Sherry Irwin outlines the vital role IT Asset Management (ITAM) has to play in the post-COVID recovery
The pandemic forced organisations to purchase and deploy new technologies at a record pace, particularly in the case of remote and online capabilities for employees, customers, service providers and others. Understandably, the standard ‘due diligence’ process was reduced or in some cases bypassed altogether.
While this was an appropriate course of action at the time, companies must now look back at decisions made and address any potentially excessive commitments or supplier risks that might have been introduced during the rush. Areas to consider include:
Contracts, particularly for new suppliers, may not have gone through the typical assessment/analysis and comparison against the organisation’s standard and mandatory terms (business and legal). They may have been accepted rather than negotiated, without the customary reviews and approvals;
Customary evaluation against standard criteria may have been forgone or done on a limited basis for new suppliers, such that not all risks were identified, let alone mitigated. The same may apply to new business with existing suppliers, particularly if impacted by the pandemic.
The organisation may be paying too much for software, hardware or services purchased in a rush at the start of the pandemic (possibly without the benefit of available or negotiated discounts), some of which may not be needed post-pandemic.
Many organisations purchased excess software, hardware or services, uncertain of future demand or supply, and as a result have unused (and unusable) inventory. ViacomCBS, for example, recently saved over 32% on Zoom licences after an internal ITAM audit found many licences were being unused.
The post-COVID assessment
In conducting an assessment of contracts and suppliers to identify and reduce unnecessary costs and risks, organisations should pay particular attention to new contracts that were awarded during the period of reduced due diligence. They should also reevaluate the viability of existing suppliers to identify new or changed risks caused by the pandemic.
*Make an inventory of all contracts established during the pandemic;
*Identify realised and future commitments and update applicable budgets as necessary;
*Compare contract terms with the organisation’s standard terms – identify and address material variances;
*Review or conduct supplier viability assessments;
*Review supplier performance during the pandemic and against the contract;
*Assess usage of products and services against contract commitments and future plans;
*For audit purposes, obtain required approvals (legal, financial, other), albeit after the fact.
IT Asset Management is the function best placed to conduct (or lead) such assessments due to its reach across all organisational departments and its oversight of the entire IT estate.
In co-operation with corporate and IT partners, ITAM oversees the business aspects of IT investments (including contracts, suppliers and financials), with consideration for the entire lifecycle, as well as total cost of ownership, and with the overall objectives of controlling cost, reducing risks and maximising value/return.
Looking beyond the post-COVID assessment
While a post-COVID assessment is an excellent starting point, especially for organisations that have yet to invest in a strategic ITAM function, it is just one aspect of ITAM’s overall value to an organisation. Other long-term benefits, include:
Given that roughly one third of software is wasted or unused, ITAM can justify its existence through cost savings alone;
If a company doesn’t already have an ITAM function, they usually start one when faced with a software licence compliance audit. According to The ITAM Review, 31% of IT asset managers have seen an increase in software audits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic;
ITAM is a valuable resource in planning, costing, configuring and delivering IT services. Organisations must consider IT asset costs, contract terms, supplier ability and risks – all of which fall within ITAM’s purview;
Historically, ITAM and information security (InfoSec) have had limited cooperation and integration. By partnering with InfoSec, ITAM can help bring much greater visibility and control over data exposures and security breaches;
Business agility. The more visibility you have of assets (e.g., location, configuration, usage), the faster you can change (subject to terms in contracts).
One of the goals of the ITAM Forum is to make IT Asset Management a de facto business practice within every organisation, in the same vein as marketing, HR, accounting etc.. If organisations only look to ITAM to conduct a post-COVID audit of their supplier risks, they will miss out on so much. However, I am confident that any organisation that takes this first step will find it is the start of their ITAM journey.