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All You Need About Asset Normalization Process?

Asset management is a very important process that is used in almost every small and large organization. There are many small things inside it, there are concepts that are very important to understand, so in today’s article we will discuss one such concept, which is Asset Normalization.

What Do you mean by asset normalization?

Asset normalization refers to the process of standardizing, transforming, and often enriching asset data to ensure it is consistent, accurate, and usable across a system or organization. This process is essential when dealing with assets that come from various sources, formats, or standards, making it easier to manage, track, and make decisions based on the data.

In the context of IT and software, asset normalization is often associated with IT asset management (ITAM) and Configuration Management Database (CMDB) systems. When information about hardware, software, and other IT assets comes from various sources like discovery tools, procurement systems, or manual entry, the data can be inconsistent. Some tools might refer to a software application with one name, while others might use a slightly different name or versioning scheme. Normalization ensures that all these references are treated as a single, consistent asset in the system.

Example of asset normalization?

Let’s consider the scenario of different departments in a large organization using various tools to keep track of computers (or workstations).

Scenario: Three departments – HR, IT, and Finance – maintain separate lists of company computers. They list the same assets but use slightly different naming conventions:

  1. HR’s List:
    • Workstation_001
    • Workstation_002
  2. IT’s List:
    • WS-001
    • WS-002
  3. Finance’s List:
    • Comp#001
    • Comp#002

When the company decides to centralize its IT asset management, these different naming conventions can cause confusion. It may appear as if the organization has more computers than it actually does due to these naming discrepancies.

Asset Normalization Process: A normalization process will standardize the naming conventions across the organization. For example, it might decide that the standard name should be “WS-XXX”. Using this standard:

  • Workstation_001 becomes WS-001
  • Comp#001 becomes WS-001

After normalization, all departments will refer to the same asset using the unified name “WS-001”, eliminating confusion and providing clarity on the exact number of computers the organization has.

Difference between software and hardware normalization?

AttributeSoftware NormalizationHardware Normalization
PurposeStandardize the the the naming, versions, and editions of software titles.Standardize makes, models, and configurations of hardware.
Common ChallengesVariations in naming for the same product (e.g., “MS Word” vs “Microsoft Word”).Different naming conventions or model numbers across vendors.
MethodsPattern recognition, string matching, grouping into software suites.Categorizing into types (e.g., servers, laptops) and standardizing manufacturer and model details.
DependenciesRecognizing software suites or bundled software.Understanding associated components or peripherals.
End ResultStandardized list of software titles for license and lifecycle management.Standardized inventory of hardware for management, maintenance, and procurement.
Importance in ComplianceEnsures accurate license compliance by matching installations with licenses.Helps in accurate asset tracking, warranty management, and understanding hardware lifecycle.

This table summarizes the key differences between software and hardware normalization in the context of IT asset management.

What major issues were encountered in the asset normalization process?

Asset normalization is a crucial step in IT asset management, ensuring data consistency, accuracy, and usability. During this process, organizations often encounter a variety of challenges, some of which are:

  1. Inconsistent Naming Conventions: Different vendors, tools, or data sources might refer to the same asset with slight variations in name, leading to duplicate entries or misinterpretations.
  2. Large Data Volumes: In sizable organizations, the sheer number of assets can make normalization a daunting task, particularly if manual interventions are required.
  3. Legacy Systems: Older systems might not have standardized naming conventions, or they might use outdated terms, making normalization complex.
  4. Variability in Asset Metadata: Different assets come with various types of metadata, which can vary by manufacturer, software vendor, or even the asset’s age. Normalizing this diverse set of metadata can be challenging.
  5. Lack of Automation: Manual normalization processes are prone to human errors. Without automated tools or scripts, the process can be time-consuming and less accurate.
  6. Diverse Asset Types: Different asset types (software, hardware, virtual resources, cloud resources) might require different normalization techniques or rules.
  7. Multiple Data Sources: Assets can be recorded in multiple systems or databases. Consolidating and normalizing data from different sources can be intricate.
  8. Changing Vendor Names or Mergers: Companies might rebrand, or smaller companies might be acquired by larger entities. This can result in changes to asset names, making consistent normalization tricky over time.
  9. Version Control: Particularly with software, different versions or editions of a product might have distinct naming conventions. Recognizing and grouping them appropriately can be a challenge.
  10. Regional or Language Differences: Assets from different regions or in different languages might have varying naming conventions, adding another layer of complexity to the normalization process.
  11. Lack of Clear Normalization Standards: Without clear organizational guidelines or standards for normalization, different teams or individuals might approach the task differently, leading to inconsistencies.
  12. Updates and Maintenance: The IT environment is dynamic. New assets are added, old ones are retired, software is updated, and hardware is replaced. Keeping the normalized database updated and relevant requires continuous effort.

Addressing these challenges often requires a combination of well-defined processes, dedicated tools (like those found in advanced IT Asset Management systems), and regular audits and reviews to ensure accuracy and consistency in the normalized asset database.

How do tools such as ServiceNow do this type of normalization?

ServiceNow, like many other IT Service Management (ITSM) and IT Asset Management (ITAM) platforms, employs a combination of predefined rules, algorithms, and sometimes even machine learning to perform asset normalization. Here’s a generalized breakdown of how ServiceNow and similar platforms manage the normalization process:

  1. Discovery and Data Collection: The first step is gathering data. ServiceNow has a discovery tool that scans the network and collects data on various IT assets, including hardware and software. This data often comes from different sources and in different formats.
  2. Transformation Rules: After data collection, ServiceNow uses “Transformation Rules” to convert the raw data into a format suitable for the ServiceNow Configuration Management Database (CMDB). These rules define how to translate or map attributes from the discovered data to fields in the CMDB.
  3. Normalization Rules: ServiceNow has a set of predefined normalization rules that help in aligning similar data. For example, if two different discovery sources identify the same software differently (e.g., “MS Word” and “Microsoft Word 2021”), normalization rules can ensure they are stored in a consistent format in the CMDB.
  4. Data Reconciliation: In cases where multiple discovery sources provide different values for the same attribute of a CI (Configuration Item), ServiceNow uses reconciliation rules to determine which value to prioritize.
  5. Data Categorization: ServiceNow can categorize different assets based on predefined or custom rules, making it easier to manage and visualize them. For instance, all desktops, laptops, servers, etc., can be categorized under a broader “Computers” category.
  6. Manual Intervention: While automated rules handle much of the normalization, sometimes manual intervention is necessary to resolve ambiguities or discrepancies. ServiceNow provides interfaces for IT asset managers to review, modify, or approve normalization decisions.
  7. Continuous Updates: As new versions of software are released or new naming conventions emerge, normalization rules can be updated or new ones can be created. This ensures that the normalization process remains relevant over time.
  8. Feedback Loop: Some advanced systems, including newer versions of ServiceNow, may utilize feedback loops, where the results of the normalization process are analyzed, and the rules are refined continuously for better accuracy.
  9. Integration with Third-party Tools: ServiceNow can integrate with other ITAM tools or databases. This integration often requires a mapping or transformation layer to ensure that data from external sources aligns with ServiceNow’s CMDB structure.

By following these steps and utilizing a combination of automated rules and manual oversight, tools like ServiceNow ensure that IT assets are represented consistently and accurately within an organization’s CMDB. This facilitates more informed decision-making, better IT governance, and ensures compliance with licensing agreements.

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