I attended ECPweb’s Software and Asset Management Summit ’04 at The University of Chicago to deliver a workshop on software auditing and compliance. It was a great opportunity for me to talk with other industry professionals as well as to speak with IT and asset managers tasked with implementing asset management (AM) and compliance programs.
As I reflect back on my conversations, I realize that certain hurdles to achieving AM program success are common in just about every company, regardless of size. I spoke with folks from organizations trying to manage 100,000+ IT assets, as well as with those who were trying to manage just a few hundred assets.
The problems are the same everywhere, only the scale changes. I probably said a hundred times, “You are not alone; most companies have the same problems!” To summarize the issues, I’ve identified the following key problem areas:
· There is inadequate senior-level visibility, involvement and commitment to the project. Ouch! Not good.
· There are no internal subject matter experts, the task is overwhelming, and there are too few external experts, road maps or models for reference. A general lack of understanding of the pertinent regulatory and compliance issues further complicates an already daunting challenge. With an estimated 10,000 regulations and laws surrounding IT, this is certainly understandable.
· Internal silos and conflicts between key departments (
· Most IT and asset managers are unable to present appropriate business cases to support the need for enterprise-wide management of IT assets. Without a solid business case, requisite funding can be illusive!
Since these issues are universal, a closer look at how some organizations have overcome these obstacles may help to ensure success for your own IT compliance and asset management project.
In 2003 Aberdeen Group conducted a study of 252 businesses on enterprise asset management (EAM) programs. Results from the study show initiatives that realize the highest return on investments (ROI) include: involvement from senior financial executives, successful breakdown of AM silos, and provisioning to the enterprise ample and strategic AM coverage.
Great, now that and a nickel still won?t buy me a cup of coffee! So, let’s break it down further. This first step to initiating an AM project is to define the goals the company hopes to achieve from the project.
A straightforward way to perk up executive ears is to align the goals of the project with the corporate mission statement and overall corporate goals. Use as much of the same language as possible in your pitch and the project goals statement. You may be laughing at this idea, but it’s hard to object to a project aimed squarely at achieving goals the Board of Directors has already bought into.
If that doesn’t get “C-level” buy-in, a list of cost-avoidance and risk-reduction statements can usually help. Remind management that the austere corporate performance and accountability regulations today require policies, procedures and effective tools to maintain adequate controls for financial reporting. If you need to spell it out more clearly, here are the letters: E-N-R-O-N!
The list of project goals should also include intangibles such as improved IT service levels and reduction in risk factors “often difficult to plug in to traditional ROI models. Don’t give up; there are ways to illustrate soft benefits!
Use examples of historical situations to help sell the point. For example: “Last month the company was hit with the ‘nasty-code’ virus. It took three hours to patch and recover our most critical systems. During that three-hour window our 50 ‘business critical’ users were unable to work (that adds up to 150 man-hours). It took three IT resources to resolve the problem.” Let’s assume each employee earns $50 per hour.
” That equates to $7,950 in lost salary, not to mention the business we lost due to downtime. Our IT staff still has scheduled work to perform that may require overtime to complete.” Now put the icing on the cake “return to your historical, indisputable data: ‘That was the fifth virus incident in five months.'”
Suddenly the intangible becomes tangible. “If this cycle continues, we will waste close to a $100K this year on reactive virus management and still will not have the tools needed to proactively manage our assets.” It is always good to include cost-avoidance metrics when requesting budget approval and soliciting corporate buy-in.
Leverage the company’s internal financial experts to help illustrate other examples of ROI. These areas include optimization of vendor contracts, improvements in forecasting and budgeting, and increased efficiencies for both IT and end users.
IDC reported that downtime can be reduced by 10%, and person-hours on recovery can be reduced by 22% for businesses that practice good asset management. Good AM can reduce an average help desk call by 25%. Getting staff back to work quickly and keeping them working efficiently is critical to the success of most organizations.
Consider how business processes will improve when finance, procurement, IT and asset managers can take advantage of cross-functional collaboration. Disparate pockets of incomplete, outdated and possibly inaccurate asset data undermine an organization’s ability to improve asset utilization. With electronic enterprise-wide IT asset management, improvements are inevitable in the areas of: forecasting, budgeting and procurement; software license compliance; maintenance planning; and overall PC life-cycle planning. Improved asset utilization is a key component to sustained corporate growth.
Help non-technical staff understand the value they will derive from dynamic, structured and actionable information as opposed to what can be gleaned from seven thousand lines of static data in a Microsoft® Excel spreadsheet! Remember the difference between data and information? Humans can make decisions based on information; raw data is best left for computer systems to deal with!
Develop an internal team to help define the program and to shape the list of business needs and benefits. The team must include key players from each department or business group that plays a role in the life-cycle of IT assets (from cradle to grave).
The team must define appropriate processes to facilitate the company’s AM strategy; don’t count on an asset management tool to provide the process or you are doomed to fail. As the underlying process is defined, make sure to define roles and responsibilities for each step of the process and also for each phase of the project.
I’ve listed the hurdles to a successful AM or compliance program as well as advice on overcoming those obstacles. You may be thinking, “Sure, but it isn’t going to be easy.” Sorry, I never said it would be easy, just achievable! Don’t go it alone, put the burden of success squarely on the shoulders of the project team and senior-level management.