The ITAM Review

News, reviews and resources for worldwide ITAM, SAM and Licensing professionals.

IT Asset Manager Fired for License Shortfall

Editor’s Note:

News that an ITAM Review reader was fired due to a license shortfall attracted considerable interest and debate on the LinkedIn group. In this article the IT Asset Manager shares her story in her own words.

If this situation arose in Europe my uneducated guess is very good grounds for unfair dismissal (Having seen the e-mail history and performance review documentation). Unfortunately ‘Sybil’ lives in a US state where she may be dismissed ‘At Will‘.

This is not a clear-cut tale, many factors are at play over several months – but I believe this situation serves as a great example of the importance of evangelizing and communicating about both the benefits and risks of ITAM to senior management. At a bare minimum – please take it as a reminder for some corporate CYOA and transparency.

UPDATED (15/04/2013): The company in question is DirecTV who have declined to comment.


ITAM in America, A Cautionary Tale by Sybil Vane.

It’s been a little over a month now since I was fired.  For those of you that were following the post, which Martin first published a couple of weeks ago, there have been many questions and suppositions that, until now, went unanswered.  Although I still want to maintain my anonymity in an effort not to commit career suicide, I still feel that this story needs to be told as a warning to other ITAMs not to let your hubris stand in the way of obvious signs crashing down on you.

So, let me begin by stating the simple facts.  I was at ‘The Org” for approximately 51/2 years and, let me clarify this one point, I am a woman.   When I arrived into this environment, they had deployed their asset tool three years prior and it had become a dismal nightmare for anyone who had tried to manage it.  Nobody wanted to touch it, say its name or participate in maintaining any of the data.  They just didn’t feel like it was what they were hired to do.  Asset Management was a phrase that no one wanted to own.

The first thing I did was clear up the technical issues with the tool.  It was poorly architected and implemented.  I cleaned up the data, imposed physical inventories to validate the existing data and proceeded to customize the tool for each departments needs.  Where they once saw a very confusing console, they now were able to log in and see exactly what they needed to see and run reports that were of interest.

Within 6 months of my arrival, ‘The Org’ had conducted, what I was soon to discover, their regular practice of department reorganizations (i.e., reorgs).  I was now shifted to a new department, new manager.  Since he was a Director, he found that it wasn’t really fitting for me to report to him directly, so he gave me a new manager.

ITAM Fired

"No matter how good you are, you are fighting an uphill battle you will someday lose – unless the company sees Asset Management for, not only what it is – but what it can be – an asset."

The first thing that Manager #3 did was strip me of the title of IT Asset Manager.  She said it was deceptive, in that people would actually think that I was a manager and I was now entitled, IT Asset Management.  The tone was pretty well set at that point and time. Eventually, Manager #3 learned to listen to my judgment and trust in the way I was running things.

I had managed to centralize software purchasing on the desktop side of things, which facilitated being able to effectively track licenses and purchasing.  The inventories had improved year after year, with loss decreasing steadily.  I had implemented a system for hardware maintenance that had reduced their costs by approximately $2m annually.  And I was a 1-woman team who was managing over 60,000 assets and interfacing with every department to ensure accuracy was at its peak.

A year and a half later, I was finally given some help and another was hired on to help me with the technical side so I could concentrate on the Asset Management side and increase the ROIs I had already begun to garner.  My focus was to be on software licensing for the server end.  It was decentralized and scattered among departments.  To make it even more challenging, I had no insight into what was being purchased and was constantly chasing after POs to try to determine it.

At the beginning of 2012, we embarked on system upgrade of our tool that was, in essence, starting all over again.  The upgrade was more of a migration and a total rebuild.  In June of that year, the powers that be decided a new shakeup was in order.  In the midst of our upgrade, I was transferred to a new department and a new manager.

I was called down to her office one day so Manager #3 could conduct my mid-year performance review with Manager #4.  In it she raved about my ability to work with other groups, my knowledge and my ability to save the company money.  She also highlighted that I had worked with the Accounting department to get included in the PO approval process so I could gain visibility into the server software purchasing and begin to be able to track it effectively.  Important point – Manager #4 was in charge of Capacity Planning for The Org –  the very department making the bulk of these purchases.  As I sat there, I saw the Red Swingline stapler neatly arranged on the corner of her desk.  From that moment on, I knew I was in trouble.

