This article has been contributed by Kylie Fowler. Kylie is an experienced IT Asset Manager and writes Practical ITAM. Here she shares her views on the role of Hardware Asset Management within a Software Asset Management programme.
How much HAM do you need in your SAMwich?
….quite a lot actually, although you can pass on the lettuce, tomato and mustard! 🙂
OK – frivolity over. Now that you’ve all stopped falling over yourselves laughing, let’s think about the question seriously.
The ROI of a comprehensive Software Asset Management (SAM) programme is greatly increased by the implementation of a concurrent Hardware Asset Management (HAM) programme to provide a supporting foundation of hard data about the machines used in the organisation. The question each organisation must address is what data and in what detail should be included in their hardware asset management programme to ensure the success of their SAM programme, particularly bearing in mind that the need to carry out hardware asset management activities will increase the initial costs of the SAM programme.
How much HAM?
The answer is a trade-off between the costs of implementing hardware asset management and the benefits you gain for your SAM programme, which in turn depends in large degree on the size of your organisation. Bear in mind that there are also non-SAM related benefits for hardware asset management, although we will only touch briefly on those here.
When to Track Hardware
All companies, no matter what their size, should implement sound hardware asset management programmes at the two ends of the hardware lifecycle – that is, when IT equipment is introduced into the organisation and when assets are removed from the organisation.
Fundamentally you can’t have an effective SAM programme unless you know exactly what equipment you have in your organisation at any point in time – and the acquisition and end-of-life disposition of assets is key to this. How can you be sure that your discovery tool is working properly and detecting all your equipment unless you can cross-reference the results against a definitive list of the equipment you currently own?
The Purchasing Process
At the purchase end of the lifecycle, all equipment should be asset tagged with a unique reference number immediately it is introduced into the organisation. The asset tag, serial number, purchase order number and date of purchase should all be entered into your asset register. If you are a small organisation, your asset register could consist of a simple excel spreadsheet, but larger organisations will require something more sophisticated. Ideally, machine names (even server names) should incorporate the asset tag number to allow quick-and-easy cross-referencing between discovered data and your hardware asset register.
The Disposal Process
At the other end of the lifecycle, disposal, an efficient process to identify redundant equipment and then remove them from the company is highly desirable. Not only does old IT equipment rapidly lose its resale value if left sitting around, but software manufacturers will still include this equipment in any audits, and will want to continue charging you maintenance for the software installed on these machines. These are both negotiating points if you are being audited by a vendor, but it is much, much better to never be in that position in the first place.
At a basic administrative level, the disposal process could just be an entry in your hardware asset register that the hardware is no longer owned by your company, along with a brief note of how the equipment was disposed. Larger companies may have a more complicated disposal process and may need to be able to demonstrate to outside regulatory bodies that certain processes have occurred before equipment leaves the site, such as hard drives wiped of data, and asset tags removed. Other points of ‘leakage’ of equipment should also be tracked in your hardware asset register. Prime examples are when machines are lost or stolen, and when they are sent back to the manufacturer for repair or swap-out but go missing en-route.
Recording Asset Usage
A comprehensive SAM programme will focus not only on license use and reconciliation, but will also aim to maximise the efficiency of license use by ensuring that valuable software licenses do not sit around unused on spare machines. Small organisations may find that it is sufficient just to manage a stock register so they can verify what equipment is in use at any one time and what is sitting in a storeroom. This will allow the company to remove any licenses on unused machines and reuse them, reducing the need for new license purchases and associated ongoing maintenance costs.
However large companies may find that that they also benefit from recording how individual machines are used because it may help them negotiate specific contract terms with software vendors. This is because many software vendors are willing to negotiate discounts and exceptions for software that is demonstrably being used for DR, testing or training purposes.
The best way to demonstrate to a software vendor that your estimation of the number of these ‘special use’ machines is accurate is to show a consistent, accurate process for recording use over time. This will significantly strengthen your negotiating position and help provide leverage with software vendors to negotiate variations to standard End User License Agreements which can save significant sums of money.
Only large companies are likely to benefit by recording asset usage over the life span of the asset because this is a complex process which places a significant burden on support personnel and requires a more sophisticated database than an excel spreadsheet. The costs and benefits of tracking equipment usage need to be weighed up carefully and most companies will only find that it is worth their while once they have reached a critical mass that lets them start having meaningful negotiations with software vendors.
Benefits beyond SAM
Large companies will also see other, non-SAM related, benefits in the maintenance of a sophisticated asset register in conjunction with an asset discovery tool. These benefits will be felt by patch management, software release management, build management and application deployment. These functions all use the same basic toolset as high-end ITAM tools, and large companies should take seriously the potential to maximise the ROI on their ITAM tools by considering these other device management areas right from the start of the tool selection process.
To sum up, a sound hardware asset management programme is a vital component of a successful SAM programme no matter the size of your organisation. Small organisations should focus on managing the purchase and disposal of hardware assets, but larger companies may find that effective hardware asset management can be crucial in improving the ROI of software purchases by enhancing their leverage with software vendors during purchase negotiations. Additionally, the same hardware and software asset management toolset that is used for SAM can also be leveraged to benefit other functions in the device management arena.