IT Asset Management teams, with their holistic estate-wide view of technology assets, know that they are now performing a vital governance function for their organizations. However, it is still the case that ITAM can be seen as an operational or even clerical function by some organizations – just another group looking at managing technology from their own, somewhat narrow perspective.
This is an outmoded and risky view for senior leaders to take. IT assets are the very fabric of most businesses today. You may not sell a technology-centered product, but that product is still designed, marketed, sold, and serviced using hardware and software managed by technical teams, including ITAM.
Alongside this need to manage hardware and software, organizations also need to pay attention to how their employees use technology. Recent years have seen a rise in prominence of “employee experience”, a similarly holistic approach to ensuring that employees are happy in their roles. And, with technology increasingly employees’ primary interface with their colleagues and their work, technology teams have a key role to play in delivering excellence in employee experience.
Against this backdrop of increasing reliance on technology we are seeing new tools and use cases emerge to address technology governance requirements. For example, Oomnitza position their product as an Enterprise Technology Management platform. Similarly, other tool vendors are recognizing the importance of this fresh approach to governing IT assets. But how does this differ from “traditional” ITAM?
Enterprise Technology Management (ETM) is a set of tools and processes focused on managing diverse assets including endpoints, network devices, operational technology (OT), and software in the context of business value and efficiency. As such, it can be thought of as going beyond the fundamental ITAM question of “what do we have and what are we using?” and instead answering questions such as “why are we using those assets?” and “which assets need to be replaced in order to become more efficient?”
A key factor in understanding ETM is the realization that there are now stakeholders for IT asset information business-wide. ITAM teams will already be acutely aware that multiple teams are undertaking ITAM-like discovery, inventory, and normalization activities using their own tools focused on their own specific use cases. For example, Service Management will be populating and managing a CMDB, and IT Security will be conducting discovery and inventory scanning to protect the organization against emerging security threats. However, it’s not just IT teams. Compliance teams need oversight of IT assets to comply with industry regulations, and HR needs to understand how employees are using technology.
The solution that ETM provides is to acknowledge and embrace that there are diverse and multiple approaches to discovery and inventory. An ETM platform exists as “middleware”, designed to be the platform that integrates data from multiple systems to build a comprehensive and, most of all, accurate view of IT assets – be they anything from a container and a network switch to a mainframe computer or cloud service.
By combining data from multiple sources, we build certainty about our assets and what they’re being used for. That certainty is important in increasingly complex, fast-moving, and large estates as without it time-consuming manual checking and reconciliation is required. What ETM aims to deliver is a true, dynamic, and up-to-date view of the technology estate. That trustworthy data is then leveraged to deliver enhanced and rapid value to all stakeholders.
This primarily happens through automation, which is essential for large estates. Over the past few years much has been made of data-driven insights, often delivered by dashboards. More recently, the buzzword has been actionable insights, whereby a person interacting with a dashboard can take direct action to resolve an issue. The certainty that ETM platforms generate allows governance teams to go a step further and utilize automation and workflow to act upon those insights.
ETM differs from more traditional ITAM tools in that it relies upon, and leverages, the APIs and other “hooks” provided by many enterprise solutions. It then uses that connectivity and interoperability to access data in real time from diverse systems, alongside its own typically agentless discovery methods.
Alongside discovery and aggregation of multiple sources, ETM tools often make use of no-code/low-code automation builders. These features enable business stakeholders to generate custom workflows based on their requirements and leveraging the same API connectivity used for discovery and inventory. For example, HR might work with IT to develop a custom onboarding/offboarding workflow triggered by a change in the HR system. Alternatively, IT Security could determine the user of a potentially vulnerable machine to notify them of the risk, and the compliance team could assess the extent of a potential data privacy breach.
This powerful connectivity between stakeholder systems offers great promise for governance teams but it’s vital that all stakeholders are comfortable with, and understand, the objectives of an ETM platform.
So far in this article we’ve explored how ETM systems can integrate technology governance systems from multiple stakeholders. That’s all well and good, but what if those stakeholders aren’t keen on sharing data? How do we go about building the business case for ETM and more importantly how do we get everyone on board?
The best place to start is to look at the business outcomes you’re trying to deliver. For example, that might be an objective to speed up the time it takes to fulfill an employee technology request, or the time it takes to onboard a new employee. These regular operational processes are ripe for improvement, particularly in larger organizations, as they will nearly always require a multi-stakeholder approach. For ITAM teams the onboarding process can be complex and costly if not integrated with other stakeholder systems. Whilst software is increasingly delivered as SaaS there are still local elements to be deployed and prior to that a check must be performed to ensure that a valid license exists for the program.
Working with other stakeholders to improve service delivery sets an example for how working more closely together will help everyone. Success breeds success and the relationships built by fixing inefficient business processes can be leveraged to build momentum around a more comprehensive service improvement program. This in turn can help ITAM teams justify investment in automating routine processes such as license harvesting, enabling them to expand their influence and focus on more strategic deliverables.
Enterprise Technology Management tools such as those from Oomnitza offer a fresh perspective on governing technology assets. Our estates are only going to get more complex over the coming years and with that complexity and rapid cadence comes increased risk. Technology governance is a diverse and distributed function and will remain so; what ETM does is provide stakeholders with a way to work towards common goals together. In doing so, all teams benefit from the increased awareness that C-Suite will have of the vital role governance provides in delivering business value.
To learn more about ETM, listen to our recent podcast with Oomnitza.