It didn’t take long for Manager #4 to realize she did not have the Capacity to oversee me and my teammate, so she decided to promote one of her own as the IT Asset Manager.  I could just see the employment ad now:  “Wanted:  IT Asset Manager – no managerial experience required, no asset management knowledge needed, poor communication skills a bonus”.  Okay, now that just sounds bitter.  But I was.  I had been hired with that title, stripped of that title, and now it was given to someone who did not have the qualifications that I had to have to get the job in the first place.  And her timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  She announced it right after I had gotten out of a company breakfast that celebrated employees who had been at The Org in 5-year increments.  It was my 5-year anniversary.

Suffice it to say, things went downhill from there.  I was pulled down for insubordination because he kept interrupting, cancelling and imposing upon my meetings.  Mind you, we were still in the upgrade project and taxed to the hilt.  Then in December, he decided to give me an impossible task – I was to give him server names, CPU counts, install dates, server functions, and locations of a, primarily, UNIX based server software for which I had no information on where it might be installed and what the key files would be.  His request came in at 4pm and I was to have it complete by 10am the next morning.  I won’t bore you with the details, but I received a Final Written Warning for my failure to complete this task, which stated that it shows that I displayed poor performance, further demonstrating that I did not know my job.

Once we were back from the holidays, I gathered enough information to create a discovery that identified that software effectively and, although he was happy with the results, I was soon hit by another set of accusations.  This time was the final blow.  I was called down.  I wanted to grab my laptop and run, but I was convinced that I had done nothing wrong.  I had even corrected the software discovery issue I was written up for.  I had no outbursts that could be considered insubordinate – no reason to fear.

I saw them gathered at the table:  Manager #4, Manager #5 and the HR rep.  Only Manager #4 spoke while Manager #5 and HR sat there quietly.  She began to spew my crimes.  The first she stated that I had made an inappropriate deal with another business unit to house their assets in our system without approval from upper management – 2 years ago.  And worse yet, following the upgrade, I cut them off from the system.  Sadly, had I been given the chance – I could have shown them emails, status reports and a previous Performance Review that not only disproved the allegations, but showed that I was praised for my efforts.

The second, more egregious crime was that I allowed an over-deployment of the asset tool’s agents.   Although I tried to defend myself, they would not listen to a word.  The simple fact of the matter was this, we had done a true-up with the company in September of 2012.  At that time, we were over-deployed by 59 licenses.  I brought it to the attention of upper management, but they stated there was no money in the 2012 budget and it would need to wait until 2013.  But it’s my word against theirs – all managers denied that I had stated any such thing – but all of the vendor reps recall me stating it in multiple meetings.

After the agents were almost entirely upgraded, I found that the over-deployment had grown much more dramatically.  You see, it was my teammate who was deploying the agents.  At the end of January, I discovered the impact and was now able to better assess the count of licenses that would be needed.  I immediately sent an email to Manager #5 with the actual shortage, a suggested pad for growth and told him that I would get temp licenses to keep the application running and would get a quote for the monetary hit in the morning.  I never heard anything from him to negate my proposed actions and, I was able to negotiate a 40% discount off the licenses.

One week later, I received an email the morning I was fired telling me not to contact any vendors for quotes, temporary licenses or anything to do with purchasing.  I was fired that afternoon.  No notice, no severance and denied the annual bonus for which I had worked so hard.

That is my tale.  Did I do everything right? Maybe – maybe not.  So what is the point here?  When you see a company, like The Org, implementing Asset Management as a whim – something to give the impression that they have it all under control – and you have no support from upper management, no relayed vision, no authority to execute strategies or instill ITIL practices or structure – no matter how good you are, you are fighting an uphill battle you will someday lose – unless the company sees Asset Management for, not only what it is – but what it can be – an asset.

About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource for worldwide ITAM professionals. The ITAM Review is best known for its weekly newsletter of all the latest industry updates, LISA training platform, Excellence Awards and conferences in UK, USA and Australia.

Martin is also the founder of ITAM Forum, a not-for-profit trade body for the ITAM industry created to raise the profile of the profession and bring an organisational certification to market. On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

He is also the author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management. In addition, Martin developed the PITAM training course and certification.

Prior to founding the ITAM Review in 2008 Martin worked for Centennial Software (Ivanti), Silicon Graphics, CA Technologies and Computer 2000 (Tech Data).

When not working, Martin likes to Ski, Hike, Motorbike and spend time with his young family.

Connect with Martin on LinkedIn.

