The evolution of ITAM in a hybrid IT ecosystem

How Enterprise Technology Management helps you dominate the “new normal”

Managing information technology assets (ITAM) as a discipline has been in place for over 20 years. The IT ecosystem has changed completely in that time, and most legacy ITAM systems have struggled to keep pace with constant change and increased complexity. This is particularly critical now with acceleration of change due to hybrid ecosystem requirements driven by the pandemic, accelerated digital transformation, and employees desire for more flexibility in where they work. 

We have found that most enterprises fall into one of two categories when it comes to managing their technology assets. The smaller ones tend to track assets using a spreadsheet, which has its challenges; employees swap out new assets (phones, laptops, etc.) regularly, software is downloaded almost at will (Shadow IT), and security is an aggravation that is ignored until it’s too late. Tracking the status of all of this on a spreadsheet is nearly impossible and prone to data entry errors. Bigger companies address this through specialized tools such as a CMDB, SAM, or MDM applications, but it still leaves an open switch. 

The underlying problem is that all these technologies are essentially  productivity tools for employees, but everything is tracked and managed as though it were a stand-alone product-centric item. This triggers problems for the service desk (usually the first line of defense when anything unexpected happens). When someone calls in with a problem, the help desk technician has to ask 

  • What kind of device
  • What operating system and version
  • What apps are on the device
  • What is the AV status
  • Which cloud instances are accessed
  • What cost center is responsible
  • etc.

Just to make it extra fun, all these variables are tracked in separate databases, so in order to run a diagnostic test multiple data sources need to be correlated to arrive at a possible solution, and this is usually required at a point in time where people are trying to be productive (your laptop freezes right as you’re about to present - been there, done that). This model is no longer sustainable, particularly in this day and age. 

While there are a huge range of variables at play, for brevity’s sake we can narrow it down to three big drivers:

  • Migration to cloud: this has been going on in fits and starts for years, but with the extended pandemic and the need for more flexibility in where employees choose to work, there is a brutal acceleration of this process as enterprises embrace a hybrid IT model. 
  • Expansion of IoT: While people think of IoT as wearable technology or other variations on consumer use, the real expansion is in operational infrastructure (automated factories, robotics, embedded sensors, etc.). This is a small step sideways from legacy enterprise IT infrastructure management, and for most companies this is a perfectly natural extension of technology management. 
  • Increased security exposure: All of your employees are running around at will, accessing your IT infrastructure from a nominally secured network, which is probably shared with family members who don’t have security as a front and center concern. What could possibly go wrong?

So just these three items are enough to drive a fundamental reconsideration of requirements for managing technology infrastructure. This will include:

  • Work from anywhere: this is the new normal. Anyone who thinks that at some point we’re going to revert to a pre-pandemic work model is fooling themselves. Employees like the flexibility and productivity is up, so placing an IT management model in place that recognizes this will make your life a whole lot easier. 
  • Expanded attack surface: the downside to convenience has always been security. Most companies went from a few offices to thousands, literally in a matter of weeks. You need to fundamentally rethink how technology is being managed, since it is now behaving completely differently. The critical requirement is linking all elements (hardware, software, apps, etc.) to pivot around the user, regardless of where they are.  
  • Digital transformation: everything is becoming increasingly challenging. Digital transformation is not only going to continue, it's going to accelerate. Once cloud becomes the pervasive application framework, it will be difficult to stay ahead of who has what unless you put in software and cloud asset management solutions that tie to hardware and users. The sooner you get ahead of this, the easier your life will be.
  • Increased IoT workloads: when you combine an increase in all the little doo-dads (sensors, etc.) with a massive leap in bandwidth (5G networks), the workloads for managing IT are going to increase exponentially. A network that is 100X faster is designed for machines, not humans. Tracking telemetry data at speed is critical (think autonomous vehicles), and IT management will be front and center on this. 

The key to managing all this is to think about all technologies across the entire organization, and ideally be able to view them from a single integrated view. Your perspective has to be broad, inclusive, integrated, and real-time. Enterprise Technology Management is becoming the new normal for companies that have moved past the struggle stage to staying comfortably ahead of a wildly challenging set of circumstances. By integrating what were previously disparate data sources into a holistic view, enterprises are now able to address security (who has what where), compliance (can you prove who has what where), enablement (get your employees what they need when they need it), orchestration (manage all IT assets across their entire lifecycle) and optimization (spend what you need, and only what you need). 

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