Get 4 FREE months of Conformio to implement ISO 27001

ITIL and Service Asset Management Part I – Growing Importance

When we speak about ITIL topics, we often mention configuration, Configuration Item (CI), Configuration Management Database (CMDB), or the Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM) process. This is because we are talking about services and service assets, and each of those topics helps us to manage the services we provide. Let’s make this topic (i.e., service assets) a bit broader.

Service Asset demystified

ITIL defines a service as: “Any resource or capability used by a service provider to deliver services to a customer.” So, it’s about capabilities and resources. To clarify what they are:

  • Capabilities – this is what we are capable of doing – our knowledge, our management capabilities, processes… etc. We use capabilities to control, coordinate, and deploy resources in order to create value for customers. Capabilities are intangible and not easy to create.
  • Resources – these are our assets – what we use while creating services, e.g., hardware, applications, infrastructure… etc. They are tangible and “relatively” easy to acquire.

The figure below explains the concept of service assets. You’ll notice that people are both capability and resource. That’s because they possess experience or wisdom (which would be capabilities), and they are physical resources as well.

Capabilities_resources.pngFigure 1: Resources and capabilities – Service assets

Service Asset – How do we use them?

When a customer uses our service, there is an interaction between our assets and the customer’s assets. For example, one customer of my company uses a hosted e-mail service that we provide. “Translated” to the topic – their assets (e-mail client, hardware/laptop used, employees) interact with our assets (server, storage, e-mail server application). As long as this interaction (i.e., demand) exists there will be funding for my company and I can recover the costs of service delivery.

Customer_services.pngFigure 2: Delivery of services, interaction of assets and creation of demand for services

It is obvious that managing assets is extremely important. That’s why ITIL has the SACM process. But, there is also one more fact – we live in an “application age,” meaning that we consider infrastructure to be a utility (An analogy from the real world would be electricity – very few people think about the technology behind the power plug. We just plug in our devices and then do something with them.) which we use to run various application on it. (Think about your PC – you often consider various applications to complete your tasks and don’t bother about the hardware behind them.) So, it’s reasonable that managing applications is gaining in importance.

Three reasons for Software Asset Management

Applications are assets and Software Asset Management (SAM) is used to manage them. ITIL defines Software Asset Management (SAM) as “all of the infrastructure and processes necessary for the effective management, control and protection of the software assets within an organization, throughout all stages of their lifecycle.” This definition is broad and considers everything relevant to managing applications. SAM is deeply integrated in ITIL, meaning that almost every process in ITIL considers applications. In my next blog post I will consider some of the processes and their relation to SAM. Before that, let me point out some factors that could be motivation for SAM:

  • Legal aspect – as an IT responsible person (could be IT head, IT director, CIO… etc.), you should know if applications are used according to the license agreement. For example, if you have a license to use 100 copies of certain software, then it’s important that you don’t use more than that. Using more than the allowed licenses can (and usually will) have legal consequences (e.g., fines).
  • Utilization – in addition to the example above, if you are using just a few of your allowed licenses, then you are underutilized, which means a waste of financial resources. This is also something that you’d like to avoid.
  • Contracts and procurement – when negotiating financial arrangements with an application supplier you fight to get the best conditions (e.g., discounts) as possible. An overview of your application asset will help you define your negotiation position.

Implementing SAM will help you overcome the above-mentioned concerns. There are many other advantages of SAM but, as I already said, they will be covered in the next blog post – so stay tuned for Part II.

Practicing Software Asset Management

SAM is powerful from many points of view. But, why shall we perform SAM, after all? To help you figure it out by yourself, let me ask you a question – when your boss asks you how many licenses you have available to deploy – is “I don’t know” an acceptable answer? I don’t think so.

Here you can download a free sample of  Service Asset and Configuration Management process.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.