This post is based on my experiences as the CIO of a very large organisation working across over 45 countries.
Keep in mind that IT asset management policies and implementation is one of the key things that are immediately visible to the users. And as such, as the IT manager (CIO etc.) of a large organisation, one of the Key Result Areas of your role would be management of the organisation’s IT assets. [By extension you may be called to implement systems to manage other assets as well, but that is another story]. This would involve planning of assets; procurement; deployment; assigning of resources to people; maintenance; inventory; metering of usage; automatic “discovery” of new installation; licensing; “discovery” of “rogue” software, product catalog; patch management etc.
A lot of the stuff above is fairly obvious. And, there are different kinds of software systems that service all or many of the areas outlined above. And service them really well! [See, for example, this site, for some of the well-known products]
However, there are many intangible areas that may have a bearing and may affect IT asset management that cannot be serviced or managed by a piece of hardware here or a piece of software there. And in this post we want to look at one of the key intangible areas – user perception and experience – and figure out ways to manage it.
User perception and experience
Whether you and your team do a good job or not – and you want to do a good job -, user perception will be based on history, immediate experiences of the users and also on around-the-water-cooler discussions among them (do water coolers still exist?). “Oh! our IT group!. This is all we can expect from them.” Such talk is fairly common. You will have to work hard to ensure that such perceptions are not built up and if they are built up, to overcome them and change users’ perceptions. Some of the ways that I have used in my previous organisations are:
Use well-known standards: It is important that you follow well known industry standards for IT asset management. This ensures that you have the strength of the “world” behind you and users will be wary of finding fault.
Publish and publicise IT policies: Create simple IT policies for asset management , get it approved by management and then publish them and publicise them widely. This way what you do won’t seem capricious or (mis)directed at people. [“IT always gives better systems to him, not to me!”] These policies should include, for example, replacement policy: i.e. when is a person eligible for a new desktop or a new laptop? The policies should also include lines about connecting (or not connecting!) laptops or desktops to random network points. And also about assets “walking away.” A simple policy on replacement would read something like “Laptops that are over three years old can be replaced with new ones with the approval of the local IT officer.”
Be seen to be getting expert opinion: People always value the opinion of experts – people who have had previous experience in the areas of interest. So one of the ways in which you can sell your policies and actions is to ensure that these ideas have been vetted by experts like consultants. Also become a member of CIO groups of similar organisations. In the organisation I worked before, one of the ways I was able to sell our IT asset management policies was to have the CIO of the largest organisation of our kind (we were mid-size in comparison) come and talk in one of our user meetings confirming the appropriateness of our policies. This made a good impression on our users.
Regular communication and flow of information: Keep your users constantly informed about changes to the IT environment, especially those that affect them. This will ensure that there are no surprises. I remember well the result of my not following this advice when we changed the replacement policy of laptops (we increased the number of years a laptop should be used before it could be replaced). We were accused of everything from favouritism to corruption!
Have an IT governance board that approves policies and purchases: This is important in the light of the last statement of the previous point. You should not be seen to be favouring certain individuals or organisations. Nor should you be seen to be buying unnecessary items. All your buying plans (and disposing plans) should be approved by a governance board that includes some of the key organisational managers and even some external worthies.. This will ensure that you have the backing of the organisation in case there is a dispute. All purchases should be made from an approved vendor list.
Highlight your accomplishments: Do not be shy about highlighting your achievements. This will build your department’s credibility. You don’t have to go round tom-tomming your achievements everywhere, but make sure you bring these out in important meetings, in newsletters and in communication e-mails.
Build alliances among the users: This is key to your success. Like you bring in external experts, it is important that you bring in key internal supporters to sell your ideas and policies. I remember using this technique very usefully in my previous organisation to sell the increase in laptop replacement time that I mentioned before. One way to build alliance with a person just joining the organisation is to have his IT systems ready for use the minute he joins the organisation.
Get people on board early: This advice is important for all aspects of an IT department’s job, including asset management. Make sure that you talk to people about any potential changes that you are contemplating and bring people on board before the changes are made. Here again, it is important that you build alliances as we discussed before.
Make IT assets management transparent: Have an open policy with regard to IT assets management. Make sure people can transparently see the facilities that you have given to different people (maybe through the organisational intranet or through the ERP system). If certain people have been given better facilities, you should be able to explain the reasons. [For example, the media group will naturally need much higher specs of systems than other users. Their job description demands it!]
Use the appropriate people to talk to users: Let us not be shy to use “influence.” If a particular user is very comfortable dealing with one particular member of your team, use him or her for those interactions. There may be cultural and other dynamics at work here. As CIO of a multi-country, multi-continent organisation, I did use this approach to our advantage.
In this post we have looked at one intangible area of IT assets management that any IT manager should be aware of. If managed well user perception and experience can be used as a positive input in your CIO experience.
In a subsequent post we can look at some of the other key intangible areas that are important for you to consider and manage as an IT manager/CIO. Some of these areas include: 1. Multi-country aspects; 2. Organisational culture; 3. Organisational politics (internal and external).
Hope to see you soon with another post in this area.