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.
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 also 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.
On a voluntary basis Martin a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.
Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.