S.-based law firm in which there were a tremendous number of distributed offices with significant local authority, saw unifying service and asset management as an ongoing political impossibility. Nevertheless, the overall result was a validation that IT organizations are ready to step up to a “service model vision” as one respondent put it.


Another important question then was to what degree is asset management integrated across all of IT. Or, to put it more bluntly, how many of you all are actually able to integrate costs associated with telecommunications circuits with costs associated to upgrading or purchasing new servers? If you are truly going to step up to a service model, then WAN bandwidth and server software are all interrelated costs in supporting new application services or maintaining and extending new services.


The answers here were that a surprisingly high 28% claimed at least to have an integrated, cross-domain approach across all technology silos for their asset and financial planning. And 30% claimed to be siloed so that each technology (network, application, systems, telecom, etc.) was managed separately on all fronts. The remaining population expressed various degrees of integration within the data center, or between the network and telecommunications. Interestingly, the group cited as the single organization most likely to unite all of IT asset management across domain was IT Financial Governance, whereas Operations as a whole was viewed as the organization most predominantly shaping overall asset management strategies.


But just because it’s theoretically the right idea, not all attempts to unify processes across organizations pay off. One respondent talked about a consultant-driven effort to unify asset planning across all domains for procurement purposes. The effort had CIO level support and involved some significant consulting and other overhead costs. Unfortunately, the consultants in this case overlooked one fundamental bit of common sense: while process efficiencies can be gained by unifying procurement across network, systems, and applications, skill sets for selecting the right network, systems, and software packages are quite domain-specific. In ignoring the obvious, this otherwise well-intentioned effort soon collapsed and failed. After years of planning gone awry, this IT organization is back to siloed asset planning.




When asked about technologies, discovery and inventory tools rated high, but configuration management topped the charts. Putting assets in context with maintenance and support as well as service implications was also high. According to one U.S. healthcare provider: “One of our priorities is to track not only where things are, but ‘how they talk to each other.’ For instance, if we introduce or remove a device that may be dependent on a long list of software from a remote location, how do we automate our records on all fronts appropriately?”


Not surprisingly, CMDB (configuration management database) systems came up in a number of our interviews. According to one respondent: “I’m putting pretty much everything into the CMDB from an infrastructure and software perspective—systems, networking hardware, applications, telecommunications connectivity. What’s not getting included are desktops and mobile devices, telephony devices and other end station hardware.”


The overall message from the research is that, to use an old and possibly clichéd Bob Dylan lyric: “The times they are a changin’!” But in making the changes towards more unified asset and service financial planning programs, a little common sense along with some savvy technology and political awareness, can go a long way.


Dennis Drogseth is vice president of Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates, an industry research firm focused on IT management. Dennis can reached at ddrogseth@enterprisemanagement.com.