A Brief Evolution of IT Asset Management

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Asset management is a broad term that covers a range of different strategies related to a variety of industries. Whether it’s the various properties and structures that make up the assets of a large realtor, or the transportation equipment that comprises a major distributor, all disciplines of asset management share a commonality: tracking and managing the various assets that make up a business or process.

This wasn’t always the case, and with the continued expansion of corporate business seen in the last hundred years, asset management has been forced to mature and evolve. From its early roots of pen and paper tracking to the current form we see today with comprehensive software solutions that can comprise multiple systems into one package, asset management has come a long way.

IT asset management presents its own unique challenges that aren’t always present in other systems. The nature of IT products necessitates some special considerations, like patch management and life-cycle considerations, that don’t see much use in other disciplines. This form of asset management is still very young but has made huge advancements over just the last 20 years.

We’re going to take a look at some of the ways ITAM has evolved since its inception, starting 40 years ago in the dark ages of mainframes and tape drives, all the way to the present-day software systems.

Early years (1950-1979)

Asset management as we think of it today started to see documented guidelines in the early 1900s, but it was the post-war boom of the ’50s that really drove home the need for specialized guidelines to fit a variety of asset classes. Included in this list was everything from finances, to property management, to the very early beginnings of information technology systems.

It’s hard to picture what it was like managing technology assets at the beginning of the second half of the 20th century. Hulking mainframe computers comprised the majority of computing systems and were limited largely to science and research applications. It wasn’t until a couple of decades later that more compact computers started to see use within the business.

Even in these early days, the need for life-cycle management, maintenance, and tracking was readily apparent. Large mainframes required constant upkeep, despite having long lifespans, often requiring many smaller parts replacements to keep them working. Patch management was entirely unheard of, with machine-code being developed and implemented on the fly on a per-user basis.

Most technology asset tracking was done using pen and paper, records, and hard-copy filings. It wasn’t until the early-80s when set guidelines for IT service and asset management would be released.

Burgeoning Industry (1980-2000)

As personal computing began to slowly hit the markets in the early ’80s, corporate computing was already in full swing. The obvious benefits computing technology brought to the table was quickly being adopted by businesses worldwide, and along with it came the need for a custom-tailored system to handle the slew of beige monitors and towers flooding the business world.

Enter the early iterations for ITIL and ISO guidelines pertaining to technology service and asset management. The most widely used guidance on technology management was the Government Information Technology Infrastructure Management (GITIM), published by the UK Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA). This eventually led to the release of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) publications starting in 1989.

ITIL laid a framework for future standards, including ones used by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Microsoft, IBM, and more. This early version of ITIL looked very different than modern-day versions but was moving the industry in a direction that gave asset and service management a priority position in any business organization.

This was also the early period of time when asset tracking started moving away from a “pen and board” implementation to one that used spreadsheets or even early asset management software. This was a huge leap and helped reduce the potential for errors and mistakes. By the time the late ’90s rolled around, IT asset tracking and management were becoming an industry of its own, with software-based offerings or custom-tailored solutions popping up all over the world.

At the turn of the century, technology was dominating the business-space, with an overwhelming majority of new businesses finding computers to be a required component of everyday operations. This dependence on information technology led directly to the creation of new standards and a more organized way of approaching technology itself.

Modern Day (2001-Present)

Shortly after 2000, a new, more modern version of ITIL was released, once again setting a new standard for service and asset management. ITIL continued to see new versions and updates all the way up to the present-day when the new ITIL 4 is slated to drop sometime in 2019.

The ever-increasing need for accurate and thorough asset management has continued to grow the software management industry, with dozens of companies offering tracking and organization software for various levels of business, from small mom-and-pop operations all the way up to enterprise-level organizations with thousands of assets spread across the globe.

Even very small businesses have a hard time operating without some kind of IT asset management system in place, and it’s nearly impossible for a larger organization to get any kind of positive return on their technology investment without some kind of ITAM system in place.

More recent asset tracking solutions have needed to include a range of new technologies in order to stay relevant. The introduction of Internet-of-Things devices, the overwhelming presence of personal mobile devices, and the increasingly automated computing space all present demanding challenges to asset management tracking that developers must find solutions for.

These new technology implementations continue to drive innovation and will be changing the computing space for years to come. While the technology may change from decade to decade, it’s clear that one thing will remain true: We’re always going to need an efficient and accurate method to track and catalog our technology assets!

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.