How can ITAM professionals create more harmonious and mutually beneficial relationships with software publishers and their auditors?
Ahead of the audit defence panel sessions being held at our conferences this year we spoke to some ITAM industry specialists on their approach to building bridges with auditors.
Walk a mile in their shoes
“An historic Native American Cherokee adage tells us not to judge a person until we have walked a mile in their shoes. More recently, Steve Martin quipped: ‘before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.’ Today’s business climate is sometimes more like Steve Martin’s joke than the Cherokee proverb.
An opinionated 140 character sound bite culture can cause us to lose empathy for the “other side” – especially if we feel strongly about an issue. In business, however, effective negotiators recognize the directives and constraints that have been imposed upon their colleagues. They develop empathy for the mission of their colleagues at the table – not so much for the people themselves as for the objectives the other side has been charged with achieving.
With over 40 years in business, negotiating countless agreements, I have learned that I can achieve greater success when I genuinely understand both my company’s objectives and the objectives of my colleagues. But empathy is not naivety. I come to the table prepared with evidence-based research. I strive to understand the topics better than my colleagues do.
My goal is not to ‘beat’ them, but to appreciate their concerns well enough to know what I can achieve. In deal making, I study the people at the table to achieve my goals. I don’t make concessions purely for their benefit, but once I have “walked in their shoes”, I have a better grasp of what they will need to make their own ‘win’. My goal is to reach a win for my company, but to do it respectfully.” John Tomeny, Sassafras Software
Cathy Won of BDNA suggests that the first step in creating more positive relationships is self-knowledge and self-discovery, to really know your environment:
“More than 61 percent of companies were audited within the last 18 months, according to a recent BDNA survey of IT professionals that aligns with industry analyst results. More than 85 percent of the BDNA survey’s respondents admitted that they were “accidental” software pirates, either deploying software for which they had never paid or exceeding their number of acquired licenses.
The challenge is ensuring that you are proactive and have a defensible audit position. ITAM professionals are well aware that their environments are dynamic and changing all the time. But having the agility to obtain their inventory quickly and easily, without the use of complex licensing optimization tools, can help deliver what they need so there is no guesswork involved with what the auditors or vendors are telling them. Having visibility of your inventory on any given day or time gives ITAM professionals better negotiation power with suppliers.
Get visibility of your hardware, software and connected device data before the vendors come along with an audit request. In the end, you’ll have better security, system integrity, reduced risk and improved governance, saving you time and money.” Cathy Won, BDNA
Two Way Communications
“Nobody likes to be audited! A well thought-out ITAM strategy that has vendor management at its core can help to alleviate some of this burden. Think about the following when building this out:
Engagement. How often do you interact with your software vendor and do you keep them abreast with your company and IT strategy? If you looking to expand into another country or region or you are looking to acquire or divest, ensure the relevant NDAs are in place and discuss this with your vendor rep. Conversely making time to know your vendors can ensure you are aware of their strategy and challenges as well.
- Finances. Are your ITAM processes integrated with procurement and accounts payable divisions? Ensuring bills are paid on time can go a long way in establishing and maintaining good relationships. Identify ways to give them more work- there is no better way to a vendor’s heart than helping them to obtain more business!
- Contracts. How well do you understand your contracts? Knowing your rights, responsibilities and entitlement should form the foundation of any ITAM program.
- Data is king. Do have the right tools to capture the inventory and metrics your vendor requires in an audit- can you distinguish and demonstrate the difference between a device and user based installation or CPUs and cores? If you can capture this, show this proactively to your vendor.
The Solution is ITAM
Despite your best efforts at bridge building, sometimes the vendor might behave with short-term quarterly revenue driven tactics. Psychology teaches us that whilst the vendor might be acting with child like behaviour, it doesn’t mean we need to respond with child like behaviour. We can rise above it and respond with adult behaviour. In our case for ITAM teams that is trustworthy data and credible information. The answer to more harmonious relationship vendor relationships is by building a robust ITAM practice.
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 is 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.