CANTON, Ohio — After jumping out early in 2020 as a voice of caution for corporations unprepared for the shift to work from home (WFH) under COVID-19, the International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM) is now looking ahead to what it expects in the new year of 2021.

IAITAM’s predictions focus on three issues:  the reality that work from home is not going away — even if COVID-19 is beaten with vaccines, an emerging awareness that disposal box handling of retired assets is not good enough, and the rise of so-called “snitch” software.

“At times, we may almost have seemed like prophets of doom this year when warning organizations that they were not ready for a radical shift into the work-from-home environment,” said IAITAM President and CEO Barbara Rembiesa.  “But we believe that our multiple efforts in 2020 to raise the alarm had a salutary effect.  Many changes to the IT asset management industry are taking place right now, and some are due to the coronavirus pandemic. Through all of this, the unsung heroes of ITAM have shined, allowing companies to maintain business continuity, which saved countless jobs and entire organizations. The ITAM profession will continue to grow and show its value in 2021.”

Below are IAITAM’s predictions for 2021.

  1. Remote work is never going away, so its time to get back to tighter controls.  Some organizations have discovered they are able to maintain business continuity in a WFH environment while saving money on overhead costs. When the pandemic first began and the shift to remote work started, organizations used ad hoc ITAM processes to maintain business continuity and survive the government-imposed shutdowns. This worked in 2020 but is not good enough for 2021. Organizations need to return to performing mature ITAM processes. Otherwise, they will be at risk of data leaks.  For example, the health care industry was in a real bind in 2020 and created ad hoc databases about coronavirus treatment and patients. These databases were made so rapidly that some security processes were ignored, which made them vulnerable. This has led to the databases getting hacked, organizations being threatened, and sensitive vaccine information getting leaked. Regaining mature ITAM programs with strong tracking and security policies and procedures is going to be a major necessity in 2021.
  2. Disposal box programs are good but not good enough. Another impact of the coronavirus pandemic was that organizations no longer operated from a central location. When it comes to IT asset disposition (ITAD), that is problematic because a vendor cannot easily pick up assets and dispose them in a secured fashion. This issue has led to the innovative fix known as disposal box programs. These programs begin when a consumer requests a packaging box from the vendor, who ships the box to the consumer. The consumer then packs the assets that need to be pushed through the disposition process into the box and mails it back to the vendor.  This process was a great short-term solution to the problem, but it must not remain a permanent solution. This is because there is a lack of a clear chain of custody — i.e., if the package is lost by the mailing service, the vendor can state that no package was sent back, and the organization can say they mailed it and the vendor lost it. A worse scenario is if the package is lost or stolen and the data on the device is hacked. Now that organizations have had time to adapt to the WFH regimen, they should move away from disposal box programs and return to ITAM best practices with a secure end-to-end chain-of-custody for disposal to ensure data is wiped properly and with full transparency and security.
  3. “Snitch” software will become more popular.  Snitch software is a newer trend that has just started sneaking into auditing practices. A recent example is the court case between a vendor and a consumer. The vendor placed a piracy detection and reporting security software (PDRSS) into their product that tracks and informs them whenever an unlicensed software is used and gives them the IP address. Eventually, the vendor audited the consumer and explained that their software was being used incorrectly, but the consumer argued that had not been proven. This essentially led to the vendor explaining their implemented PDRSS, which led to a privacy and permissions dispute. This is just one incident of snitch software, but there will likely be more cases and implementations since audit rates are going to increase as organizations seek to financially recover from the pandemic. Knowing this, organizations should be prepared for snitch software to gain momentum.  For companies to avoid fines and embarrassment, IT asset managers will need to sharpen their focus in 2021 on ensuring that licenses are current and properly accounted for.