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The evolving and growing role of IT asset management (ITAM) is driving both increased demand for existing skills and a new requirement for augmented financial, commercial and legal skills, according to Gartner.

Gartner has identified six skills that are considered priority skills for ITAM leaders. Because the ITAM discipline is embedded across all aspects of IT and is part of everyday IT activity, communication skills (including the ability to negotiate organisational politics) should be the top priority when recruiting for ITAM. These skills are followed in importance first by the analytical (technical) skills needed to interpret the data and provide reporting to stakeholders, and then by the administrative skills to manage both the data and process compliance.

“Good communicators are often good negotiators, and effective communication skills will ensure that ITAM can build the important relationships with the finance, legal, procurement and technical specialists (such as enterprise architects) required for an effective ITAM team,” says Victoria Barber, research director at Gartner. “To meet future challenges, ITAM requires solid skills and experience in these key disciplines, and will need to strengthen its relationship with specialist teams. Critical to ITAM’s ongoing success is effectively leveraging existing cross-silo expertise (for example, that of finance, legal and procurement) to ensure active engagement and collaboration with ITAM.”

* Communication – ITAM staff must be able to communicate effectively with staff and management at all levels of the organisation in writing and verbally. ITAM staff must ensure robust internal communication: to effectively raise end-user awareness of ITAM’s importance, to make senior management aware of potential risks, to provide input into decision-making processes, and to collaborate with teams such as HR, IT security, internal audit and privacy. Communication includes the ability to negotiate organisational politics and tailor the message to ensure that it is appropriate to the audience and its priorities. Communication with external contacts, including vendors, auditors and consultants, will also be required.

* Technical – An understanding of license models, software delivery models and metrics is necessary, as well as understanding the application of the license entitlements that go along with them. ITAM monitors and tracks assets over time. Tracking performance by device type and model enables improved sourcing and a better understanding of total cost of ownership (TCO). ITAM employees need to understand whether existing tools can deliver the data they need, and to specify any new requirements. ITAM leaders must develop and maintain technical skills to match the rapidly evolving IT environment, hardware technologies and software licensing models.

* Administrative – Administrative tasks are necessary at all levels of ITAM maturity, and in larger teams are carried out in entry-level roles. Individuals recruited into these roles for their administrative and organisational ability have the potential to learn ITAM-specific skills, such as license management, and can be developed into more specialist roles as the ITAM discipline matures. Too often considered unimportant, skilled administrative personnel can be a key enabler of effective ITAM. Leaders should ensure that strong administrative skills, which include attention to detail, organisational skills and the ability to follow established processes, are included in role profiles.

* Financial – As ITAM changes from an inventory management function to a more strategic financial management role, it must develop financial awareness. The role of ITAM is to assist in determining business value by providing the cost analysis and asset-related financial data required to support the business in its decision-making process, and ITAM staff must have the necessary skills to deliver these. They must understand the basic principles of financial management and work with finance to carry out financial analysis and develop financial models. They will also need an awareness of accounting standards where they are relevant to, and impact on, ITAM.

* Negotiation – ITAM has had, and continues to have, a close relationship with procurement. Knowledge of the supplier negotiation process, including competitive bidding and leverage points, as well as related policies and procedures all supplement communication skills. Organisations with mature procurement and vendor management will have documented standard procedures for supplier interaction. ITAM managers should request copies of procurement and vendor management policies and processes, and ensure they are understood and followed.

* Legal – ITAM staff must understand the risks of non-compliance, and be able to quantify and effectively communicate these to executive management teams with the aim of preventing situations that might compromise compliance or cause contract breaches. Legal counsel should engage the ITAM team when dealing with mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, to ensure that the impact on both hardware and software assets is fully understood.

“Organisations may have conflicting views on the importance of different skills, so it is vital to clearly define near- and long-term ITAM objectives, and consider the challenges involved. ITAM role profiles should take account of current and future needs for skills and experience to manage an ever-changing environment,” says Barber.