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Practical Methods for Stakeholder Engagement – Article Series

Our recent user survey showed that ITAM is continuing to move from being a service management and operations-based admin team to a trusted C-Suite adviser. As our roles mature, we become less involved in the day-to-day grunt work of getting inventory working, reconciling usage and entitlement data, and calculating Effective License Positions. With our roles becoming more strategic and reporting lines changing it becomes important to become proficient at Stakeholder Engagement. With this in mind in the run up to Wisdom UK we are going to publish a series of articles outlining how to engage with various stakeholders such as Helpdesk, End User Computing, IT Security, Architects & Business Analysts, Infrastructure, Procurement, Finance, and the C-Suite.

This article provides an introduction to the topic and a framework for the other articles to follow.

Stakeholder Engagement 

Stakeholder Engagement is a key building block for effective ITAM and is covered in considerable detail in our Practical IT Asset Management course. ITAM Managers need to identify who their internal customers are and how they can best engage with them. At the simplest level this starts with the same question we always ask – “What are you struggling with, and how can we help you?”.  From that initial interaction the aim is to build a mutually-supportive relationship which delivers value for both participants and the organisation they work for. However, there is a little more to it than that, and that’s what this article is about.

Identifying Stakeholders

Stakeholders are individuals and teams who benefit from your work, help you deliver, or in some cases have the ability to block what you do. In short, any team or person touched by your processes or who benefits from them, directly or indirectly.

Sitting down with a blank canvas to map this out should soon make it clear that most of your colleagues and their teams are stakeholders, because you’re managing the software they use. For that reason, it is useful to constrain the scope and one way to do that is to complete a stakeholder analysis.

Stakeholder Analysis

There are many theories for Stakeholder Management and Analysis but an approach appropriate for ITAM Managers is to map out Power and Interest in a 4-box matrix.

Power – at the simplest level this is the seniority of the stakeholder. However, it is also useful to factor in proximity. For example, your CIO is likely to be powerful, but also somewhat distant. Your manager, however, is close and potentially has considerable power over your ITAM programme.

This is where the Interest dimension comes in. This covers the degree to which a stakeholder is interested in what you do. If ITAM is seen as an admin function it may be that the CIO will only be interested in what you do when the audit letter arrives on her desk. In contrast, your manager will be interested in all aspects of your delivery but perhaps most focused on those activities that align with departmental objectives.

The power and interest matrix enables you to identify which stakeholders to focus on, and potentially techniques for engagement. For example, a distant but powerful CIO who doesn’t yet see the value in what you do will need managing differently to your manager, who may be an ITAM professional and require you to deliver regular & detailed analysis work.

Example Stakeholder Engagement map for ITAM

Sample Stakeholder Analysis Matrix for ITAM

 

The above diagram is a hypothetical stakeholder map for your ITAM function. Based on your analysis it plots stakeholders in four broad categories, summarised as;

Key Players (top right)

Key players possess power and have strong interest in your programme. These are the stakeholder relationships you need to continue to work on and strengthen. For example, a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) may already be aware that ITAM inventory data can help deliver his programme.

Meet their Needs (top left)

These are stakeholders who typically hold a lot of sway and can impact your programme for better or for worse. You need to ensure that you are meeting their needs lest they begin to see it as unimportant and maybe consider cutting it. In time, the aim is to migrate them towards the Key Players quadrant by increasing their interest in your work. Your CIO will almost certainly be in this quadrant and if you continually meet their needs there is a clear opportunity to transform them into a Key Player.

Keep Informed (bottom left)

Working with these groups enables you to reach other low power/low interest stakeholders. If your ITAM practice is currently seen as an admin function these groups are likely to be your peers. Working with them increases the power of all stakeholders in this quadrant by enabling presentation of an efficient, common voice on topics of interest to powerful stakeholders. For example, working with your peers to produce accurate budgets or identify cost savings.

Consider (bottom right)

These stakeholders are valuable because they are interested in your programme. Typical roles in this quadrant will be budget holders such as the Infrastructure Operations team managers. They may have an operational rather than strategic focus but by working with them and considering their needs you can ensure, for example, that they follow your software deployment policy.

Next Steps

The analysis doesn’t stop once you’ve mapped your stakeholders. You also need to consider the relationships between them. By drawing lines mapping these relationships you can identify relationships with hidden strengths, and also potential allies to engage stakeholders who are currently distant, disinterested, or possessing negative sentiment about your programme. For example, your Helpdesk may be lacking power and interest in your programme but will be well-connected and a potential valuable ally. If you enable Helpdesk to improve service to customers, that will get your programme noticed by IT senior leaders. Similarly, Legal are likely to work closely with Finance and can help you communicate and address financial liabilities arising from contractual non-compliances.

Conclusion

The above analysis will need to be adjusted for your organisation. It should also be noted that stakeholder maps change over time and should be reviewed on a regular basis – perhaps every 6 months to a year. You can then use this to measure the success of your stakeholder engagement activity.

In general, for ITAM there isn’t much you can do to change the Power dimension of the stakeholder map, but you can certainly work on the Interest dimension. In the above example, one strategy may be to work on building awareness of your programme with Architects or Procurement to shift them closer towards being Key Players.

The individual articles in this series will use the above analysis to explore in practical terms how to engage stakeholders of various types.

About AJ Witt

A former IT Asset Manager, AJ is Industry Analyst for The ITAM Review. He's interested in hearing from end users of ITAM tools and also vendors. He enjoys writing about the SaaS Management market, practical aspects of ITAM operations, and the strategy of major software publishers. You can connect via email (aj.witt@itassetmanagement.net) or LinkedIn. AJ enjoys cycling, music, and spending time with his family.

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