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What is ITAM?

IT asset management (ITAM) is the end-to-end tracking and management of IT assets to make sure that every asset is properly used, maintained, upgraded and disposed of at the end of its lifecycle.



ITAM involves using financial, contractual and inventory data with management tools to track and make strategic decisions about IT assets. The main objective is to ensure that IT resources are used efficiently and effectively. ITAM also helps optimize costs by reducing the total number of assets in use and extending the life of those assets, avoiding costly upgrades. An important part of ITAM is understanding the total cost of ownership and finding ways to optimize asset use.

What is an IT asset?

An information technology (IT) asset is any piece of information or data, software or hardware that an organization uses during its business operations. Hardware assets include physical computing equipment like physical servers in data centers, desktop computers, mobile devices, laptops, keyboards and printers. Alternatively, software assets include applications for which licenses are typically issued per user or machine, as well as software systems and databases built by using open-source resources. Software assets also include cloud-based assets and cloud services, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.

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The IT asset management process

IT asset management typically involves the following steps.

Asset identification

The first step in any IT asset management process is to create a detailed inventory of all IT assets. This step enables easy identification and ensures that redundant assets are optimized for greater efficiency.

Asset tracking

This process uses an ITAM tool or system to continuously monitor IT assets. The information that is collected for tracking each asset includes financial (asset costs), contractual (warranties, licenses and service-level agreements (SLAs)) and inventory data (location and condition of physical assets).

Asset maintenance

IT assets are maintained according to their lifecycle stage. Maintenance involves asset repair, upgrade and replacement. All maintenance activities that are performed on an IT asset are logged as part of the ITAM process so that the data can be used to assess the performance of the asset.

The IT asset lifecycle

Every IT asset has a finite lifecycle. IT asset management (ITAM) is about managing an asset’s lifecycle to ensure maximum productivity. While they might differ across organizations, IT asset lifecycles often include these stages:


This process involves decision-making about assets that an organization needs, their intended use and how to acquire them. Organizations also consider competitive alternatives and carry out cost-benefit and TCO (total cost of ownership) analyses of all possible options while planning for asset acquisition.


Assets may be acquired through purchasing (including software-as-a-service), building, licensing or leasing.


Asset deployment could involve installation, integration with other tools, granting user access and providing technical support.


Once the assets were deployed, provisions should be made for regular maintenance, upgrades and repairs to optimize their use and maximize value. This process prolongs their lifespan, minimize costs and mitigate risks.


An asset is retired when depreciation sets in and support costs are no longer feasible. That is, an IT asset reaches the end of its lifecycle when maintenance becomes more frequent and the organization spends more resources on it than before. An organization can also decide to retire an asset if there are better alternatives in the market. Asset retirement involves disposing of old assets, updating asset information, terminating support and license agreements and making plans to transition to new assets.

ITAM benefits

Efficient ITAM can help organizations centralize and simplify asset tracking, optimize asset use, ensure software licence compliance and improve asset-related decision-making.

Centralize and simplify asset tracking

Assets are difficult to manage when tracked in different places. Inaccuracy and disorder may set in, leading to inefficiency and poor business decisions. Having a central asset database or inventory makes asset tracking easier and more efficient. The organization can see in one place what assets need to be discarded, upgraded or optimized for maximum productivity.

Optimize asset use

IT asset management leads to efficient use of resources, mitigates risk, minimizes waste and reduces cost. By establishing an ITAM process, an organization gets real-time data on the state of all its assets and can make informed decisions about asset use.

Promote software license compliance

Organizations that license third-party software often undergo software audits by software providers who want to be sure these organizations comply with the license terms and conditions. Defaulting on these agreements can lead to serious fines. Therefore, organizations use ITAM software to automatically monitor all software that is installed on all computers on their networks and ensure they comply with the relevant license agreements.

Improve asset-related decision-making

ITAM data helps with the evaluation of previous purchases and deployments, which then informs subsequent actions. ITAM can improve IT asset purchase and business processes.

IT asset management software

As an organization’s IT assets grow, managing them through manual, paper-based or spreadsheet systems becomes cumbersome. IT asset management (ITAM) software is a centralized application that is used for asset lifecycle management and tracking. ITAM software solutions usually include features and functionality that give organizations better control of their IT environment and enable them to track assets, both on-premise and cloud assets, such as:

  • Automated detection: Most IT asset management systems automatically detect all hardware and software installed on an organization’s network of computers.

  • Configuration management database (CMDB): The CMDB is a centralized database that stores information about an organization’s IT assets and the relationships between assets.

  • License management: By can cross-referencing asset licenses with relevant inventory data, ITAM software can alert the organization upcoming license expirations, to under-licensed assets at risk of breaching a license, or to over-licensed (underused) assets.

  • Request management: Some ITAM software can track all requests for IT assets and allow organizations to define asset request workflows. They evaluate license requirements for these assets and manage the acquisition and deployment process.

  • Version and patch management: Asset management software tracks the deployment of new software patches and versions to keep an organization’s suite of computers secure, up-to-date and running smoothly.

  • Inventory management: ITAM tools keep a record of all assets used by an organization. The asset inventory records data like name, type of license agreement, price and version.

  • Fixed asset management: Most IT asset management solutions have a dedicated repository for managing fixed asset data. Fixed assets mainly include hardware.

  • Digital asset management: This feature of ITAM software involves the management of digital rights and rich media (e.g., multimedia content like videos, music and photos).

ITAM vs. IT service management (ITSM)

While IT asset management is about managing IT assets throughout their lifecycle, IT service management (ITSM) is about managing and delivering IT services.

IT service management is the process of managing IT department services and IT subscriptions in an organization. It includes many components, from planning and implementing IT services to monitoring and auditing, for smooth and efficient operations. IT services include help desk and service desk support (such as guiding a user on how to change their password or self-service capabilities) and change management procedures, which involve efficient handling of changes to IT infrastructure.

The goal of IT service management is to provide reliable, high-quality IT services that meet the needs of the business and its end users, including customers, employees and business partners. ITSM aims to improve user experience and service quality.

An IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is considered the best approach for delivering efficient ITSM as it provides the best practices and framework. The most recent ITIL version, ITIL 4, comprises five volumes—namely, Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement—that detail 34 ITSM practices.

In a way, ITSM encompasses ITAM. Asset and configuration management are among the many ITSM processes and a CMDB—the tool that is dedicated to this process—is a centralized repository of an organization’s IT assets and the relationships between them.

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