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Short-term gains, long-term missed opportunities?

This article has been contributed by David Foxen Founder & Principal Consultant at SAM Beast Consulting

Low hanging fruit (grapes)

DISCLAIMER, this focuses primarily on the cost savings element of ITAM rather than service or integration with other teams. I’d end-up writing a whole book if I included everything about long-term strategic ITAM benefits!

There will be an awful lot of pressure on IT Asset Management (ITAM) professionals in 2019 to save money and implement ‘instant win’ processes and polices. This may be off the back of a C-Level directive to save money, a third-party Software Audit or SAM Engagement or even the identification of thousands of hardware assets that have gone missing.

It’s all about the ‘here and now’ and how ITAM can become the saviour and save X amount over the next few months. Short term gains are always a great way to show the value ITAM can bring an organisation, but what if focusing on those short-term gains is at the expense of more fruitful longer-term opportunities?


Often ITAM is introduced to a new organisation because of a negative experience or negative service related to hardware, software or mobiles. This may be a bad audit, a budget shock at how much was spent on IT Assets or even complaints from customers at the slowness of turnaround times for new requests.

Naturally, the organisation wants ITAM to come in and be effective within a very short space of time. This means quick-fire initiatives to ‘stop the rot’ are introduced – for example a desktop internal audit may be conducted to avoid/save money to show the value of ITAM and verify that the C-Level or Directors made the right decision to bring in someone or a team to manage IT Assets.

Whilst this immediately gets ITAM known within the business, and is one way of demonstrating the value shown, is focusing on the short-term wins and the ‘big bang’ implementation of ITAM detrimental to the longer-term strategic opportunities that could add even more value?

The problem with IT is…

Simon Sinek, the author of several business leadership books and has hosted TED Talks on modern-day business and where things work and what doesn’t work. One of the lines in his book ‘Start with Why’ talks about the challenges IT professionals face in the ever-evolving technological world with moving goalposts. He mentions that IT falls short as they ‘focus on the gains and wins that they can see there and then, rather than thinking about the long-term strategy and longer-term big wins.’

You could argue that ITAM is in the same boat. ITAM Professionals are under pressure to deliver results by some organisations within very tight time frames with poor data. They are judged on how much money they’ve saved, how many support agreements they’ve optimised or even how many daily hardware, software and mobile requests are processed.

This mentality needs to change to allow ITAM to grow and be more strategic.

Long-term strategies

There’s no doubt that given the opportunity, ITAM can deliver the best value when considered a strategic, long-term governance function that can mature and grow over several years. ITAM can then focus on how it fits in with the business’ and IT department’s 3 or 5-year strategies and how it can support the business in achieving said goals. People forget that ITAM can add value to the overall strategy because they are so focused on the day-to-day and getting through the next SAM engagement or renewal.

By thinking big and long-term, it gives ITAM the breathing space to really evaluate the organisation’s positioning and future direction. It can then act accordingly to ensure it follows the same progression path. It also allows ITAM to look at the bigger issues with more complete vendors or projects like the IBM or SAP licensing estate or a complete hardware refresh rather than focusing on the lower-value but quicker wins (again, not knocking quick wins. I’m a big fan!).

A prime example of a long-term mindset comes in the form of a recent ITAM Review award winner. Danny Begg, a respected SAM professional within the industry, won two awards last year for a piece of IBM license optimisation and savings work that had been years in the pipeline.

On the recent ITAM Review Radio Show, he commented that it’s taken a good ‘3-4 years’ for his organisation to see the results of his hard work, buy into a long-term strategy and provide the resource required to achieve such large savings. Sure, he’s leading his SAM function to do the day-to-day and quick wins but achieved EIGHT-figure savings on a single vendor through years of laying the foundation and focusing on the bigger, strategic picture.

The problem is, ITAM may not be given the luxury of time due to the reactive nature of its initial requirements.

Is there an answer?

In an ideal world, the answer is to achieve C-Level buy-in and funding for a team from the get-go so you can focus on both the short-term wins and long-term strategy for ITAM. A lot of ITAM professionals do not have that luxury with a number of ‘one-person bands’ out there trying to do it all themselves.

Other, more fortunate, ITAM functions do have a few people within the team, but they are so overloaded with the daily requests that they can only focus on the short-term just to keep ticking over and to keep the wolves at the door.

There may be no need for an answer now; ITAM may not be mature enough as a function for most organisations to see it as a long-term solution – they just want to get through the next audit or save a million bucks this year.

If that’s what C-Levels want, then that’s what ITAM can and will deliver. But if they want something more sustainable and a function that can deliver consistent value and look at the meaty vendors/projects that will yield the best results, then they will see the real value ITAM can bring.

Kudos to those C-Levels and IT Leaders that realise the true value of ITAM. It takes a lot of courage and insight to say ‘don’t focus too much on the low hanging fruit, we believe we can save/optimise a lot more if we focus on the bigger picture.’ Imagine being a CIO and saying to a CFO that they want ITAM to not focus on the £1 million low hanging fruit and go after the £10 million that’ll take a few years to achieve.

One approach to getting this long-term buy-in may be to start talking the CFO’s language. A guest blog by Mark O’Connell of Siwel Consulting explores this in more detail, looking at using NPV & IRR as a means of measuring likely benefits from a strategic approach to ITAM.


About David Foxen

David Foxen is a Software Asset Management expert and enthusiast. He had a vast experience of successfully implementing SAM, SAM tools and also made huge cost savings. A member of the ISO Standards WG21, David is a massive ITAM geek, so uses any opportunity to talk about the subject to who-ever will listen. He believes that the industry needs to share its knowledge and success stories to help the SAM industry mature and become more effective. Always willing to help, his primary goal is to make a difference to organisations and the SAM industry so everyone will know how epic SAM is!


  1. Rory Canavan says:

    Do you want to win the match or win the champions league? Both require training, discipline and fortitude when starting out, but stamina and strategy is needed for the Begg-like wins (as mentioned above).

  2. matt turner says:

    I enjoyed reading this article. I presented a long term view of SAM at the UK conference last year and will again reinforce the need for a long term strategy in Florida in March. I do think that if you can deliver something quick it provides confidence and enables the more strategic approach as you describe.
    Some people think the tooling is where the energy needs to be, Iooking at “knobs and dials” and having confidence in your compliance position and this will bring the savings, it probably will but won’t be at the level that will excite the CFO. However, my advice is be brave and understand the business , architecture and the strategy and use the tool as an input but don’t rely on it as the long term savings are born from true understanding of IT and why it is used. Long term view for me , every day, it more exciting than “knobs and dials”!!

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