FASTtalk Article Selling Software Asset Management to the ....doc
Selling Software Asset Management to the Board
The Federation’s Asset Management Group is made up of Audit and Asset
Management Tool Publishers who provide expert advice and guidance to FAST
Corporate Services Members. Here, they address how to prepare for your
presentation to the Board
For your Software Asset Management (SAM) programme to be successful, you will need
to employ something that many of us may use only rarely in our working lives: the sales
pitch. SAM is dependent on an organisational culture that is sympathetic to its goals and
critically, on buy-in from senior business managers. Understand that in the wake of
projects such as Y2K, executives may be sceptical if SAM is perceived as ‘another IT
project’.Whilst you may understand the business benefits of effective SAM, in an
increasingly tough economic climate you will need to be able to convince your Board that
spending money upfront will lead to significant savings and benefits down the road.
In order to build a compelling case, time needs to be spent gathering both internal support
and supporting documentation. Think about which departments will benefit from SAM
directly and indirectly. You can use this as an opportunity to find supporters
(‘champions’) within the organisation that can add to your voice and weight to your
proposal. Areas that may benefit from SAM include: Procurement, Change management,
legal & compliance, finance & accounts, service desk and risk management. This
increases the breadth of the project and therefore its importance to the organisation.
Your sales pitch should ideally be split into two sections, the first is the board room
presentation, the second is the elevator pitch - a condensed version of your vision, which
should deliver all the key bullet points and should be contained within a 5 minute (or
less) conversation. This pitch is key to winning sponsors, to gain their initial interest and
make them receptive to more information and start the grooming of champion sponsors
within the organisation. Document the pitch and use it as the foundation stone of the
The first message is one of approach: remember that the aim of a perfect presentation is
for your management to ask you “How long will it take you to do and how much money
do you need?” Although obvious, many business cases suffer from a lack of focus or
impact. Be clear: your objective is to obtain funding and support in an environment
where many projects are competing for approval and scarce resources. This is why
sowing the seeds within the organisation is key: at the final presentation, you want the
Board to be aware of the fundamental benefits of SAM and risks involved in not
undertaking such a project. Recruiting champions will help with the cynicism that may be
present at board level and hopefully will allow you to focus on the business benefits to
the organisation, rather than fighting a defensive battle.
Your Board is unlikely to be interested in the technical arguments for SAM and they
equally will not be ‘turned on’ by the list of problems that it can address. What is
required is a business case firmly based upon the financial and performance
benefits that SAM can bring to the organisation as a whole, and that requires selling
SAM as a compelling vision or strategy.
Your SAM strategy is best developed by understanding the goals of the organisation. If
your business has a mission statement or goals, you should adapt your pitch to
demonstrate how SAM will contribute to their achievement.
Examples of organisational goals that SAM can help with are:
Provision of ‘world class’ services and products
Mitigation of business risks
Reducing total cost of ownership
Maximising Return on Investment
So, if that is the carrot, is it possible to apply a stick? Yes, by making board members
aware of the personal risk associated with ignoring the issues surrounding SAM or by
bringing to their attention the positive activities of competitors.
Increasingly, directors are being held personally responsible for organisational activities,
whether they have direct control of them or not. This ‘vicarious liability’ means that
ignorance is no longer an adequate defence. In effect, by not supporting a SAM program
the organisation is being put at serious risk of financial loss and/or loss of reputation.
The risk factors are something that can be championed by a board level sponsor. Look
internally at executives that have supported successful quality improvement, compliance
or risk management programs in the past – they may be willing to support SAM and they
may well not come from ICT. This sponsor can help from a mentoring point of view,
helping you understand the issues that the Board and the business face, allowing you to
align your message with the business vision. If you get the formula right for persuading a
senior executive to back the program then you are on course to persuade the board.
If we go back to our ‘selling’ analogy, a tool that is often used very effectively in
persuading us to buy a product or service is the case study or customer reference.
FASTalk is a good source of these. A carefully selected case study demonstrates that
SAM is providing competitive advantages to your competitors. This creates a level of
peer pressure and demonstrates that SAM is an issue for other organisations. If possible
select a case study whose author holds a senior position that will be recognised by your
board. If your organisation subscribes to an analyst group such as Gartner (et al), you can
use research information, statistics and statements, such as “…enterprises that fail to
integrate software usage and inventory data to manage their software assets will overbuy
licenses for 60 percent of their portfolio, and be out of compliance on 30 percent of their
portfolio”… to support your business case.
