What is IT Asset Management (ITAM)?

ITAM joins financial, inventory, contractual and risk management to manage the lifecycle of these assets including tactical and strategic decisions.

Assets have a limited amount of time for use, and an organization can maximize their value with ITAM and proactive management. Phases of the lifecycle generally include planning, procurement, deployment, maintenance, retirement and disposal.

What are the types of IT asset management?

Generally speaking, IT assets fall into one or more of the following categories: physical, software, hardware, mobile, and the cloud. ITAM is designed to ensure successful deployment and ongoing support of IT assets. As such, it corresponds with these IT asset types.  

The three primary types of IT asset management are as follow:

  1. Software: This type of ITAM is a bit more complex than the others, as it involves things like compliance requirements, licensing, shadow IT, and IoT. Software assets must be continuously monitored and reviewed, and the assets must be fluid enough to follow requirements and meet demands and a changing market.
  2. Hardware: Physical hardware also plays a role in an organization's IT ecosystem. These physical assets include PCs, printers, copiers, laptops, mobile devices, servers, and any other hardware that is used for data management purposes within the company.
  3. Cloud: ITAM tracks the cost and usage for cloud resources including software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). Each of these are considered assets to be managed for cost and compliance within ITAM.

Hardware asset management vs. software asset management

ITAM encompasses both hardware asset management and software asset management, but both are conceptually different. Hardware management revolves around the management of physical assets, such as servers, laptops, PCs, mobile devices, printers, etc. Software assets include anything like software downloaded directly to a computer, licenses for use of the software, and cloud services. 

ISO standards for ITAM

The International Standards Organization (ISO) has an official family of standards for ITAM: ISO 19770, which consists of five parts:

  1.  ISO/IEC 19770-1: Outlines best practices for ITAM within a company. Organizations have the opportunity to prove that they’re performing ITAM procedures in accordance with the standards to satisfy governance requirements and support IT activities.
  2. ISO/IEC 19770-2: Help companies identify software on a given device; a standard for software ID tags.
  3. ISO/IEC 19770-3: Details the entitlements associated with a piece of software and the method for measuring consumption.
  4. ISO/IEC 19770-4: Allows for standardized reporting of resource use. This is particularly important when managing more-complex licenses and cloud-based software and hardware.
  5. ISO/IEC 19770-5: An overview of ISO ITAM standards and vocabulary.

Track the complete IT asset lifecycle

Although individual organizations may define the IT asset lifecycle differently, most follow steps similar to the following:

  • Request
  • Fulfillment
  • Deployment
  • Monitoring
  • Service
  • Retirement 

In short, the cycle begins as a need is recognized and a request is made. Important factors are defined, such as what assets are needed, how to obtain them, and how they’ll be used and funded. During the fulfillment stage, building, purchasing, leasing, or licensing of the asset occurs. This is followed by the deployment phase, which oversees the installation of the asset into the IT ecosystem. Once deployed, the monitoring stage helps ensure that assets are functioning effectively, and the service stage occurs in which assets are maintained and upgraded to prolong asset life. Finally, once the assets are no longer needed, they are retired and disposed of. This includes transitioning users to alternative resources, updating records, canceling agreements, terminating licenses, and planning for replacement assets.

When handling hardware, ‘inventory’ may be included as its own separate phase. 

ITAM Processes

Tracking and managing vital equipment helps ensure that assets are being managed effectively. A detailed, centralized location where authorized users can request loaner assets is necessary, and should include fields such as whom the asset is being requested for, the location where the requested asset needs to be provided, the model of the requested asset, the date range covering how long the asset will be in use, and the reason or justification for why the asset is needed. 

Knowing who has what

Effective equipment-loan data can help ensure that every asset is accounted for, and that a business always has a clear idea of who is using what, and for how long. That said, asset discovery may provide additional information on what devices you have—potentially beyond what you think you have—how those devices are configured, and who is using them. Discovery and inventory management should go hand in hand; implement automation so that as you discover assets, all relevant information may be automatically entered into a database for easy review. 

Asset location tracking

Knowing who should have the assets, who actually has the assets, and exactly what assets are available are all extremely important. But no less important is knowing exactly where the assets are. Asset location tracking, often using RFID, GPS, or barcode scanning can help verify that assets are where they’re supposed to be. And in the event that an asset turns up missing, these location trackers are invaluable in locating and securing the asset in question. 

An ITAM repository

The ITAM repository is the central database for storing and maintaining essential financial, physical, and contractual data. But more than simply serving as a location for said data, an effective ITAM repository must be able to perform related IT asset management tasks. Repositories must be closely integrated with adjacent toolsets, including inventory, software usage, IT service support management, change management, and purchasing and configuration management. 

