Convincing skeptics is their weakest asset

Mounting regulatory requirements such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 have helped convince some corporate executives to at least pay attention to the need for IT asset management practices. Nevertheless, several attendees at a recent IT asset management conference said that attaining executive buy-in and funding for asset management programs remains a big challenge.

“We have not even attempted to sell senior management as of yet. Senior management does not even have a good idea as to what IT asset management means,” said Steve Whelan, manager of asset management at PG&E Corp. in San Francisco, parent of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Before Roger Gray recently stepped down as CIO for the utility, said Whelan, “he was beginning to understand” the importance of IT asset management. “But to my knowledge, he had not carried the message any higher” into PG&E’s executive ranks, Whelan added.

Whelan surmised that the next CIO — PG&E is still going through the recruiting process — will have some background in IT asset management but that the education process “will begin where Roger left off.”

That maps with what many other IT asset managers are encountering. “Executive buy-in on asset management is a big issue,” said Barbara Rembiesa, president of International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers Inc., a for-profit user association in Akron, Ohio, that held its annual conference for asset managers last week.

To help raise executive awareness of IT asset management and its benefits, the user association is planning to conduct a series of executive briefings and “webinars” in 2005, Rembiesa said.

Attendees at the conference said it can be difficult for IT managers to convince senior management that an upfront investment in personnel and software tools to track hardware and software assets can yield both immediate and long-term cost savings.

According to Frances O’Brien, an analyst at Gartner Inc., companies that systematically manage the life cycles of their IT assets can reduce the cost per asset by as much as 30 per cent in the first year and five per cent to 10 per cent annually over the next five years.

“The people at the top have to buy into what you’re suggesting to them,” said Mark Rosenbaum, customer service and quality assurance division manager for the IT services group at the Arizona Superior Court, a division of the Pima County Government in Tucson. “You have to convince them of the need to change the culture” and adopt sound IT asset management practices, he said.

That also means getting senior management to practice what you preach as an asset manager, said Rosenbaum. He recommends taking steps to ensure that senior executives themselves are in full compliance with software usage. If they aren’t, Rosenbaum said, “you need to find a tactful way to say, ‘Dude, you have to clean up your act.’ ”

IT asset managers also must enforce software licence compliance throughout the ranks, added Rosenbaum. Compliance requirements that lack teeth, he said, lead to wasted time and effort.

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