Interview: Jenny Schuchert “Building the Business Case for ITAM”

04 February 2010
6 minute read
Best practice

Interview: Jenny Schuchert “Building the Business Case for ITAM”

04 February 2010
6 minute read

Board RoomFailing to win senior executive buy-in is cited as one of the most common reasons for failure of an ITAM program.

I recently asked Jenny Schuchert of IAITAM what advice she could share for organisations looking to sell or maintain the importance of their ITAM business case.

ITAM Review: What steps would you recommend organisations take in preparing their ITAM business plan?

Jenny: I’m not sure everyone creates a business plan every year, but it is an excellent way to step back, assess and redirect efforts.  For that reason, an ITAM business plan is appropriate whether the organization is just beginning ITAM or has a well defined program.

  • Step 1: From my perspective, the first step has to be an assessment of the strengths and weakness of the existing ITAM processes.  This assessment has to be specific by IT asset type and based on a comparison to best practices.  The strengths and weaknesses list will expose where the processes are not functioning optimally or are limited in scope.  Resources and automation are two more factors exposed in the assessment as strength or a weakness by asset types.
  • Step 2: Once completed, I suggest that the second step is to build a compilation of organizational goals, strategic IT goals and tactical requirements.  Many ITAM programs are out of synch with the executive strategic vision simply because of an over-emphasis on tactical improvements without regard to the direction of the organization.  Since IT Asset Management is a facilitator of goal achievement and a prime candidate for savings and risk reduction, professional IT Asset Managers need to close this gap.   A business plan that describes goals without considering the wider set of goals limits ITAM to a necessary exercise rather than essential business practices.
  • Step 3: Prioritization is next, weighing the possible projects based on steps 1 and 2.  This list is the final step before developing the justifications and the actual business plan.  Of course, we often gain insight when preparing the justifications, so revisions are common as the business plan is prepared.

Q: Can you give examples of companies you have engaged with that have sold ITAM as a concept successfully?

Jenny Schuchert, IAITAM

Jenny Schuchert, IAITAM

Sure, I have lots of stories about selling the concept during my 12 years in the ITAM field.  Generally, an opportunity has been created by some action – the CEO of a major insurance company asking his team how many PCs they had (and it taking a year to answer the question), an expensive move, merger, acquisition or outsourcing project that was a financial mess due to an out of control inventory, or a software/security/SOX remediation list longer than an arm and a leg…I saw organizations build either new or expanded ITAM programs after all of these events.

In general, there seems to be two approaches to selling ITAM that work.  The first is the example above, linking ITAM to an event and building the case around solving or preventing that particular issue.  That approach is politically smart but may not represent the largest financial gain to be had from ITAM.  Since ITAM processes routinely uncover savings, these programs can reprioritize once the initial crisis is over.

The second approach is ALL about the finances.  The best examples I have seen are the ITAM practitioners who conduct research such as surveys and sampling as well as industry information sources to back up the case for being able to save money.  The business case is typically presented in terms of investment and return.   Sometimes this approach is used to link to another project that is already funded or is popular such as a security project or an IT service management implementation, with the added monetary benefit of gaining more value from the investment in the other project.

Q: How have companies failed?

The hardest teams to watch fail are the ones who lack the political support to expand the ITAM program far enough to really make a difference.  Perhaps the corporate team can’t force the divisions to cooperate, or the procurement department views the ITAM project as a criticism.  And, my least favourite is the executive who thinks “we already do this ITAM stuff, with [blank] system,” and you fill in the blank with just about anything.   In this case, the ITAM team was unable to clarify the value proposition from other projects using similar-sounding vocabularies.

The classic failure scenario is when the efforts stop short of completing the lifecycle for any one asset type so that measurements, savings, increased customer satisfaction, etc. is never fully delivered.

Q: What are the biggest stumbling blocks?

Unfortunately, the same automation that helps ITAM really deliver savings, risk reduction, customer satisfaction – is also the biggest stumbling block.  If the implementation takes too long support will fall away, leaving an adversarial vendor-customer relationship and a product being used at one tenth of its capability.

The other major category for stumbling blocks I call organizational culture, such as a history of distributed purchasing, poor policy enforcement or engineering-driven technology decisions without regard to the business decisions.  These types of situations are often in place for so long that ITAM practitioners don’t think that it can be changed.  Sometimes,   practitioners immersed in the details don’t even see these crippling issues that are so obvious to an outsider.

Q: How would you recommend keeping up momentum so that the ITAM program continues to deliver?

Momentum is lost because everyone focuses on the next crisis and the golden project from last year is soon forgotten.  The only way to avoid ITAM turning into a necessary evil is to market the program internally.   I suggest awareness programs linked to issues in the media such “laptop with data on it found on auction site.”  I also like the educational sessions that help others do their jobs better, such as explaining the request and approval process from an employee’s perspective.

I also highly recommend aligning ITAM goals with the goals of the organization and IT in general.   Those who are perceived as helping to achieve these important goals are more likely to benefit from cooperation and internal partnerships that keep the program alive and delivering.

Jenny is an educator and industry spokesperson with the International Association of IT Asset Managers, Inc. She has over 20 years software publisher leadership experience as well as extensive global IT business consulting.

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