Hardware and software inventory and usage information

Effective IT asset management depends on your ability to track relevant metrics. To do this, you must identify which KPIs are worth prioritizing. Tracking the right metrics helps ensure that improved asset performance, reduced repair and maintenance costs, and optimal usage and effectiveness. Common tracking metrics include the following:

  • Costs
  • Number of assets
  • Licensed/unlicensed software
  • Underused/overused licenses
  • Expired warranties

Data import

Successful ITAM relies heavily on accurate, up-to-date asset data which can come from multiple sources across databases, servers, platforms, and solutions. Importing data into a centralized location is a crucial step to painting an accurate picture of the asset estate.


Software as a service management monitors the purchasing, onboarding, licensing, renewal, and onboarding of applications that a company uses.


Infrastructure as a service is a model in which computing resources, which could normally be hosted in a data center, are hosted instead in a cloud environment. The management of IaaS involves monitoring the use of computing power from a cloud environment or the use of storage and capacity.


Platform as a service provides a development and deployment environment in the cloud, which allows for the deployment of cloud-based apps of all sizes. Management involves purchasing resources from a provider and paying as you go, and monitoring usage to stay within a budget or usage agreement.

Provides one source of truth

Asset management creates order. Assets tend to get tracked in many different places by many different people, no single individual owns assets, and there is not a solitary tool that centralizes information about the assets. ITAM offers data consolidation, providing systems that do the work without the need for endlessly tracking down artifacts, monitoring usage, and interpreting dependencies. 

Improves utilization, reduces risks, and cuts waste

Information stays updated, which helps teams eliminate waste and increase utilization. Control also forces security and compliance around legal policies, reducing your risks associated with regulatory penalties. 

Increases productivity without losing reliability

Asset management tools are extremely helpful as teams embrace DevOps and SRE principles. There is increased reliance on infrastructure and platform services, and effective asset management provides the ability to manage consumption.

Supports IT and business practices and enables teams

Asset management supports ITSM and ITIL processes like change, incident, and problem management. With the right information readily available, teams can move more quickly and better predict impacts before they happen. Additionally, this supports HR (onboarding & off-boarding), finance for tracking assets, security for vulnerability remediation, and operations management through assisting in discovering and mapping certain critical assets and their dependencies.

Reduces costs through constant review

Sometimes you can have multiple licenses, instances, or resources that are either being used too much, or not at all. Consolidating and constantly reviewing assets can provide information about all of the resources, and whether they are draining more money than is needed.

The three components

  • Physical: This information is typically gathered using more manual processes, like barcode readers or RFID systems. It accounts for what is deployed, what might be in the stockroom, and what may be scheduled for retirement.
  • Financial: Generally coerced from purchasing systems or orders, the financial component of the ITAM database indicates the purchase order number, quantity, make and model, depreciation, vendor name, and cost center. Tracking this component is highly useful because it provides insight into the total cost of ownership, the ROI, and budgets that can be assigned to projects and services. 
  • Contractual: The data collected from contract data comes from the reseller, the vendor, or the contract management system. Information includes the final version of a contract with details such as the license entitlement, device count, purchase price, vendor SKU, service levels, and maintenance.

  1. Start with executive buy-in
  2. Kick off a team to pilot the project
  3. Define critical assets
  4. Identify cloud resources
  5. Determine methods for discovery and integrating data
  6. Use a lifecycle-based approach
  7. Be proactive with your tracking efforts and track continuously to avoid over-deployment
  8. Decide whether to use a CMDB
  9. Automate as much as possible
  10. Integrate and make data available to all of IT.
  11. Know your software licenses
  12. Gather feedback for continual improvement
  13. Engage other teams on feedback

There are several reasons why ITAM may help your organization thrive.

You want to save money

One of the key strategies to cutting costs is to optimize spending on software, infrastructure, and platform services. Organizations can cut spending up to 30% when they use best practices to optimize software licenses and asset use. 

You’re relying on spreadsheets

Companies still track their assets using spreadsheets, but there is a high chance that your spreadsheets won’t always be accurate. Additionally, spreadsheets create data silos, making it difficult for all authorized users to access the same up-to-date information.

It’s difficult to keep up with the pace of change

Assets are always on the move, and manual tracking can become overwhelming. Dealing with issues like theft, replacement and retirement of IT assets, new shipments, etc. can create a chaotic IT environment that demands closer attention to detail.

“Shadow IT” is a reality

Shadow IT refers to applications, licenses, and other IT assets being purchased and used without the knowledge of the IT team. Centralized ITAM software keeps IT in the loop and prevents overspending, risk, and non-compliance. Shadow IT is a reality nearly all modern businesses face; how you manage it will make a difference in the level of control you still have to reduce risks and spend.

Dive Deeper with IT Asset Management with ServiceNow

Built on the Now Platform®-IT Asset Management includes powerful platform capabilities so you can simplify asset tracking across your organization. We play nice with existing software- IT Asset Management easily integrates with partner and third‑party applications.

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