Supporting documentation should summarise the immediate and longer term benefits of
SAM, all of which are well documented by bodies such as FAST. The caveat here is to
ensure that the benefits apply to your SAM strategy and therefore, by extension, to your
organisational goals. The key benefits you should cover are:
Potential costs savings
The risks that can be mitigated
Increases in productivity (e.g. software compatibility, faster service desk response times)
Competitive advantage through applying best practice
Improvements to working practices (e.g. change and configuration management)
Improvements to operational controls
The case for SAM can also be successfully integrated with the achievement of external
standards and best practices to give it further credibility. The standards FSSC-1 and
ISO/IEC 19770-1 are focused specifically on SAM but if your organisation is aiming to
achieve other standards where there is an overlap such as ISO/IEC 17799, you may be
able to leverage support from existing project managers in this area.
ITIL has extended its framework to cover SAM, and with increasing interest in the
employment of ‘best practice’ in the IT industry, a potential selling point for your SAM
program is the implementation of this well regarded set of practices. If your organisation
already follows ITIL then you should exploit the synergy there, and if not, you could
explore the possibility of using SAM as a foundation on which to build further best
practices. Either way, this adds weight to your case and adds depth to your SAM vision.
Once you have the board’s attention it is essential that you drive home the advantage with
facts. Be ready to state how long it will take and how much it will cost but expect them to
also want to see details of how SAM will benefit your organisation financially or in terms
of achieving its goals. Investigate why previous business cases have failed to be accepted
and try and prepare answers to the common questions or objections, some of which we
have highlighted below.
O “Why do we need this now, we have done without it in the past”
A The regulatory environment has developed significantly in recent years (Sarbanes
Oxley, Basel II), and bodies such as FAST and the BSA are increasingly active.
Software vendors are under more pressure to maintain their profits and licensing
models are becoming more complex and prohibitive. In addition, SAM has
reached a level of maturity that means that the ROI is real, and products and
services are reducing the TCO. In short, the risks and benefits have become too
high to ignore.
O “It’s not a priority, we need to concentrate on moving the business forward”
A SAM is best practice. It supports and improves multi functional processes, not just
in IT. Software underpins most business functions therefore managing it
effectively improves productivity across the organisation. Case studies usually
speak of how SAM has been a business enabler, ensuring that strategic decisions
are based on facts, not guesswork.
O “What are the immediate savings?”
A SAM can put the organisation in a position to realise cost-savings relatively
quickly. An effective discovery program can furnish management with the
information it requires to ensure that software has been deployed efficiently in a
matter of days, depending on the size of the organisation. If you have any
software upgrade projects planned, the budgets for these can provide ammunition
for your case: at the very least you will be in a position to make sure that the
figures are based on accurate information.
All of these methods of attracting the board’s attention have a better chance of success
than simply presenting them with a list of problems. The temptation is often to present
metrics, but you must always have an understanding of what appeals to your audience,
and the ability to tell a compelling story in the language that they understand could make
the difference between success and failure.
The Asset Management Group
This article has been written on behalf of The Federation’s Asset Management Group, a group
of audit and asset management tool publishers who have come together to collectively provide
expert advice and guidance to FAST Corporate Services members.
The Group was formed in December 2003 and the current members are; ASAP Software,
Centennial Software Ltd., Computer Associates UK Ltd., Deskforce Europe, Eracent Inc.,
Hitachi Europe Ltd., Hornbill Systems Ltd., Liken Ltd., Monactive Ltd., Novell UK, Peregrine
Systems, Phoenix Software Ltd., Richmond Systems Ltd., Syncpro Ltd. and Touchpaper
Software plc. Contact details for all these companies may be found on the Corporate
Members’ website under FAST Programme Resources/Federation Groups or FAST Programme
The Group holds regular free seminars for Corporate Members - keep a watch on the Events
Circular for the next event.
Any asset management tool publisher that would like more information about the Group,
should contact Anne Mead, Federation Membership Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org