There seems to be a holding pattern that many companies fall into, in which their IT assets are:

  • Not fully visible, and so
  • Inventory remains incomplete, and so
  • Costs and maintenance owners are not well defined, and so
  • Money is spent for redundant investments, while requirements for new investments are dealt with reactively, and even worse
  • Changes made to the infrastructure are done at grave peril of endangering service performance, while risking compliance violations, and sometimes even the security of the entire infrastructure

One EMA consulting client unearthed the fact that a firewall device which they thought was in Test was actually serving a critical and active role in production. It wasn't being properly maintained, but luckily the client discovered in time - in this case as a part of a CMDB System initiative.

The ease with which basic inventory updates get overlooked is especially evident when many of the devices, network and systems, etc., reside outside of headquarters, or prominent data centers or NOCs. For instance, according to one director of network ops for a large manufacturing company with remote locations spread across North America I spoke to just last month: "Our remote ops people are supposed to keep the infrastructure inventory current and document when changes are made -- but it's just not that important to them. They're too busy putting out fires."

Sound familiar? This is a variant of putting something on the back burner -- because you, yourself, are already standing in the flames.

But there are signs of progress. EMA is researching how asset management and financial planning are becoming better supported with change management, analytics, and visibility into application usage. Here are some new and interesting data points from EMA research across 290 mid-tier and enterprise respondents on "Next Generation Asset Management" or NGAM:

  • Thirty percent said they were organised separately by domains (network, systems, telecommunications, etc.) for asset management
  • Twenty-one percent managed applications and systems together, while network and telecommunications were separate.
  • Eighteen percent had integrated network, systems and applications, but managed telecommunications separately.<
  • But a striking twenty-eight percent replied that they had a central asset management and financial planning organisation that cuts across all of IT. I believe this should be taken as a sign of progress.

One other probably even more important sign of progress is that while:

  • Thirty-seven percent said that asset management and service planning are managed separately
  • Thirty-four percent said that asset management and service planning are managed together. Interestingly, the network and telecommunications managers who responded to the survey showed an even higher percentage - greater than 50% - managing assets to service costs, where services are primarily defined in terms of connectivity, telephony, and infrastructure outreach.<
  • Twenty-nine percent are managing services and assets separately today, but planning to bring them together in the future

Now, a realistic interpretation of this data would indicate that probably no IT organisation is totally integrated in how they manage assets and services. However, the data does indicate that enterprises are clearly beginning to make investments in this direction, stumbling through a complex mix of technologies, process initiatives and organisational changes -- towards, as the network operations director put it "a service model for calculating costs."

These and other signs of progress are really important if IT is ever to truly align itself with business objectives. And this is all the more important today, as IT services are not only a part of business productivity, they are also actively reshaping a wide variety of business services and even enabling new business models altogether. Understanding IT service lifecycle costs as well as IT service lifecycle values in financial terms is going to be required more and more, especially as the technology for getting there is gradually becoming more robust, affordable and deployable.

But you have to start somewhere, and just starting with a good system for dynamically tracking inventory with an eye to costs, owners, services and change management requirements is not a bad place to begin.

Dennis Drogseth is vice president at analysts Enterprise Management Associates