The unknown presents the greatest danger.
The federal IT ecosystem is unrelentingly complex, making it that much more critical for federal agencies to achieve as much visibility into their IT resources and resources as possible. This knowledge is vital for agencies to determine the most efficient and complete paths for managing these resources, implementing cybersecurity, and successfully executing new IT initiatives.
Unfortunately, IT Asset Management strategy implementations often fall short when it comes to cataloging the full breadth of the software, hardware and virtual devices operating on or with access to federal agencies’ networks. This is why many agencies must now seek out new approaches that deliver the intelligence and insights required to form a more comprehensive, accurate, and holistic viewpoint of their full IT assets—and to optimize that management both now and well into the future.
But first, the risks of poor IT asset visibility
The Government Accounting Office has long cited the fact that efforts to improve mission performance are often limited by incomplete information and poor usage of IT. The lack of a comprehensive understanding of all IT assets at work within an agency—let alone command over those assets—is at best dangerous and at worst debilitating.
IT asset data must be standardized and accessible across an agency’s systems, from procurement to financial management, IT Service Management, Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation, IT Asset Management tools and beyond. Poor visibility into IT assets makes it difficult—if not impossible—to ensure that software or firmware receive the latest patches and protections. This leads to attack vectors and weak systems which leave systems vulnerable to attack (not to mention making it harder to recognize attacks as they happen).
Where federal agency IT staff aren’t properly empowered to control and oversee assets, it also presents fertile ground for shadow IT, in which government employees implement their own unsanctioned technology solutions. Shadow IT naturally compounds risks to agencies by introducing unknowns that undermine the painstaking efforts to achieve proper IT security, governance, and efficiency. In the same way, poor IT asset visibility leads agencies to overspend on software licenses (often exorbitantly), because they lack an essential, accurate understanding of how much software has actually been installed or how many employees truly use the software in question.
How to Plan Your Strategy for Full IT Asset Visibility
When mapping a new path to increase visibility into your federal agency’s IT assets that will continue to pay dividends over the long haul, make sure your full IT asset visibility strategy will enable you to:
1) Implement effective cybersecurity. Leverage greater visibility to ensure hardware and software is updated and the latest security patches are in place. Proactively assess weaknesses regularly and remove and replace IT assets ahead of their end-of-life or end-of-service dates.
2) Expose shadow IT and enforce approved IT Asset policies. Create an accurate manifest of IT assets used within the agency, and compare it to your whitelisted (approved) and blacklisted (not approved) products. IT staff can then follow up by identifying and removing unapproved IT assets (while making certain that all assets comply with the agency’s standards and architecture).
3) Simplify vendor audits. Build processes for managing enterprise software licenses and maintaining licensing compliance that are based on full visibility into your agency’s usage, costs, and agreements. In this way, your agency benefits from accurate planning and avoids paying for licenses it doesn’t use or need.
4) Consolidate data centers to increase efficiency and leverage FedRAMP. Greater visibility into the specifics of data center equipment—from power ratings to computing power, form factors, temperature ratings, and more—will empower your agency to better execute consolidation efforts, and cut costs by reducing both real estate expenses and energy consumption. Better yet, develop options for virtualizing or containerizing physical servers into a consolidated pool of hosts—or even pushing certain workloads to FedRAMP authorized cloud solutions all together.
5) Know your assets: Enriched data also drives superior IT services efforts, resulting in reduced mean time to resolution, more rapid first call resolution, and increased efficiency. Nothing slows down support workflows faster than not knowing critical information about the asset or user in question.
6) Improve procurement decisions. A holistic viewpoint of your current IT assets offers the perspective to know what you need—and don’t need—going forward. Armed with this information, your agency can better manage vendor relationships, contracts and audits—all while more strategically sourcing assets and preparing for future needs.
When it comes to managing and securing IT assets, the unknown presents the greatest danger. By introducing strategies that deliver full visibility into your agency’s IT assets, you can achieve the effective management and robust cybersecurity that will serve as the foundation for implementing new IT initiatives and for ensuring your agency meets its mission performance goals into the future.
Matt Marnell is the director of Solution Strategy at Flexera.