Four Areas to Start Integrating ITAM into IT Service Management (ITSM) – Part 1 of 2

While waiting to pay for repairs at my local dealership this past week, I reflected on an experience last year when I was issued a citation for failure to display front license plate. The license plate was not displayed because my vehicle did not have a front license plate mount. I asked the young lady at the service window how much it would cost to have the service department install the front license plate mount on my vehicle. With parts and labor it would be $120.00.

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At that moment, a mechanic happened to be walking past me on his way into the service area. He leaned over and whispered some advice to me. He told me that I could purchase the license plate mount much cheaper directly from the parts department. He instructed me to bring the mount back to him after I purchased it so that he could install it for me. He explained that if the service department purchases the part from the parts department it would cost more money.

I saved $20.00 that day but what I learned was invaluable. As an uninformed customer, I always assumed the parts department and the service department were the same department. However, I learned that they operate independently of each other. Although they have some common interests, they have different objectives. One department was focused on inventory and supply while the other was focused on service.

Much like the parts and services departments of a typical car dealership, IT departments commonly have two objectives that are not usually aligned. First, IT departments need to facilitate solutions that meet company objectives. This includes choosing and managing IT assets such as hardware and software. Second, IT departments need to support their solutions along with the people that use them. ITAM provides direction for IT asset management while ITIL provides direction for IT service management (ITSM) solutions.

Many organizations are beginning to understand the benefits that come from integrating ITAM solutions into ITSM solutions, but there is still much work to be done in this area.

In an article published by The ITAM Review, Martin Thompson wrote “…respondents were asked the level of integration between their ITAM and ITSM functions. 55% said it was a completely separate entity, 24% said it is was only partially integrated and 21% said that the two functions were fully integrated.”

ITSM solutions can benefit by saving time and money when asset information is easily available to the analysts supporting their customers. To begin integrating ITAM, I suggest you start focusing on the following:

  1. Incident Management
  2. Configuration Management
  3. Request Management
  4. Lifecycle Management

Incident Management

As defined by ITILv3, an Incident can be defined as follows:

An unplanned interruption to an IT Service or a reduction in the Quality of an IT Service. Failure of a Configuration Item that has not yet impacted Service is also an Incident. For example, Failure of one disk from a mirror set.

When a customer calls to report an incident, there is usually a discovery interaction that is initiated by the analyst. For example, the analyst will probably need to know information about the computer along with the operating system and installed applications. The more information the analyst has about the device, the better the chances are for a quick resolution.

Integration 1

Collecting information over the phone by questioning the customer can be time consuming. It is also not as reliable because there is always a risk that the customer may not provide correct information. Incorrect information will add to the time it takes to resolve the incident.

In some cases, an analyst may determine that an issue is the result of hardware failure. Providing warranty information linked to the device vendor will help speed up the process of replacing the device.

Providing device information within your incidents can also help when reporting on historical data or when looking at metrics. For example, while running a report showing historical incident information for the past 18 months, you may notice a certain laptop model appears in more incidents compared to other laptop models. This type of information could help you make better decisions going forward.

Another benefit of having the asset information as part of the incident could be to provide the security posture of the device. Some of your software assets are security applications. It would be important for the analyst to know that a device has the proper security applications installed. Furthermore, it would be beneficial for the analyst to see that the device is properly patched. Without the device information, the analyst will have to rely on remote control tools which will only add time to the trouble-shooting process.

Configuration Management

As defined by ITILv3, Configuration Management can be defined as follows:

The Process responsible for maintaining information about Configuration Items required to deliver an IT Service, including their relationships. This information is managed throughout the Lifecycle of the CI. Configuration Management is part of an overall Service Asset and Configuration Management Process.

Creating relationships for a configuration item (CI) is important so that you know who will be affected if a device or service goes down. Asset management systems can link assets to other assets, services, applications, and users.

For example, a printer can be mapped to a server and a physical location. Users can also be mapped to a physical location. Location information may determine the printer and print server that users are assigned to use. If the printer or print server goes down, mappings will show who is affected by the service disruption.

Integration 2

Asset mapping information gathered by the ITAM discovery tools should be automatically provided to the ITSM solution so that you can import or configure asset relationships. As a result, you will be able to show who will be affected when making a change to a CI.

Summary

It is always important to choose ITAM and ITSM solutions that are easily configured to integrate with other solutions. Include integration features offered by vendors as a part of your selection criteria. Solutions that provide connectors should be at the top of your list as you decide who to partner with in the future.

In Part 2, I will cover the following:

  • ITAM Integration with Request Management
  • ITSM Integration with Lifecycle Management

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Surviving a Software Audit (Part 2 of 2): Three Steps for Software License Reclamation

Taking my final exams was always very stressful for me. Unfortunately, I often added to my stress because there were many exams I wasn’t ready to take. Reason being, I didn’t study and prepare throughout the semester, so I really didn’t have anyone to blame but myself for the additional stress. Like many students, I would try to cram in hours of study at the last minute in an attempt to better the outcome of my exams results; however, that strategy rarely worked.

