The Evolution of ITAM

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( — April 30, 2017) — The management of IT-based resources has changed over the last few decades. Tracing its roots back to the days of pens and clipboards, modern ITAM has a variety of implementations, ranging from the basic spreadsheet to the robust software suites commonly used at an enterprise level. Analyzing how these trends have evolved and where they are headed in the future help us gain an understanding of the benefits a well-implemented ITAM system provides.

The Dark Ages

In the very early days of computing, asset management didn’t exist. Information Technology systems were seen as a costly method of performing tasks that could be done by real people. Early proponents of IT resources struggled to impress their importance upon senior management at large companies. Robert Umbaugh, a former IT specialist-turned-executive and an early supporter of IT integration in the 1970’s, found this attitude prevalent in many businesses at the time. “There are too few that can communicate that information technology must be seen as an asset rather than as a cost … If the president of your company sees computers as a necessary evil, when the going gets tough he will cut them out,” says Umbaugh. “If they are seen as an asset, they will be strengthened when times get hard.”

The proliferation of this viewpoint, along with the emergence of more robust and cost-efficient computing systems, eventually lead to an increased reliance on technology and a need to manage the costs associated with computing infrastructure.

Business Computing Emerges

Moving into the late 80’s and 90’s, it became clear that computers were here to stay. All corners of the business world began integrating their use into daily activity, from banks to retail stores. As more and more information technology was used in mission critical areas, the need for asset management became apparent. The cost of IT resources including hardware, software, and personnel, started to be a required component of any budget.

Cutting-edge asset management of the time often involved spreadsheets or basic scripting, while the low-tech option was a clipboard and a pen. The hardware life and upgrade cycle weren’t as readily apparent as it is today, and these considerations fell to the wayside with shocking regularity. In an age when text-based operating systems like DOS were the industry standard, and GUI operating systems like Windows were in their infancy, hardware and software life expectancy became hard to quantify.

As these systems began to mature, so did asset management. By the late 90’s it became abundantly clear that the life cycles of IT resources was finite and calculable. Basic software and guidelines for asset management started to emerge, helping businesses maximize the value of their technology. Progress was still slow, as the understanding of how asset management could be utilized to streamline the effectiveness of IT resources was just starting to gain ground as an essential aspect of business. Once computing technology itself became essential to the success of every business, the refinement of asset management came into its own.

Modern ITAM

These days, all businesses find some usage for computers and must have some form of ITAM. Spreadsheets are still used but become exponentially harder to manage as business size and complexity increases. IT asset management software designed specifically to streamline this process exist in a variety of forms, addressing every aspect of ITAM, aiding management of these complex systems. Everything from software licenses to hardware lifecycles can be quantified into a complete package that helps businesses get the most out of their IT resources.

New challenges face companies looking to improve their ITAM, like cloud computing and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) integration. A study in 2013 found that over half of businesses surveyed use cloud computing in some form. That number has no doubt increased since then, resulting in the need for these systems to be managed along with traditional on-site hardware and software resources. With the benefits provided by high-quality cloud computing systems, businesses will continue to turn to this new form of IT integration, creating unique difficulties when managing their implementation in a company’s IT asset management strategy.

Bring Your Own Device popularity also adds new avenues for ITAM to expand, as the number of smartphones and tablet PCs increase and their use becomes commonplace. The security and sustainability of these devices is as important as any desktop or laptop asset, and their integration will continue to factor into IT in the business space.

Moving Towards the Future

Information Technology, and by extension ITAM, has come a long way since the early days of computing. With the wealth of new tools provided to managers looking to streamline ITAM, it’s easier to maximize the output of any IT budget, allowing technology to be more efficient than ever before. As IT continues to evolve over the next decade, presenting new benefits and challenges to businesses, so will the systems sustaining those assets.