Emotion. It’s a strong word with even stronger consequences. It’s something that organisations do not focus enough time and efforts on managing or listening to, in my opinion. I believe this is wrong as people’s emotions can play a massive part in a new function’s success.
When you implement a new way of working within an organisation, you need to guide people through their emotional journey. Everyone will be different, so you need to cater your approach accordingly. Change Management (no, not the ITIL Change Management!) can help steer people through the murky waters of uncertainty and change when a new function is implemented.
IT Asset Management (ITAM) is no different in invoking an emotional reaction from those impacted or affected by this new, confusing – yet wonderful business function. Having implemented ITAM or Software Asset Management in many different organisations, with different environments, ways of working and emotional responses, I firmly believe ITAM professionals can help reach the level of ITAM acceptance much quicker if we guide people emotionally through that journey.
Here are my 5 Stages of ITAM Acceptance. It is important to note that users can switch between different stages, based on their experiences. The real challenge for all ITAM Professionals is to maintain the ‘Acceptance’ stage!
Each stage brings its own challenges – challenges ITAM must overcome to be effective, efficient and have users onside. You can move people through some of the stages a lot quicker than others, but some can become real sticking points and a speed bump for your ITAM program.
It’ll take time, a lot of effort and lots of communicating. You might find that you end up having repetitive meetings with certain stakeholders trying to sell the ITAM Dream, or you might feel that users are simply not listening to you.
Find ways around that, make it personal and show how ITAM can make a positive impact to them and their day-to-day workings. All users are important stakeholders of any ITAM function, so remind them of that and stress the importance they play in your successes.
All the hard work, meetings, communications and explanations will all be worth it when you have a proactive, efficient and effective ITAM function within your organisation. A function your stakeholders, customers and users all believe in and support.
I’m sure you can relate to all of the below stages, but let’s dive in to each stage, what it means and how you can move your users along to the ‘Acceptance’ state.
“Nope, we don’t need ITAM. We’re managing our IT Assets just fine, thanks!”
IT Asset Management professionals have absolutely experienced this first hand, or heard someone at an event speak about the denial stage of an ITAM implementation. Whilst the attitude may have subsided a little thanks to the likes of the ITAM Review, bad audit stories and positive ‘win’ stories to come out of a successful ITAM function, you still get those – sometimes senior – staff members who initially completely disregard IT Asset Management as something that simply isn’t required.
From some sides, you can understand their point. It hasn’t been in the organisation before and the organisation is still operating. The users have always had their laptop and whatever software they require – always had administrator access and always had that overall control of their assets.
If the printer stopped working, they would ask IT to fix. If they couldn’t, they’d just order a new one from PC World or Best Buy. Easy, simple and effective, right? Obviously, we all know that to be wrong, but you need to prove that the previous ways of working were ineffective, costly, unstructured and unhelpful to the organisation as a whole. How can you look to declare or depreciate an asset when you don’t know how many you have, or manage warranties when you aren’t managing the asset effectively?
This can occur quite frequently with organisations who have staff that have been there 20 or 30 years. Whilst this is a great achievement and something the organisation should be proud of, change isn’t something that comes easily to them.
They’ve never done it before, got on with their jobs for all those years, why do they suddenly need to follow this ITAM thing?
“You’re creating more work for me, things are taking longer and we have new processes to follow? Not a chance.”
Anger isn’t the prettiest of emotions, let alone when you are trying to implement a new function or way of working within a business. It’s a tough place for an ITAM professional to be – they have been bought into the organisation for fulfil a role yet are facing angry people internally who can be quite rude or firm when expressing their opinions or oppositions.
The anger stems from having to change – to do something differently that they haven’t had to do before when they perceived their own ways of working as being efficient and correct. If ITAM has been bought in to the organisation by the powers that be, and they find flaws or issues with the pre-existing ways of working, then a change must happen for compliance, financial, legal or even to achieve (or start!) better utilisation of the organisation’s IT assets.
This change can be perceived as you (ITAM) telling the end-user that they have been doing something wrong all this time. Whilst this is true, and you know it’s true, you need to manage it in such a way that isn’t massively critical, but think of it more of an ‘improvement on existing ways of working’.
In some cases, when things are extremely poorly managed, you do have to deliver a bit of tough love and explain why the current ways of working have got the organisation in the situation it is in – whether that be non-compliance or an ever-increasing hardware bill. Some users can be quite rude, and simply refuse to engage or listen to you. This is where your C-Level support comes in extremely handy – if they won’t listen to the ITAM team, I’m sure engaging with their bosses bosses boss will help them overcome any anger.
It’s important to remember that the C-Level execs haven’t brought ITAM in for no reason – something has clearly triggered the requirement and it wouldn’t have been passing an audit with flying colours!
“I understand the process, but can I install this software first and then see if we have licenses later?”
Users are starting to understand why you’re implementing ITAM and the related processes, but are still not convinced it will help them in a positive way. We could give many examples of the bargaining stage, but the main examples come when users need something urgently – or something they perceive as urgent.
