ITAM vs. ITSM – What's the Difference?
IT Asset Management (ITAM) and IT Service Management (ITSM) are critical for any organization that requires IT capabilities to support business objectives. Both technologies provide IT operational support to an organization; however, the purpose and objectives of these technologies are quite different. Let’s explore the differences and similarities between ITAM and ITSM.
ITAM – IT Asset Management
An IT asset refers to both hardware and software that is used by an organization to support the organization’s business objectives. When organizations have accurate IT asset inventory reports, they are able to make informed IT purchase decisions. However, IT assets are often updated, moved, and refreshed, making it difficult to maintain up-to-date asset information.
When IT asset reports are inaccurate, they expose the organization to unnecessary IT purchases, software audits, and security breaches. ITAM provides recommendations and best practices for managing IT assets that support the organization’s objectives.
ITAM best practices suggest that an IT asset be linked to its associated contractual and financial information so that organizations can track the overall costs associated with their IT assets.
Furthermore, ITAM provides guidance to IT asset managers for creating standards, processes, policies, and measurements for the purpose of increasing control, ensuring compliance to business objectives, and reducing risk along with reducing costs.
When ITAM practices are implemented, IT assets will be tracked from purchase to disposal; often referred to as IT asset lifecycle management. For example, an ITAM hardware disposal process will ensure that when old laptops are disposed during a refresh, the associated software licenses are properly harvested so they can be redeployed.
According to Gartner, IT asset management (ITAM) provides an accurate account of technology asset lifecycle costs and risks to maximize the business value of technology strategy, architecture, funding, contractual and sourcing decisions.
To ensure efficient IT asset lifecycle management, ITAM business practices include processes for IT asset requests, approvals, procurement, disposal, and redeployment. These processes ensure that IT assets are documented when they are purchased and properly tracked as they are deployed and redeployed.
Most IT service management (ITSM) solutions provide capabilities that support IT requests and approvals, so it is important that ITAM solutions selected by an organization integrate with the organization’s ITSM solution.
It is also important to note that most comprehensive ITAM solutions offered by software vendors provide processes that span multiple departments of an organization, which means that most IT asset management solutions are selected and owned by business executives, not IT managers.
ITSM – IT Service Management
Organizations that require IT assets to support business objectives also require IT services to ensure assets are properly working in the capacity for which they were purchased. IT Service Management (ITSM) is not just about software tools, it is about processes, people, and technology. ITSM software is a component of an ITSM solution.
- IT Service Management is a strategic approach for designing, delivering, managing, and improving the way information technology (IT) is used within an organization. The goal of IT Service Management is to ensure that the right processes, people, and technology are in place so that the organization can meet its business goals.
ITSM software solutions come with several components such as a database, business objects (users, groups, roles, etc.), and a process engine. Most ITSM solutions offered by vendors today follow ITIL best practices.
As IT solutions were adopted more and more during the 1980s, there was a need for IT Service Management standards. ITIL serves two purposes: to define common terminology, and to define best practices for IT service management. Terminology such as “Incident,” “Problem,” “Change,” “Configuration Item (CI),” and “Configuration Management Database (CMDB),” all come from the ITIL text books.
ITIL, which means IT Infrastructure Library refers to a group of documents that were created to provide guidance and a framework for building an IT Service Management (ITSM) solution. Organizations that support an IT infrastructure can increase efficiency while reducing service management costs by following recommended ITIL processes.
To help IT service employees become educated and stay educated, several ITIL certifications, as well as training is available. ITIL certifications focus on practice and procedure, not product.
These software solutions can typically be designed to meet most, if not all, ITIL recommendations. Be advised that organizations exist, such as PINK that evaluate ITSM software solutions to certify their ITIL capabilities. Be sure to choose ITSM tools that are certified if you plan to implement ITIL best practices.
CMDB or ITAM
Comprehensive ITSM solutions offer Configuration Management capabilities along with a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) to support and manage IT assets that provide services to the organization. Both ITAM and ITIL provide guidance for managing IT assets, which can be confusing until you explore the objectives from each practice.
- ITAM objectives focus on managing an IT asset’s overall cost, including ownership, associated contracts with asset lifecycle, warranty, and refresh information. ITAM focuses on IT assets from an organization’s financial perspective.
- Configuration Management objectives look at IT assets from an operational and support perspective. Asset availability and stability impact an organization’s day-to-day operations, so assets need to be documented along with their configuration and service offerings.
Can a CMDB be used for ITAM?
To answer this question, let’s take a look at how airlines manage their flights. Airlines manages their flights using a database with flight numbers that describe a service. A separate asset database maintains inventory information listing the physical planes, along with relevant maintenance information. When a problem is found with a plane, the airline will sometimes switch the plane for another plane. Because the services and equipment are maintained in different databases, the airline can switch out the plane without having to change the flight number.
It is not practical to use a CMDB for both ITAM and Configuration Management much like it would not be practical for an airline to manage their flight services in the same database they manage their plane inventory.
Most IT assets are refreshed every 3-4 years, while IT configurations with supporting assets are maintained and updated, not replaced. Therefore, a CMDB should be used to maintain and manage the lifecycle of a service while pulling the supporting asset(s) from an IT asset management database.
IT Asset Management (ITAM) and IT Service Management (ITSM) are critical for any organization that uses IT assets to support business objectives. When looking to build, expand, or change your IT asset management solution or your IT service management solution, be sure to explore integration capabilities for both solutions. With the right tools, IT processes that support IT assets can be automated, which will increase efficiency and control, while reducing costs and mistakes that happen from manual tasks performed by an analyst.