Asset + IT asset management = enterprise service management. Perhaps.

The IBM Tivoli Pulse event a few weeks ago left me with a clear thought. Convergence between enterprise asset management and IT (asset) management) is a long haul. This is not a bad thing – except – and we know this to be true of some IT vendors – there is always the risk that if things don’t move fast enough, interest is lost, ideas go stale, people get distracted.

Am I saying IT vendors are a bit fickle on occasion? Moi?

I don’t expect IBM to get bored easily though, but I do expect it to start looking for ways to catalyse the consolidation between the two camps.

So what’s all this about anyway?

The view is that there are significant benefits and economies of scale to be found in consolidating the visibility, control and management of assets owned or used by an organisation, which traditionally are divided into two classes: enterprise (non IT) assets and IT assets.
By having a single view of an asset base, services can be better aligned to the goals of the business, because it has better control over the things it uses to deliver the services which define it as a business, and better control over the services which support it as it does its business.

On paper, it’s a common sense principle of ‘single version of the truth’. In practice, it will take most organisations a long time to get there because the asset guys and the IT guys are facing the notion of giving up some level of control or ownership. For people more used to repairing trucks or moving physical goods to specific places, and for people more used to making sure email servers don’t crash, it is understandable that one could have difficulty in seeing the world from the others’ point of view. But mutual understanding and appreciation isn’t actually what’s required. Mutual access and roles-based manipulation of the same, consistent information is. Two disparate groups of people collaborating physically, or ‘giving things up to each other’ isn’t the issue. But this I fear, (or fear of this, in fact) could be the rate limiting factor.

As long as each side has the access to the information they need to carry out their jobs, the source of the underlying data – as long as it’s consistent – is hardly relevant. Furthermore, the asset guys ‘get’ services, the IT guys know how to make things talk to each other and stop them falling over – both sides in fact have things they can teach the other. Figuratively.

So the long haul sentiment comes about from the human nature angle I outlined above, and the fact that this year’s star customer at Pulse was the same as last years. Its not going very quickly, yet.

Also, IBM is treading (too) carefully in that it went to lengths to maintain a clear demarcation between talking about Maximo customers (its enterprise asset management (EAM) customers acquired during the MRO purchase) and Tivoli (systems and IT management) customers for fear of being seen to be favouring one over the other, or perhaps running into the type of uncertainty Oracle’s recent acquisitions created. This makes the audience it has for actually evangelising the notion of convergence artificially small, which is ironic, given it owns two customer bases with minimal overlap which form the foundations for what is a pretty sensible idea.

Rather than taking the softly softly approach, what needs to happen is for IBM to start providing the reasons why, and help customers work around the reasons why not. And then find as many McCarran Airports as it can to become advocates.

I have to say I’m a little surprised at the (apparent) lack of buzz on this from the Tivoli or Maximo customer base, as there must surely be an opportunity for asking IBM to ‘step up and prove it in my organisation’.

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