There is a process in place for a reason, but if it is in its infancy it may have a few flaws that cause delays or results in a poor user experience. This is natural, and will happen. ITAM professionals don’t have a ‘development’ or ‘testing’ environment they can test processes in – they are developed based on data, facts and research and then the best example of a process is developed and made live.
Because of its infancy, it may cause genuine delays which are no fault of the ITAM team or the end-users. This is when end-users propose an alternative way of working that may not give ITAM the visibility or control it needs to ‘fix’ the ITAM estate. At this stage, it’s important to acknowledge that they are basic (but best practice) processes and that they are being developed (with the end users help) and that you can absolutely help them with their request.
It’s better doing it this way than bargaining and allowing the users to go ‘off course’ as a one-off. The one-off occasion may turn into a regular occurrence, something that would be very detrimental to your fledgling ITAM function.
“In the good old days, we used to install software or provide a laptop there and then. It was easier back then.”
You could also refer to this as the ‘Show Reel’ stage. The user is looking back over their ‘best bits’ and wishing things worked the way they did before. It was so easy back then; users got hardware and software within a matter of moments without needing to follow these silly processes that take time and involve other teams.
But that’s how the organisation has ended up in the mess ITAM has inherited. The lack of ITAM processes and policies may have resulted in users being empowered to install their own software, or purchase their own hardware, but that’s why the organisation is non-compliant, can’t track IT spend and why the IT budget keeps increasing year on year.
The sadness stage doesn’t mean the users are not following the correct process – they may be fully compliant with the new ITAM ways of working. This stage is more about helping them get over the sadness of how it used to work and sell the reasoning as to why ITAM will be such a benefit to the organisation.
It’s also something that ITAM and Change Management need to be aware of. If the user is a respected, long-standing member of the company they may be a big influencer. Their grumblings about the ‘good old days’ will influence those around them.
The ITAM team can combat this by further explaining the benefits of ITAM and the new ways of working, and working with the user to change their thought process from “the old way was the right way” to “the new way is sustainable, compliant and helps us optimise our IT estate. Make sure they know they are an important stakeholder to the ITAM team and that they have a key role in ensuring ITAM’s success.
Easier said than done – granted. Results and proof that things are better will go a long way here. Have you recently streamlined a license agreement, or arranged an improved Hardware SLA with your supplier? Successfully defeated an audit? Use real examples to help them see the benefits, and see the benefits to them personally.
If you can make that breakthrough and get the user to speak more positively about ITAM and the new processes, you’ll quickly find that those around them will also migrate out of sadness and into acceptance.
“Our IT Assets are managed much better now. I know what the process is, we’re saving money and optimising our estate. Great!”
The final, optimal stage, but the hardest to achieve and maintain. In all fairness, some of your users may skip the previous stages as they are fully on board with the ITAM function and what you are trying to achieve from the ‘get-go’.
Others will take a little more encouragement and guidance to reach this stage. They may not see the big picture, or the hard-work you’re putting in behind the scenes. These people rely on cold-hard-facts to be won over.
For a successful ITAM function this should be easy. “We’ve saved X amount in the past few months” or “we’re streamlining our Hardware Asset Request process to ensure you get kit on time and in the right location”. They’ll want to see how exactly you’ve been improving things (again, remember to make it personal to them!) and how you plan on continuing that level of service or even improving upon it.
It will get to the point that your new, effective ITAM processes become Business as Usual (BAU) and the norm – something they don’t even think twice about following. It may even get to the point where the users report back to you, off their own backs, that they no longer need a license installed on their machine, or that they’ve got a laptop in their drawer that they don’t really need.
When you get proactive engagement with your ITAM function, you know you’ve made it!
It is also important to remember that once you’ve reached ‘Acceptance’ it doesn’t mean the end. It’s just the beginning.
Sure, you’ve been on a journey (that may have taken quite some time!) and you’re in a great position with everyone on board, but the real challenge and journey starts now. You need to maintain the Acceptable stage, whilst implementing new processes, policies and ways of working without causing your end-users to jump back a stage.
Having implemented SAM or ITAM on many occasions now, I always worry about my approach. Each organisation is different and each will react in different ways. The ultimate compliment and acceptance you can receive as an ITAM professional having managed people through the 5 Stages of ITAM Acceptance is a LinkedIn message from an ex-colleague.
Now this colleague was, in her own words, a challenge for the ITAM function. They’d been at the organisation for 23 years with no form of ITAM previously. They really didn’t ‘get it’ and just thought we were here to make things difficult and to delay everything.
Having spent an awful lot of time going through the stages of acceptance, she took a job in another company. This was a great move for her, but frustrating from our point of view as she was starting to become a big ITAM Champion and a convert!
Anyway, a few weeks after she joined her new company I received a message from her on LinkedIn. Expecting the usual ‘Hey, how’re you?’ type dialog, I was surprised to see the following:
“They haven’t got a good ITAM function here. It’s ineffective and doesn’t work. Never thought I’d say this, but I’ve become so used to ITAM processes and governance that now I don’t have any to follow I realise now more than ever just how important it is. I’m sorry for all the months of grief I gave you. Please know now that I am a full ITAM convert and advocate!”
If that’s not the best indication or compliment someone can pay your ITAM function, I don’t know what is!