“Agile – marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace” – Merriam Webster
The speed with which a business can make and carry out decisions today is a critical metric. Never has this become more apparent than as the COVID-19 Pandemic forces rapid decisions and massive changes on the world’s leading businesses and their CIOs. In the span of a few weeks most of the large and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. and Europe shifted from in-person to remote work – by far the biggest and fastest IT shift in history.
Behind the scenes, many IT teams back-burnered their IT asset management technology because it was not designed to manage a shift of this breadth and speed. It does not, however, have to be this way. As siloed, legacy ITAM technologies give way to enterprise technology orchestration systems, legacy ITAM is becoming an enabler of business agility. This delivers many benefits, including:
- Faster and better IT purchasing decisions based on real-time consumption data
- Better security hygiene and a tighter security posture
- Better employee experience and reduced risk through streamlined onboarding and offboarding
- Faster compliance and audit process completion with less resources required
What Is Enterprise Technology Orchestration?
According to Gartner, “IT asset management (ITAM) provides an accurate account of technology asset lifecycle costs and risks to maximize the business value of technology strategy, architecture, funding, contractual and sourcing decisions.” This definition is actually a bit modest. Today, ITAM also overlaps with a growing array of subcategories, including Software Asset Management (SAM), Configuration Management Databases (CMDB), Mobile Device Management (MDM), and Unified Endpoint Management (UEM).
Missing from this description, as well, is Enterprise Technology Orchestration (ETO). ETO is a layer that rides above all the subcategories of ITAM. It acquires, integrates, normalizes and validates all data from the various sub-systems to create a single pane of glass that delivers a unified perspective. Usually ETO is agentless, acquiring data from existing agents rather than adding another device agent requirement. ETO collects data from hardware, software, mobile, Single-Sign-On and Employee Directory systems. A still more expansive version of ETO includes accounting for the lifecycle and orchestration of cloud infrastructure, as well as SaaS licenses and usage.
Enterprise Technology Orchestration is to Legacy ITAM as Cloud Native is to Monolithic
Just as software applications have moved from monolithic structures to more agile API-linked clusters of services that are loosely coupled and resilient, ETO relies on well-structured and extensible APIs to enable moving data from and between subsystems. This API structure also allows ETO to quickly and easily extend out into other systems for finance (ERP), HR (HRIS) and security (SIEM, SOAR), among others. This extensibility adds a powerful dimension of agility by allowing other teams outside of IT to create workflows and automate processes that contain IT actions and components. By adding workflows, for example, the compliance team can create a configurable workflow and playbook that is stored by the ETO system and invoked quarterly to trigger required compliance checks against all endpoints and cloud servers.
Newer versions of ETO are also bi-directional. For example, a security team may detect that an endpoint is receiving malicious traffic from an unauthorized third-party and can trigger a flag on the asset that tells the IT team to check it against the CMBD to ensure all software patches are installed. Conversely, the IT team may pass a report of all endpoints that do not yet show full compliance with patches or may not be running malware to the security team, which triggers a rule to escalate the digital loss protection report against the IPs associated with those endpoints as a preventative measure. A software procurement team may recognize that it has violated license covenants and put the company at risk for a potentially seven-figure “speeding ticket” from a big database company. The team may flag that in the ETO system, which then upstreams to the finance team so they can factor this new risk into their quarterly earnings and expenses calculations. The upshot? Bi-directionality adds a radical new dimension that makes ETO both more accurate and also more strategic.
9 Ways That Enterprise Technology Orchestration Drives Business Agility
Once an organization and IT team implements a true ETO capability, numerous ways to improve agility open up.
Finance and Procurement
- Up-to-the-hour assessments of all IT utilization and purchasing needs allow companies to make purchasing decisions based on the most current data – and to avoid purchasing mistakes resulting from dated information.
- Integrating EOL and warranty data as well as repair data gives finance teams the most comprehensive picture of likely future procurement needs across all IT asset categories.
- Associating real consumption data with cloud infrastructure and SaaS allows finance teams to spot and stop out-of-budget spending patterns earlier.
Audit and Compliance
- Compliance teams can quickly launch new checks “on demand” or modify workflows without requiring a full reset of the process.
- Audit teams can automate the IT census portion of annual or semi-annual audits and allow faster identification and response to audit gaps.
- Security operations teams can mount more frequent and varied checks across the entire IT estate to identify anomalies.
- Security operations teams can more quickly mitigate risk and create workflows that automatically validate endpoint protections or more strictly enforce patch requirements when an Indicator of Compromise is received.
- Red and Blue Teams can spend less time on manual work of chasing down the location and ownership of impacted hosts and quickly jump into investigating the source of breach or cause of anomaly on that host.
- Security operations teams can create integrated workflows that cover multiple categories (software, hardware, SaaS) attached to individuals with high privilege levels that comprise a greater business risk.
These are just a handful of potential ways that businesses can improve their agility when they move to an ETO system and begin to explore what’s possible when stand-alone data silos are joined and a single-pane-of-glass contains both all IT asset data and convenient workflows for orchestrating interactions with the IT estate across ITAM tools, SSO, security, HR and finance. ETO is an evolving area; we expect dozens of new use cases will emerge over the next few years as enterprises realize that ETO drives agility across multiple functions and workflows, creating a true agile orchestration layer for the entire IT estate and a unified view of everything that matters in IT and to the business functions they enable.