Modern organizations rely on a wide range of technology resources for day-to-day business. From hardware and software to SaaS applications and cloud services, technology is the backbone for getting work done. Because this infrastructure is both critical and complex, costs can quickly escalate beyond your budget, especially in today’s environment where organizations are facing an incredible amount of change. This is why many adopt an IT asset management (ITAM) platform to enable governance, minimize risk, optimize technology spend and improve business performance.
But what if you don’t have one? What if you are now tasked with doing more with less and you don’t have a dedicated platform to help? We recently asked some of our in-house experts that very question. The answer: it isn’t easy and requires a lot of manual work, but it can be done. Here are some of their recommendations, based on decades of IT asset management experience, both as former systems administrators and current service delivery experts.
Use What You Already Have
Within your IT landscape, the main resource for software information is likely the same resource you used to deploy that software – a client management platform like SCCM, BigFix or Altiris. In most organizations, Windows systems represent the majority of laptops and desktops, and the client management platforms likely have hooks into the bulk of those machines. These platforms can be configured with a wide array of options but, as a baseline, most will provide at least some measure of hardware detail along with Add/Remove Programs data. These capabilities can be enough to start building a basic asset management program.
To begin, work with your Systems Administration or IT team to query the hardware detail and Add/Remove Programs dataset to pull the relevant hardware and software details you’ll need. On the hardware side, look for information like Chassis Type (physical, virtual, desktop, laptop), Inventory Client Status (active/inactive) and Last Inventory Date. To create the initial list of software in your environment, you’ll want to zero in on Add/Remove Program Name, Installation Date and Installation Path.
Validate the Data
A crucial step in this process is validating the reliability and accuracy of the data collected from this existing system or systems. A few things to consider include:
- When was this snapshot of data collected?
- Is there duplicate or redundant information in the data?
- What is included as standard software on all systems?
- Does the data include non-licensable software like updates, help, drivers, and service packs?
Clean Up Your First Data Grab
Your snapshot may seem unmanageable at first because it likely includes every single piece of software deployed, whether it is part of your Original Equipment Manufacturer
(OEM), non-licensable software, homegrown applications or even duplicate entries for updates. As a practical matter, you will want to sort out the information so that you have only legitimate data to base your decisions upon. To do this, you might follow this process:
1. Make a copy of the data. Make sure you retain a gold dataset you can revert to if needed.
2. Remove all records with an inventory date older than 15 days. This measure will give you reasonable currency, but your configuration settings as mentioned above may mean you need to make this a larger number. Sort by date and delete the rows you don’t want.
3. Remove all records with inactive client status. If the client is reporting any issues at all, you do not want to trust the data supplied. Again, sort and delete.
4. Remove all records with install dates outside of the range you want to investigate. In this example, you might match the inventory currency date because you are interested in recent activity due to a shift to full work from home. For more on that topic, read Visibility and Agility: A Perspective on IT Asset Management During and After a Crisis.
5. Create a pivot table to group your data.
6. Pull Add Remove Program Name into the “Rows” section then again into the “Values” section.
7. Pull Chassis Type into the “Columns” section.
Next comes the tedious work. In the data, you will see a large number of entries. Click the filter option and take out the unneeded Add/Remove Program Names as mentioned above citing help, driver, update, etc.
Define Your Goals
Now that you have a relatively clean inventory dataset, you can start to prioritize your actions and decisions based on this data. You may have a renewal coming up with a particular vendor and want to go into that negotiating period in the best position possible. Or you may want to focus on vendors consuming the largest portions of the organization’s software spend. Another consideration might be a major project requiring specific software deployments, like data center migrations or transitions to public cloud environments.
Once you have inventory data and a focus area, you’ll need to start understanding what the organization owns. It is good practice to obtain a license position from the publisher and supplement that with any purchases made through resellers not represented in those publisher statements.
A secondary option would be to leverage the last set of data for which there was an agreement with the publisher and supplement that with purchases made since the time of that agreement. An example of this would be a true-up statement or audit result. Another option would be to obtain an applicable report of purchases from a reseller. However, that may not represent a complete license position.
Work the Data for Value-adding Insights
Armed with all of this inventory and licensing data, you can start driving toward whatever goals you are tasked with achieving. This may require reconciling the two datasets to work toward a compliance position, identifying where there may be software waste or understanding where your organization may need to true-up with a vendor in the future.
You may feel the urge to take on this work and make decisions within your own function but we’d advise that you resist the urge to make assumptions based on a single view of the IT landscape. ITAM is a foundational effort that touches every area of an organization. That means asking questions of those who can best answer them, regardless of where they sit in the organization. You will gain valuable insight that you can use to the entire organization’s advantage.
Of course, you will save a lot of time and be able to extend your strategy beyond basic asset management if you have a platform like Snow. If and when you’re ready to consider an ITAM platform, we’re here to help. Start by downloading our eBook on Building a Business Case for IT Asset Management or requesting a personalized demo.