17 Comments

  1. Matt says:

    Seems like a long and irrelevant rant to me, in which the “afflicted” person seems to want to get their side of the story out to someone. These types of issues are faced in many organisations, and is not only relevant to ITAM, but to any type of role performed and any gender of person, as it seems more about a personality issue than anything else. I really feel that this type of article is best placed on a personal blog or HR type of post – not the ITAM review!

  2. A bit harsh Matt. Firstly I’m proud to be able to provide a platform for IT Asset Managers to share their experiences – whatever that may be. Secondly – I think you are missing the point, I hope this serves as a reminder to make sure senior management ‘GET’ it and understand the risks.

  3. Rob Harmer says:

    This in not the first time this has occurred and it won’t be the last.

    C level execs in all sized organizations that are responsible for bottom-line profitability face this very day.

    Recent press indicates also that those that feed off the military and US government budgets (and suppliers downstream) will be looking very closely at cost savings and rationalizations that they will need to undertake to help stabilize the losses they will incur and become leaner and fitter for if/when “recovery” occurs.

    Every organization is faced with the challenges of cost-savings.

    Do not be surprised to hear that SAM and ITAM programs will be in the firing line along with other activities.

    You can argue till the cows come home you are an essential service, or I am a victim, but don’t be surprised when the cutbacks start rolling in………………..

  4. Rob Harmer says:

    I am not sure that hanging out the dirty washing as a reminder for all to see will help convince any organization to take up SAM/ITAM!

  5. SybilV says:

    Hi Rob – with all due respect, that is not what this is about. It’s about seeing the warning signs as to whether the organization you were brought into is taking SAM/ITAM seriously or if they have taken it up just for appearances in regards to SOX and compliance issues. I am not trying to convince organizations as to what they should or should not do. Despite the success and the savings I garnered, there were people there that wanted the program to fail and those are the people whose management I fell under in the last months. They are still running the program with untrained, unexperienced staff and, as a result, they are just running it into the ground – from what I am told.

  6. Rob Harmer says:

    Sybil, Thanks for the clarification. I agree that the warning signs need to be spotted but the underlying issues of cost and profitability are what is driving many organizations to dump asset managers and cut corners on compliance issues despite SOX etc. The risks of running with untrained, inexperienced staff, often end up with big true-up costs and even worse, getting reported (under an affidavit) by a whistleblower (staff or disgruntled ex-staff) “claiming a reward for underlicensing”.
    All the best in your quest for a new role. Regards Rob

  7. Been there, done that says:

    It’s unfortunate that Sybil was fired and I wish her the best of luck. The job market is healthy and the prospects are good. As to why she was fired, it seems less about a failure of management to value the license management function than a general organizational failure and internal political squabble and personal discrimination. Unfortunately, it appears Sybil’s superiors didn’t like her and set her up for failure. If Sybil thinks she has been wrongly dismissed she could consult with an attorney about the legal remedies. It sounds to me more like a bad fit and perhaps Sybil could have used a coach to help her negotiate a separation rather than endure the disheartening dismissal process. The company may have welcomed this approach as a cost saving measure and a quicker way to rid itself of an unwanted employee. The title of the article is misleading and the editorial comments don’t make the connection between the firing and license management. This is much more than firing for a licensing shortfall. A better use of this article would be to educate on how to navigate internal political squabbles and how to manage when we’re targeted for disciplinary action. It sounds like Sybil felt alone and could have used a coach to help her this process and protect herself.

  8. Michael Swanson says:

    Martin, As much as everyone may think that what happened to Sybil would never happen in their organization because they may feel that they’re doing a good job, I believe 99% of organizations have not properly deployed and managed their licenses. That is based on our review of many hundreds of data centers’ assets. We have over 100 million pieces of inventory from over 1000 companies from every corner of the globe, and 99% of the time I’m told that they’re doing a good job, yet 99% of the time I see assets that aren’t licensed, deployed or managed properly.

    The irony is that people commonly mistake asset inventory tracking (and they see a tool as the answer) with asset management. Asset management involves making sure you purchase, deploy, consolidate, and terminate the right software license at the right time on the right hardware for the right price. It involves the full life-cycle management of the asset. When that is done well, the savings will be in the millions and only then will senior management give its 100% support.

  9. Daryl says:

    Interesting piece, I find myself in a similar position as Sybil except in reverse. When I started with my company we had a solid Asset Management Department. We had staffing, a SAM Tool, and a Director that believed in the value that the department brought. In the years since then my Director retired, my Manager retired, the department has been passed from one new manager to another, and at each step recatagorizing the staff positions into another position so they could increase manning in their existing staff and downsize the Asset Management team.

