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IT asset lifecycle management – also known as IT asset management or ITAM – has been around in one form or another for about as long as the IT profession itself.

Don’t mistake that to mean it’s a legacy practice in decline. Rather, ITAM is as vital as ever to successful IT management. The definition of an IT asset has expanded and evolved to include much more than, say, employee laptops and software applications. Moreover, the value of IT assets has consistently increased given the central role technology plays in virtually every business – not to mention ambitious digital transformation initiatives sweeping virtually every industry today. 

Add to that a “new normal” in which uncertain macros conditions are considered business as usual, and ITAM’s importance becomes even more visible – which is actually spurring renewed interest in the discipline.

Industry Insight

“Due to the uncertain global economic situation, there’s an undeniable uptick in investments in ITAM, showcasing its significance,” says Cyndi Tackett, SVP of marketing at Flexera, where she was previously VP of solutions engineering for over a decade.

As a CTO, you’re probably well-familiar with the general IT principle that “you can’t protect what you can’t see” or similar – you can optimize what you can’t see, you can’t update what you can’t see, and so forth. ITAM as a discipline has long sought to ensure the kind of visibility and knowledge CTOs need to make the most of their finite resources – ideally in real-time or near real-time.

That visibility and insight is all the more important as IT environments become increasingly distributed, diverse, and data-intensive. So let’s dig into the state of ITAM in 2024, from the mainstays that form its foundation to the newer trends and areas of focus that you and your team should know.

Definition & Key Stages of IT Asset Lifecycle Management

IT asset lifecycle management is the continuous process of managing and optimizing technology assets at every stage of their useful lifespan, from planning and procurement to decommissioning and disposal. It’s an absolutely critical practice in terms of IT cost optimization, service quality, employee productivity, security, compliance, and other requirements. The term is also used to refer to the various asset management software tools CTOs use to manage their technology portfolio.

We’re using “IT asset lifecycle management” and “IT asset management” interchangeably here, though some people might consider the former as a specific process under a broader umbrella of ITAM practices. No matter your POV, either term rightly refers to the rigorous end-to-end lifecycle management process governing all IT assets to ensure maximum business value. Those stages include:

  • Planning and Budgeting: The first stage of effectively managing IT assets begins before they technically exist. The planning stage entails forecasting your IT requirements to ensure you’re right-sizing your investments and that the money will be in your budget when needed – and that you’re negotiating the best pricing possible with your IT service providers.
  • Acquisition: You need processes in place – grounded in intelligent, accurate planning – that ensure you’re ready to buy new assets when you need them. This phase is also commonly called procurement, which can involve an entire team or department in large enterprises.
  • Assignment: Once acquired, IT assets must be properly allocated, assigned, and tracked – ensuring that the right resources are matched with the right people and systems continuously. This stage includes fundamentals like configuration, deployment, and end-user training.
  • Utilization and Optimization: Few IT assets are set-it-and-forget-it propositions – their effective use requires streamlined preventive maintenance strategies – such as security patching and software upgrades – and fine-tuning to enable optimal usage while keeping maintenance costs reasonable. This phase also includes ongoing support (whether via a help desk or other source) when issues or bugs arise.
  • Decommissioning: The useful life of virtually any IT asset is finite – whether it is an aging hardware asset, obsolete software, or stale or inaccurate data, there comes a point when it is time to declare end-of-life and retire or replace the asset.
  • Disposal: Finally, those retired assets – even those in the cloud or as a SaaS app – must be properly disposed of. Short-changing this step can open the organization to unnecessary risks, including security holes, compliance issues, and unnecessary costs (such as storing data that is no longer needed.)

