Beth Kaminski has been working in ITAM for most of her career. As someone who has established a number of brand-new SAM practices within large corporates (including in her current role at the Dart Container Corporation) she knows a thing or two about managing stakeholders. Her upcoming presentation at this year’s Wisdom NA event in Florida, March 21, will be tackling this very issue. She will explain how to grow and mature an ITAM/SAM program or practice – where stakeholder engagement is absolutely essential.
Given the importance of this topic, we sat down with Beth to glean a little of her experience ahead of her presentation in March. Here are her top three tips for successful stakeholder engagement in support of your ITAM/SAM program.
Throughout our conversation, Beth stressed the importance of trust in building the foundation of support for your SAM program. “You must have the ability to build trust with your leadership. Whether you’re dealing with folks in IT or other stakeholders throughout the business, you have to understand they have certain needs they need taken care of. You need to understand these needs before you can figure out how to help them. Gaining stakeholder support is dependent on gaining stakeholder trust first. You need the trust before you can get the support.
How do you go about gaining this trust? You build trust by finding out about their needs. You should ask questions like “How can I help you get through this?” or “How can I make this easier for you?”
“Empathy is critical in ITAM. When you’re managing stakeholders you need good amounts of empathy in order to understand what people want and need, so that you can attune yourself to support them better.” I suggest to Beth that this need for empathy in ITAM could help to explain why the industry has attracted more than its fair share of successful women, bucking the trend of the broader IT industry being historically dominated by men, since empathy tends to be a much more prevalent trait in women than men. Of course I’m generalising here (for more on the importance of empathy in ITAM we recommend listening to this podcast: “Empathy with stakeholders gets you buy-in”).
Beth agrees, “My experience would back this up. Empathy goes a long way in ITAM. But it also helps that our role is backed up by data – we have the contracts, numbers etc. to back up our position. So, while empathy is important, the facts also speak for themselves. I suspect this can further help to make women more comfortable when going against the more technical stakeholders who have traditionally been men.”
Empathy works in an audit situation too. “When facing an audit, I remind my stakeholders that they have every right to do this. I see a software auditor as just another version of me sitting on the other side. Remember they have managers telling them what to do just like I have. It’s about understanding their needs just like any other stakeholder. I tell them “I want to get you what you need, and I will get it as soon as I can. If I have challenges getting it I will tell you, and I will tell you why.” This approach helps to build trust with the auditor and can make for a more productive and pleasant engagement.”
Beth explains the value of not taking things personally in business. After one particular project didn’t go her way, Beth recalls the advice she received from a colleague of hers which has always stayed with her. He simply reminded her that “We just work here. Our only job is to move the company’s agenda forward.” If you remember that it’s just a job, you remember it’s never personal if things don’t go your own way. Just be good and gracious about things and move on.
Building on the empathy point from earlier, Beth reminds me of the importance of understanding everyone else’s agenda. Even if that agenda is drawn from the company’s agenda, it may not always present itself in that way. “In order to build trust you must always remember that everyone has an agenda, so you should always be safe about what you say (not just externally with an auditor, but internally within the organisation too). You don’t want to get trapped inside someone else’s agenda, as that could cause conflict with someone else. Remember it’s a balancing act of yours and everyone else’s interests when you’re trying to gain the trust of your stakeholders. You must do a lot of listening and keeping your ear to the ground. If you listen carefully you’ll figure out a lot of what is going on in the organisation, which will help you to navigate it.”
Beth’s upcoming presentation is titled Stand Up, Stand Out and Grow, and is all about stakeholder engagement in ITAM; how you engage with stakeholders to gain their trust and support.
I’ll be talking about all the things I’ve done in my 30+ year career to show the absolute value and necessity of Software Asset Management in order to move the SAM programme forward within an organisation. It’s a process that takes a long time. It’s not something you’re going to develop quickly, especially if you’re starting from scratch. In my presentation I will explain how I went about establishing new SAM departments in my career, and most importantly, how I worked to gain the support of the various stakeholders across the organisation – some of whom were more willing to engage than others!”
You can catch Beth’s presentation at Wisdom NA 2023 in Florida on Tuesday, March 21, from 01:30 PM – 02:00 PM.
Register for Wisdom NA 2023 here: https://itamreview.zohobackstage.eu/WisdomNA2023#/?lang=en