Education, Education, Education: The Value of Technical Knowledge in IT Asset Management
Like almost any other industry, there are many strains to IT Asset Management (ITAM). There is, however, a common theme to all of them – adding value to the business and helping it to meet its strategic objectives. There are, quite obviously, many ways value can be added in ITAM, from ensuring you have watertight policies and processes to cost optimisation of licence consumption. It is the latter I’m going to focus on in this blog.
For those reading this post in the UK, the title “Education, Education, Education” will be very familiar because it was a much-repeated mantra of Tony Blair in the run-up to the 1997 UK general election, highlighting his party’s desire to invest significantly in British education.
For me, it highlights a key issue in our industry – the lack of technology knowledge in the ITAM community. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, but many people join the industry from non-technical roles and the value in having this knowledge is often underestimated by senior management, who see Software Asset Management (SAM) as more of a paper shuffling practice. I’ll explain further by winding back the clock to 2009.
My first role in SAM was for a global service integrator, on a large financial services account in the UK. I was, initially, the lone SAM resource on an account that was managing several thousand servers across Wintel, Midrange and Mainframe platforms. The first job I was given by the account management team was to create an ELP for all IBM distributed licensing, to enable a novation of the necessary licences from client to service integrator. Three things to bear in mind here:
- The client was very much an IBM house with an annual support bill of around £15m
- There were no SAM tools deployed, though IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT) was in the process of being rolled out
- This was my first job in SAM!
Now I’m not telling you this story to blow my own trumpet. As it happens, I managed to do it and do it well, but I had a lot of support along the way and had to do A LOT of reading. I had help from a variety of valuable sources too, including the Midrange and Wintel engineers who, respectively, gave me crash courses in IBM micro partitioning and VMware virtualisation, the IBM account manager who answered all my questions on IBM licensing and pointed to some useful information in IBM’s Knowledge Centre, and the licence consultant, working for the client, who helped me fully grasp PVU full and sub capacity licensing and how to apply it. I’ve put all that learning to use with many of the clients I’ve subsequently worked with and expanded my technical knowledge considerably along the way.
The point of this story is that the experience taught me a very important lesson about software asset management and licensing. If you want to make a success of your asset management function and really add value to your business, you should embrace the technology your business is using. That might be IBM AIX Power systems and VMware virtual platforms, as in this case, or it might be AWS EC2 instances. Wherever I’ve worked, I’ve implemented the lessons of this experience. I make it my business to understand how technologies operate at a deep enough level to enable me to optimise licensing because that, in my humble opinion, is where you can really add value. We talk in this industry about governance, processes, policies and strategies, all of which are designed to help you keep costs down, but none of this would be possible without an understanding of your licensing and technology. And if you really want to optimise, where better than to start with your infrastructure systems?