Gartner’s 2013 ITAM Repository MarketScope raises the bar for vendors… again

A pole vaulter, silhouetted against the sun, vaults over a high bar
Raising the bar: An athlete pole vaults over a bar, silhouetted against the sun
Gartner’s 2013 MarketScope for the Asset Repository raises the bar again for toolset vendors.

This month, Gartner have released their latest MarketScope for the IT Asset Management repository.

For those of us involved in manufacturing ITAM tools, the MarketScope report is important. It reflects the voice of our customers. It has a very wide audience in the industry. Perhaps most importantly, it shows that standing still is not an option.  Over the last three reports, published in 2010, 2011, and 2013, several big-name vendors have seen their ratings fall. The bar is set higher every year, and rightly so.

IT Asset Management has been undergoing an important and inexorable change over recent years.  Having often been unfairly pigeon-holed as custodians of an merely financial or administrative function, smart IT Asset Managers now find themselves in an increasingly vital position in the evolving IT organization. The image of the “custodian of spreadsheets” is crumbling.  Gartner Analyst Patricia Adams’s introduction to this new MarketScope report gets straight to the point:

The penetration of new computing paradigms, such as bring your own device (BYOD), software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS), into organizations, is forcing the ITAM discipline to adopt a proactive position.

Last year, I was fortunate to have the chance to speak at the Annual Conference and Exhibition of IAITAM, in California. It’s an organization I really enjoy working and interacting with, because the people involved are genuine practitioners: thoughtful, intelligent, and doing this job on a day to day basis. I’d just finished my introduction when somebody put their hand up.

“Before we start, please could you tell us what you mean when you say ‘IT Asset'”?

It’s a great question; in fact it’s absolutely fundamental. And different people will give you different answers. It took the ITIL framework – influencer of so much IT management thinking – more than a decade to acknowledge that IT Assets were anything other than simple items needing basic financial management. My answer to this question was much more in line with ITIL’s evolved definition of the Service Asset): It’s might include any of the components that underpin the IT organization, whether they’re physical, virtual, software, services, capabilies, contracts, documents, and numerous other items. IT Assets are the vital pieces of IT services.

If it costs money to own, use or maintain; if it could cause a risk or liability; if it’s supported by someone; if we need to know what it’s doing and for whom; if customers would quickly notice if it’s gone… then it’s of significant importance to the IT Asset Manager.  Why? Because it’s probably of significant importance to the executives who depend increasingly on the IT Asset Manager.

One simple example of evolved IT Asset Management: A commercial application might be hosted by a 3rd party, running in a data centre you’ll never see, on virtual instances moving transparently from device to device supported by a reseller, but if you can’t show a software auditor that you have the right to run it in the way that you are running it, the financial consequences can be huge.  To provide that insight, the Asset Manager will need to work with numerous pieces of data, from a diverse set of sources.

The role of Asset Management in the new, service-oriented IT organization, is summed up by Martin Thompson in the influential ITAM Review:

“ITAM should be a proactive function – not just clearing up the mess and ensuring compliance but providing a dashboard of the costs and value of services so the business can change accordingly.”

Asset Managers are needing to redefine their roles, and we need to ensure our products grow with them.  We need to continue to provide ways to manage mobility, and cloud, and multi-sourcing, and all of the other emerging building blocks IT organizations.  Our tools must integrate widely, gather information from an increasing range of sources, support automated and manual processes, and provide effective feedback, insight and control. Our goal must be continually to enable the Asset Manager to be a vital and trusted source of control and information.

Gartner’s expectations are shaped by the customers, practitioners and executives with whom they speak. In their words, the old image of an ITAM tool as a simple repository of data is evolving “… from “What do I have?” to “What insight can ITAM provide to improve IT business decisions?”.

I’m very proud that we have held our “Positive” rating over the last three MarketScope reports in this area. Gartner’s message ITAM vendors is clear: You have to keep moving and evolving. The bar will continue to rise.

Image courtesy of Sebastian Mary on Flickr, used with thanks under Creative Commons licensing.

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