4 Key Benefits of the IT Asset Lifecycle Management

Because it’s not the most glamorous aspect of IT, it might be tempting to question the value of ITAM. But that would be a colossal mistake – kind of like never changing the oil in your car or ignoring your household’s bills. ITAM’s benefits tend to be compounding – not just for you as CTO but for all decision-makers and stakeholders in the organization. The advantages of carefully managing every stage of the asset lifecycle include:

  1. Optimizing IT Costs: Ignoring IT asset lifecycle management is like never paying attention to what you spend your money on. There’s simply no way to optimize costs – whether that means finding and realizing cost savings or simply maximizing the return on investment of every dollar you’re spending – if you don’t know what you’re spending your budget on.
  2. Stronger Security: Too many security risks and breaches result from so-called “blind spots” in your environment – again, you can’t protect an asset if you don’t even know it exists.
  3. Improved Productivity & Efficiency: As a CTO, you’re constantly under pressure to do more with less – a maddening adage, to be sure, but a business reality for most IT executives today. Effective ITAM helps you to maximize resources while also ensuring that both employees and IT systems have the tools and data they need to do their jobs well.
  4. Enhanced Data-Driven Decision-Making: One of the biggest changes in ITAM is the evolutionary shift to view organizational datasets as valuable (if not more so) as traditional assets such as servers or software. Incorporating a data-driven view into ITAM helps deliver the right data to the right people and systems at the right time, enabling informed decisions – no matter whether it’s a human or a machine making the decision.

While IT asset lifecycle management is a longstanding practice, it’s not static – as IT itself has evolved, so does the definition of an IT asset. Here are several prominent trends that you should be incorporating into your ITAM strategy if you’re not already.

Data as an Asset: With digital transformation and other IT-powered initiatives continuing to dominate business strategies, organizations need to increasingly treat their data as an asset – one that has an asset lifecycle of its own, just like physical assets or software licenses. It’s a prerequisite for optimizing data management and analytics, among other use cases.

Industry Insight

“With companies continuing to optimize their data, asset management will remain a top priority,” says Kevin Miller, CTO, Americas at IFS. “As a result, we can anticipate a surge in enterprise investments geared toward reinforcing data strategies in the near future.”

AI Comes to ITAM – or Vice Versa: One of the most urgent reasons for explicitly incorporating data into the asset management lifecycle is that it’s a must for effective AI and ML strategies, according to Tackett from Flexera. There’s no such thing as good AI without good data.

“IT leaders must recognize that the landscape of IT asset management has been deeply influenced this year by advancements in AI and ML,” Tackett says. “When we discuss AI, we're essentially talking about intelligent utilization of data. The highest-performing IT teams look for expansive and enriched datasets for more impactful decision-making. The ability to provide data to support other teams is a significant measure of success of asset management initiatives, showing that ITAM plays a significant role company-wide.”

Regulatory Landscape Keeps Evolving: Whether in terms of data governance, security, or other areas, it’s also important to remember that the regulatory environment is continuously evolving.

Companies with a footprint in the EU, for example, will soon need to adapt their ITAM practices – especially in terms of asset disposal – to meet new rules due to the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

Industry Insight

“CTOs will need to implement ITAD processes that integrate CSR practices into their operations and supply chain management,” says Eric Ingebretsen, chief commercial officer at TES. They will need to ensure that their processes for the disposal and recycling of electronic waste are environmentally responsible, comply with all relevant regulations, and are socially responsible in their business practices.

The Bottom Line

IT asset management clearly isn’t going anywhere – but it’s also not simply business as usual. Let us know your current ITAM strategy in the comments below, and be sure to join The CTO Club newsletter for more industry news and discussions.

By Kevin Casey

Kevin Casey is an award-winning technology and business writer with deep expertise in digital media. He covers all things IT, with a particular interest in cloud computing, software development, security, careers, leadership, and culture. Kevin's stories have been mentioned in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CIO Journal, and other publications. His on ageism in the tech industry, "Are You Too Old For IT?," won an Azbee Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), and he's a former Community Choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards. In the corporate world, he's worked for startups and Fortune 500 firms – as well as with their partners and customers – to develop content driven by business goals and customer needs. He can turn almost any subject matter into stories that connect with their intended audience, and has done so for companies like Red Hat, Verizon, New Relic, Puppet Labs, Intuit, American Express, HPE, Dell, and others. Kevin teaches writing at Duke University, where he is a Lecturing Fellow in the nationally recognized Thompson Writing Program.