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Using ITAM to Save Money in Tough Times

ITIL v3’s Service Asset and Configuration Management and IT asset management are complementary but distinct, writes ITSM Watch columnist George Spafford of Pepperweed Consulting.
May 2, 2008

George Spafford


With the current economic downturn in progress, IT organizations are under tremendous pressure to reduce costs yet still increase the value of the services they are delivering. IT asset management (ITAM) is a way of doing this.


ITAM is a management discipline that involves optimizing the value-yield of IT assets. Due at least in part to the nebulous coverage of assets in ITIL v3, groups who either have ITIL processes in place, or are pursuing ITIL, are struggling to understand the differences between ITIL’s Service Asset and Configuration Management process and the ITAM discipline how the two work together. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to Service Asset and Configuration Management as “configuration management” for the balance of the article.

Configuration Management


The configuration management process is tasked with providing an accurate and timely view of IT to other process areas. A key element of this is to understand relationships of one configuration item to another and how they are assembled to provide IT services. Configuration items (CI) can be thought of as record types needed by IT to provision services. CI types include hardware, software, facilities, documentation, and so on. The detailed data fields in each CI table are known as “attributes”. These could include aspects such as the version identifier of a software package, the amount of memory installed in a server, processor speed, and so forth.


The value that configuration management provides is by serving as a data repository and provider of information to other ITIL process areas such as Change, Incident and Problem Management. In ITIL v2, data was stored in a configuration management database (CMDB) and as that version aged the definitions of CMDBs and were extended and diverged from one another. New to ITIL v3 is the concept of the configuration management system (CMS), which is far more extensible and allows for multiple repositories.



In comparison to configuration management, ITAM is a management discipline spanning multiple functional areas in IT and the business. In fact, to be successful it must not be an initiative pursued only by IT. Also, to be clear, it is not about fixed-asset management wherein accounting is concerned with tracking all assets over a defined value for depreciation purposes.


Fundamentally, ITAM is concerned about maximizing value and as such is involved with activities throughout the lifecycle of assets extending from strategy to purchasing, receiving, storage, moves, adds, changes, salvaging of software licenses and ultimately the disposal of assets. To do this, it touches many aspects of IT and intersects with a number of ITIL processes. A good example is that both areas need to rely on change management to maintain the accuracy of the CMS.


ITAM is a proven means to manage costs and improve the quality of services provisioned by IT, not to mention better risk management by avoiding potential software fines. In fact, the vast majority of organizations see true ROI within a year’s time and then on-going savings from there. Note that these numbers are based on real accounting savings and not consultant hocus-pocus or stretches of the imagination that do not affect the bottom line.

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