Key ITAM Skills They Don't Tell You About
In the film Taken, Liam Neeson states that he has a "particular set of skills" that he plans on using to find the kidnappers who have taken his daughter. He’s very clear about what skills are required and how he is going to use them.
With that in mind, there is a very particular set of skills that an IT Asset Management (ITAM) professional thinks they need to forge a successful career.
You can rattle the skills off autonomously:
- Strong licensing knowledge, particularly for the ‘Top 5’ vendors
- Understanding the lifecycle of an asset
- Ability to define and design key ITAM processes
- Skilled in working with [insert ITAM technology vendor here]
- Able to work in a team, on their own, or under water while remaining driven
Perfect! End of blog, and you now have everything you need to be a success and grow your career.
We all know that’s not the end of the story. There’s a whole other world of skills that you need in order to drive a successful ITAM function and career.
Commercial and Legal Skills
If you work on the software and Cloud side of ITAM, having basic (at the very least) commercial and legal skills is an absolute must. You need to have the commercial awareness to understand basic legal terminology, discount or increase percentages, and how that relates to your budget constraints.
From a legal perspective, it is vital you understand how to read legal documents like a EULA (end user license agreement) so you know what to look out for. You’re the person responsible for understanding the limitations of your usage and that will (admittedly, not always crystal clear with some vendors) be defined within your EULA or license agreement.
You’ll need to be able to understand how to request amendments to contracts, and how certain clauses can over-rule other clauses (for example, “if Clause 3.2 is present, then this over-rides clause 2.11 that states you must remove all modules of the Pro version”).
You may only have to manage negotiations for certain contract levels (such as under $50K), or you may be the top dog and must negotiate all ITAM contracts including those multi-million-dollar deals. Not understanding the art of negotiation or contractual terms can put your organization at great risk.
Change and People Management Skills
It’s always tough going into an organization that has never ‘done’ ITAM before. Customers become comfortable, content in the way things work. If you go in implementing processes, policies, and new ways of working without managing the culture change and the people-side of things, you’ll end up being public enemy number one.
Making it relatable to how ITAM can improve their area of the business is key. Throw in examples within the real world that are relatable (you wouldn’t buy a two-door Ferrari to take the kids to swimming, so why buy a piece of software that looks nice and is expensive but doesn’t do the job?!) and light-hearted and you can start to win users over to the ITAM way of thinking.
Implementing ITAM can be a huge culture change and shift in mentality. New processes can cause friction among your user base, so developing your (culture) Change Management and People Skills will help accelerate the introduction of your ITAM function and help you make key allies along the way.
Service Delivery & Vendor Management Skills
It usually falls to the ITAM team to manage the relationship with the hundreds of hardware, software, and Cloud vendors you are a customer of.
Having service delivery and vendor management skills doesn’t mean you know how to be nice and cuddly with your salesperson or accounts team. These skills include holding regular service review meetings to check everything is running as it should, challenging the vendor when they haven’t fixed or responded to an issue in time, and making sure the vendor sees you as a key customer for future roadmaps and even early adopters for new technologies.
It’s also about understanding the vendors SLAs and the terms of your contract (previous skill required; legal knowledge) on what the vendor will and will not support you with and what’s an additional service that costs money.
You may also be required to categorize your ITAM vendors. Typically, this is done by:
- Yearly Spend
- Risk Levels
- Business Importance
The age old adverb of your ‘top five’ would naturally come in as the more critical and important vendors that you’ll need to manage, but you may want to include software vendors with an aggressive and high chance of audit as a top tier vendor to manage as well.
Finally, a lot of organizations require ‘health checks’ on the vendors they do business with. This means you may be required to help with gathering data, such as a report on the financial stability of your potential vendor, or find financial statements for your legal or finance teams to review to evaluate whether the vendor is a safe bet to do business with.
Imagine spending money on a new SaaS (Software as a Service) product that you integrate into the business only for the SaaS vendor to go bust!
Broad Technology Understanding
When I highlight broad technology skills, what I mean by that is a strong understanding of not only your ITAM tools, but also other technologies that can provide ITAM data. Naturally, the ITAM team are the key users and owners of the ITAM tool, so they need to be experts in using the front-end, but also have the skills to do at least basic troubleshooting of the admin console or database that runs in the backend.
Moving away from the obvious, it’s also important for the ITAM team to understand how their organizations IT Service Management (ITSM) tool works. Your ITSM tool typically also houses your CMDB (configuration management database) and your core ITIL processes such as Change, Major Incident, Knowledge and Configuration.
You need to understand what data sets you need from these tools and how to intelligently use the information for ITAM’s advantage.
Other technologies to invest time in learning about includes your Info Sec / Cyber Security solutions, your HR technologies and any CRM (customer relationship management) tools that you can extract ITAM data from.
Info Sec technologies have advanced so much over the past few years that they now provide a plethora of valuable information and can even dig deeper on things like the software files installed on an asset, location details on where your assets are, and any potential vulnerabilities within your estate such as outdated patches or legacy software.
Legacy software can be the open-door cyber criminals need to infiltrate your organization and its private data.
You also need to understand what the software you support from a licensing and contractual point of view does and how your organization uses it. You don’t need to be an expert in how to use the software, but you need to know key features that are a must for your customers.
It’s also good when you can provide advice on cheaper or free software alternatives. From a Hardware perspective, understanding the basic specification of your laptop offerings, what tablet and phone models you offer, and what your exceptions are (for CAD users for example) helps you exude confidence with your customers and stakeholders.
It shows you have a strong understanding of your environment, the organiszation, and most importantly, the customers’ requirements.
A lot to take in?
It sounds like a lot when you write it down on paper, but these are key skills that an ITAM professional and team build up naturally over time. You should already be engaged with the teams we’ve mentioned above and have requested (at the bare minimum) exports from the technologies mentioned.
If you’re not engaged with any of the skills sets above, then you truly are missing an t opportunity for you to build your ITAM function and standing within the organization.
Being an ITAM professional going into 2020 is such an exciting position to be in with the emergence of new technologies and a new reliance on our industry to control spend and optimize software of all shapes and sizes.
Take some time to invest in learning skills outside of your comfort zone and watch your ITAM function become a top performer and an integral part of your organization’s success.
Find out more about this blog author, David Foxen, by checking out his Twitter page at @SAMBeastDavid.