To me, software audits are much like final exams. If you are not prepared, chances are you are not going to like the outcome. Plus, you will only add to the stress of facing a software audit. I could spend a lot of time focusing on negative things about a software audit. For example, I could discuss a report sponsored by CDW regarding software audits that says:

If you are unprepared, you will:

The net result? It will cost you more.

Or, I could dwell on some research performed by IDG Research Services that states, “only 1 in 10 companies feel “extremely well prepared” for a potential software audit, and 47 percent of respondents described their companies as “somewhat” to “not prepared at all.”

However, I would rather focus on something exciting, and possibly rewarding, that comes from preparing for a software audit. Below are three steps to help you prepare, and possibly save money, as you ready for an upcoming audit.

The three steps you should follow:

  1. Discover software
  2. Assess software usage
  3. Reclaim Unused Software licenses (Software License Reclamation)

Caution:

These three steps are not going to work if you try to do them at the last minute. Do not wait until you are facing an audit to apply these principles that I share with you. Instead, start this project now for maximum results.

1. Discover Software

Discovering installed software is not as simple as scanning machines and then counting what is installed on each PC. The software data that is discovered may show different versions on different machines as a result of ongoing updates to software applications. Therefore, discovered software needs to be normalized.

Raw Data

Normalizing software is performed by mapping software titles and versions in the asset database to align with how the software licenses are defined in the End-user license agreement (EULA). For example, Adobe Acrobat X Standard 10.1.12 and Adobe Acrobat X Standard 10.1.3 would fall under the same license. Normalizing the data means that you would map both versions to Adobe Acrobat X Standard 10

Normalized Versions

Normalizing software to align with the EULA simplifies reporting so that your records can be clear and concise for a software audit. Based on the example above, software normalization could also be extended to other tables such as ‘Publisher’ and ‘Software Name’ to simplify software license reporting. Be sure to choose software monitoring tools that have this capability.

2. Assess Software Usage

Software asset management tools will help you have a clear view of installed software licenses on your network. However, software asset management tools will not save you money if you have exceeded your license count unless they can somehow correct the problem.

According to Gartner in a gated report, “Software asset management (SAM) managers looking for tools that can provide software license entitlement data and in-depth analysis of their license risk and exposure, while automating data collection, are evaluating software license optimization and entitlement (SLOE) tools.”

Gartner stated several key features that customers expect from a SLOE tool. One of those key features is:

Native software usage monitoring functionality (typically used on clients, not servers)

If you have a tool that can monitor software usage on clients, you are one step closer to saving a lot of money if you are facing a software audit or if you have an upcoming software license renewal.

Usage

In this example, software usage shows when Acrobat Professional XI was last used, how many times Acrobat was launched, and for how many minutes Acrobat was opened. If you have an upcoming software audit with Adobe and you are three licenses over what is permitted in the EULA, you have two choices: pay Adobe for the three licenses, or uninstall Adobe from those devices.

If you do not have a tool like this, then you will find yourself owing money to Adobe for the licenses after they complete their audit. The problem in the real world is that we are not talking about just three licenses; we are talking hundreds to thousands of licenses which translates into a lot of money.

SAMProblem Devices

SLOE tools can apply costs to your licenses so that you see how much you would save by reclaiming unused software licenses from your client devices. For example, if you were informed that 1,000 Visio installations had not been used for the past 120 days, you may consider removing Visio from those devices. If the license costs you $20 per device, you could potentially save $20,000 on your next software maintenance renewal.

3. Software License Reclamation

When a software asset management tool is able to show you software that you have purchased which is not being used, it may be time to reclaim that software and save some money. There are several ways to remove software from client devices. You could send an email to target users asking them to uninstall the software and then you could confirm they have uninstalled the software by rescanning their machines. I prefer an automated software reclamation approach as a way to pull software from client devices.

Uninstall Software Process

Software reclamation can be setup similar to software distribution. Look for tools that automate the process of identifying unused software, automatically targeting devices where the software is installed, then automatically uninstalling that software from those devices. Once this process has completed, the software asset management tool should update the software asset management database to reflect the software that has been removed.

Summary

Reclaiming software licenses requires you to properly discover software installations, assess software usage, and then reclaim software licenses. Software asset management tools that have the ability to monitor software usage have a very quick Return on Investment (ROI). Choose tools that have the ability to identify client devices where software can be uninstalled. If possible, choose tools that can remove the software or that work with a third party to remove the software automatically. Software asset management tools with software usage monitoring will not only save you money if you are facing an audit, they will also save you money when it’s time to renew your maintenance agreements with your software vendors.