    I have had my SAM tool taken away because they did not feel the need to continue to pay for maintenance on it when another in-house tool also provided “Asset Intelligence” even though the administrators of the tool have repeatedly told them it does not do what they want. My team now consists of myself to try and stay compliant.

    My company continues to grow and with that growth invest in new infrastructure to automate many of the outdated systems and programs. Unfortunately no thought is given to tieing Asset Management into the new systems. In addition to my job I now have to monitor certain aspects of the other tools, anything relating to software requests. At least a 1/3 of my day or more is spent looking at purchasing requests or Help Desk tickets because my new tool does not interface with any of these new systems.

    Some days all I can think is that it is just a matter of time before they decide to eliminate my position.

    I guess at this point I would like to propose a new topic: What would the staffing level look like in order to have a successful SAM/Asset Management program? I know there are many variables to consider, but has there been any type of study or article on this?

  10. Ben says:

    I am truly sorry for this woman’s situation and i am sure there are more facts, but to me the bigger picture illustrated is that of a lack of clear ROI and Cost Containment
    associated with ITAM and its sub discipline SAM. I have yet to see a cohesive,
    actuarial study done by anyone to make this so clear that the associated
    expenses of having a crew do ITAM is so compelling that you could not do
    without it. We are the authors of our own fate, by having an accurate calculator we are not taking the bull by the horns and showing the C level that doing without it is insane. We know that it works but in my daily interaction with the market it is painfully clear ITAM is not embraced by most.

  11. SybilV says:

    I guess the hardest part is that feeling of betrayal. You know, you give all you have to your job and the company. Give up vacations, evenings, weekends. Invest your heart into what you do and strive to get the company returns. I have spent the last month trying to get HR to give me a severance package to no avail. It was like them saying that my 5 years of accomplishments meant nothing and the last 5 months under new management defined my tenure there.

    I have no case because of At-Will employment and they know it, so there is no motivation for them. I asked the HR rep, what of all the money I had saved the company and she responded that aspect was an expectation of my job in and of itself. And when I asked her of the license shortfall of $280k, she said that was inexcusable. It was a reportable offense to the President of the company. This is a billion dollar company. Neither my savings nor the license cost is a drop in the bucket to them.

    Ah well, time to move on to bigger and better things. Thanks for all of you listening and remember, it’s not just TV – it’s DIRECTV – personally, I switched to Verizon FIOS as of late.

  12. Martin, thank you posting this blog. It’s refreshing to read about the personal side of the work in IT asset management, including organizational change, process, and people. I read this blog “IT failure and the dehumanization of the workforce” from CIOinsight, related… also refreshing… I thought I would share here.. Jackie Luo

    http://www.cioinsight.com/it-management/expert-voices/it-failure-and-the-dehumanization-of-the-workforce/

  13. Mathew says:

    What happened to Sybil Vane can happen to anybody in any organization. This is more of a professional ego than to do anything with ITAM.

    Just curious to know who had sponsored the ITAM activity in this company? And did SybilV report to the sponsor-er?

    The success of ITAM depends on by whom it is sponsored in the Orgnization. The ITAM Manager has to report to the sponsor-er and dotted line reporting to the department head (if required). All the activities has to be monitored and approved by the sponsor-er.

  14. Sybil Vane says:

    @Matthew – I suppose you could say the VP was the sponsor, but he was the one was also the one shufflng Asset Management around for the last 5 years. He then entrusted whoever the manager was at the time to create the vision. I had met with him three times prior to my firing to discuss my concerns with the latest shifts because the new management was redefining my role without defining it. In other words, i kept being told what not to do after i had done it, though it had been part of my role for the last 5 years.

    He artticulated to me what a great job I was doing and how he loved the savings I had garnered for the company and that he would speak to the new manager to ensure i had a revised job description. I never got this of course, and he was nowhere to be found once i was fired. He once told me that he trusted his managers told him the truth.

  15. SybilV says:

    I should also point out, I reached out to my past managers and other upper management I had helped in the past and all of them turned their backs on me telling me they were not allowed to speak with me.

  16. SybilV says:

    Great article! Thank you for sharing it.

  17. EranS says:

    Book: Employees First, Customers Second …
    Success has a few ways … Failure has many ways … we should spare our time for a few ways … thanks for courage to share

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