Are Weak Processes Dooming ITAM? – A Fresh Perspective on Finding Weaknesses to Stop Repeating Mistakes

By Kevin Panteli

You are one of the fortunate ones.

You work for an organization that recognizes the importance and value of an ITAM program.  You have a dedicated team of resources and your budget has allowed for a new ITAM tool and repository.  At least on paper, it would seem everything is in place to be successful – yet data is still incomplete or inaccurate, analysis takes too long to prepare and the team struggles to stay in control of events.  How is that possible, with this amount of support and investment?

The Missing Glue

The answer we usually find is that the overall ITAM process itself is weak or broken.  This is something that is often overlooked when organizations try to improve efficiency – largely because the process is not easily fixed by increased spending on additional resources or new ITAM tools.

While sufficient resources and effective tools are vital components of an ITAM program, the business process is the “glue” that ties a successful program together.  Without this glue, the other improvements may be nothing more than stopgaps; they may limit or delay the impact of the holes in the process, but do nothing to resolve the underlying causes.

Even after increased investment in resources and tools, the organization may still experience one or more of the following:

  • Data continues to be mismanaged or misunderstood
  • Resource time is wasted and work duplicated
  • Resource efficiency is compromised
  • Opportunities for financial savings and cost avoidance are missed
  • Return on Investment (ROI) is perceived to be lower than expected
Process Scenarios

So, why is the process itself ignored or assigned a low priority when identifying ways to correct or enhance an ITAM program?  We see several reasons for this common omission:

Minimal Financial Effectiveness

It is understandable that when asked “How do we fix this?” the respondent’s first thought may turn to a financial solution.  This is why hiring more resources or buying new tools come to the forefront and become the focus for those efforts.  However, there is little that can be done from a financial perspective to improve a process – it’s not a tangible entity that one can simply buy more of or upgrade to a newer version, etc.

Of course, it is possible to hire an external consulting team to carry out a process review, but this may not be a viable option if one or more of the reasons below are still a factor.

Incomplete Oversight of the Process

In some cases, a process exists and has been established for some time.  Personnel involved in the process understand the steps and have documented the steps for which they are responsible, so they believe that everything is in place and functioning correctly.  However, in reality there are gaps between the steps managed by different groups, which results in an overall process that is not complete or not functioning optimally.

Unaware of Existing Issues

Similar to the above scenario, a process exists and has been established for some time.  However, the broader user community may not have the same full picture of the complete ITAM process, so over time inconsistencies, inefficiencies and errors can continue to appear.

Inability to Resolve Internal Conflicts

Commonly referred to as “office politics,” there may be conflicts regarding accountability or ownership for different parts of the process, budget constraints or resource availability issues that prevent a cohesive attempt to resolve process issues.

Lack of Experience with Process Design

If all of the above issues are overcome, another significant reason for the process not being improved or repaired is often a lack of skilled or experienced internal resources that are capable of recognizing that a problem exists or identifying the root cause of any gaps, inefficiencies and errors that are found.  However, outside consultants can be utilized if the financial means exist.

Perceived Long Timeframes

Even when clients believe there is a process issue and want to look deeper into it, there may be a reluctance to delay a “solution” by adding potentially several weeks of analysis into the effort when they believe  they “know” what is needed – especially if there is a pressure from executives to implement a fix quickly (e.g. after an audit).

Fixing the Problem

At least some of the above scenarios may be very familiar to you.  This demonstrates what can happen even in an environment where resources and tools are readily available.  This problem is exponentially more challenging for those organizations that struggle with funding and so do not have the resources, tools or executive support required for success.

Quite often the reaction after an event such as an audit or preparation for a contract negotiation is to wonder “Why did it take so long to collect accurate data?”  Those responsible often decide to avoid that same painful experience in the future by speeding up the process with additional resources and/or new tools to automate that effort, rather than to look carefully at the process itself.

But how many and what types of resources and skills are required?  What features of a tool will provide the most value to the organization?  Discovery?  Normalization?  Reporting?

It is not possible to answer these questions correctly without first understanding the current process and where the gaps are – so the first question on everyone’s lips should be “How did we get into this situation in the first place?”

If this question is not asked and the organization rushes to purchase a new tool or add more “bodies” to the effort, there is a good chance that the results will not be as expected.  The result will be a large financial investment that does not deliver on expectations and is wasted.  This can potentially “poison the well” for future efforts.

Instead, by asking questions about the process and how the gaps, errors and inconsistencies occur, an organization can identify the root causes of these issues and focus efforts in the areas where they are needed most – potentially saving an organization from an unnecessary, damaging over-spend.

But where to start?  We see the following as likely areas of value when searching for the root causes of a process issue:

  • Poor communication
  • Poor asset discovery
  • Poor system integration
  • Lack of executive support
  • Lack of precise task accountability and responsibility

If you are currently in the midst of preparing a solution to fix an ITAM program deficiency –  and we see this a lot after painful audit results –  hopefully, the above will give you pause for thought and some ammunition to support your case for doing it the “right way.”  Otherwise, you may be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, and find yourself in a similar position in the future, despite your best efforts.

After all, there is a reason for the expression, “measure twice, cut once!”

About the Author

Kevin Panteli is the Director of Development & Consulting Services, AM for Siwel Consulting, Inc.