Gartner’s IT Financial, Procurement and Asset Management rolled into London last week (11th and 12th September 2013), and promptly kicked off on an ominous note: Stewart Buchanan’s opening keynote warning that certain roles in IT, including that of the IT Asset Manager, risk becoming obsolete.
As the two day event progressed, however, it became increasingly clear that Gartner’s analysts don’t see ITAM as a complete anachronism. It is important, however, that it evolves with the technology and practices around it. Asset Management needs to become a key strategic tool to the business. For those of us who have been blogging on this theme for some time, and who have witnessed the best ITAM professionals in the industry delivering huge results from this approach, it is great to hear Gartner emphasising it so strongly.
Research Director Victoria Barber stressed the power of a strong “symbiotic relationship” between the Asset Management function, and IT’s financial controllers. “Finance needs to understand how it can leverage the data from Asset; Asset Management needs to understand how to support it”.
Barber’s fellow Research Director Patricia Adams described the evolving role of the IT Asset Management team in an increasingly virtualised environment. By Monday morning, she advised, the ITAM team should ensure that it is part of the process for spinning up a virtual machine.
Moving forward, Adams continued, they need to be aware of emerging technologies and preparing for potential adoption. This needs good awareness of what is going on in the business: “You want to make sure the asset team has the skills to work with the config team, to work with the virtualisation team, to understand what those teams are doing”.
As Buchanan concluded in a later session, companies should “use ITAM to continually improve and optimise both IT operations and the business use of IT”.
To this audience, at least, Gartner’s message is an encouraging one.
Last Monday (3rd June 2013) I was fortunate to be able to attend the first of two days at the Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise (CITE) conference at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco, CA. This was the conference’s second year, and drew a healthy attendance of delegates, many of them CIOs and CTOs for significant organizations. Consumerization is here, and IT executives are realizing the importance of embracing it.
My employer, BMC Software, was present as a sponsor, and was demonstrating several products including our new end-user-focused product MyIT. In addition to some time in the booth, however, I was also able to attend a full day of conference sessions, and with a strong agenda it was often difficult to choose between overlapping meetings.
Asked about the top challenges arising from consumerization, the most popular answer, from over 82% of large organizations was security, followed by privacy and compliance issues (65%) and lack of control (53%).
One challenge that was not called out by the majority of organizations was the inability to measure ROI. 69% of large enterprises responded that this was not a top challenge.
Within the scope of security, the biggest challenges called out were the difficulty of installing controls on user devices (54% for large enterprises), and the difficulty of integrating devices with existing security systems (44%)
Asked if they were confident that they were ready to increase access to consumer technologies in the workplace, only 15% reported that they were “very confident”. 45%, however, responded that they were “somewhat confident”. Interestingly, this has doubled since the 2011 survey.
Productivity is an objective: More than half of the respondents are looking to achieve increased productivity and better employee access to work materials anytime/anywhere.
Cisco – “Not so much the Internet of Things, as the Internet of Everything!“
A fascinating presentation by Cisco’s Marie Hattar (@MarieHattar) pointed out that over 99% of the things that could be connected to the internet still aren’t. That’s 1.5 trillion things, of which 96.5% are consumer objects. Putting it another way, it’s 200 connectable things per person*. This, Cisco believe, is a $14.4 trillion market just waiting to be addressed, a case set out in more detail in their white paper here. We are already in the age of the “Internet of Things”, they argue. The “Internet of Everything” is the next step on the journey.
In an interesting panel discussion alongside Kevin Jones (@KevinDJones) and Ted Shelton (@tshelton), Tom Petrocelli (@tompetrocelli) of ESG Global argued that the traditional hierarchical organization is changing. This is a challenge to those who might normally move up the hierarchy, if it is not in their interest for their organizations to transform into a more disparate, networked structure. Social enterprise, according to Petrocelli, is not so much a technical challenge as a management one (edit at 8:16PM BST 10th June 2013: Tom has tweeted me with what I think is a useful addition: “Remember, though collaboration is a management problem and technology isn’t the answer, it is part of the answer”).
Brian Katz (@bmkatz) of Sanofi presented an entertaining analysis of good and bad mobile applications.
There was a strong message too: “If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you don’t have a strategy”. Brian’s view is that organizations should develop their apps on mobile, then bring them to tablets and desktops. Microsoft Word, for instance, has hundreds of features, which would make no sense to a user of an iPad application.
The great HTML5/Native debate
From a mobile applications point of view, one thing that was abundantly clear is that there is still no consensus on the HTML5-versus-Native debate. TradeMonster’s CIO, Sanjib Sahoo (@SahooSanj) put a passionate and solid case for the former. An HTML5 approach enabled them to deploy a trading application more quickly and less expensively than their competitors. Their app is strongly rated by users, and Sanjib spoke of HTML5 being seen as a “great long term strategy”, while acknowledging difficulties such as memory footprint, and the fact that HTML5 is not yet a true cross-platform technology. He also pointed out that the limited data cache available to HTML5 applications compared to truly native applications is not really a problem for real-time trading applications where live data is the key requirement. For other requirements, it’s definitely more of a factor.
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.
“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.